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I recently made my first visit to Vietnam and spent several days in Ho Chi Minh City. Considered by the investment community to be a frontier market, Vietnam has a low per capita income (approximately US$1,600), a relatively young population and less mature capital markets.
In the market turmoil of recent months, Malaysia's equity market has held up comparatively better than some of its Asian counterparts. The FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index was up 1.4% during the second quarter in local currency terms. During the previous quarter, Malaysia had seen several large initial public offerings that raised capital totaling more than US$3.3 billion.
Postcard from Southeast Asia
A recent research trip I took to Thailand and Indonesia was a welcome break from watching gloomy macroeconomic data flash across my office computer terminals. Being on the ground, and literally on the streets, in Bangkok, Jakarta and several smaller Indonesian towns offered a reality check on the economic potential of Southeast Asian countries. This is not to say that these countries dont face challenges at their respective stages of economic developments. But speaking face to face with management teams offered me a fuller perspective.
Postcard from Taiwan
On the surface of things, Taiwan indeed seems dwarfed by the glamour of some of its Asian counterparts. However, encouraging changes have been taking place since President Ma Yung-Jeou took office in 2008. These have included more relaxed restrictions on investments into China by Taiwanese companies, direct flights from China and, more recently, approved travel among individuals from China. In 2010, 1.6 million mainland Chinese tourists visited Taiwan, compared to just 81,000 in 2007. In related travel improvements, I was also encouraged to see ongoing renovations to the airport terminal.
China's New Generation of Entrepreneurs
As investors, we are presented with an expanding universe of small- and medium-sized entrepreneurial firms with innovative business models in China. At the same time, competitive pressures are also increasing with the growing presence of both domestic and international companies in the market. It has become increasingly critical to identify and differentiate companies with sustainable business models and viable long-term strategies.
Postcard from Indonesia
During a recent research trip to Southeast Asia, I spent time meeting management teams in Bangkok, Jakarta, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. I always find it valuable to be able to compare growth opportunities and challenges facing various industries and companies within the region while I am on the ground. Compared to a decade ago, these Southeast Asian cities have all developed relatively high levels of urbanization, affording residents and visitors the modern comforts and conveniences of such things as public transportation, financial services and easy access to fast food chains.
Postcard from Bangkok
I recently spent several days in Bangkok, visiting companies during what was my first trip back to Thailand since 2008. Tourism (which is 6% to 7% of total GDP), has been a chronic issue of political unrest since the military coup in 2006. Political risks in Thailand have posed concerns for many foreign and domestic investors in the past several years, and a stable political environment is undoubtedly crucial for economic growth. However, company fundamentals are arguably just as important for the bottom-up investor.
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