Asian firms largely upbeat

21 June 2012

SINGAPORE: Companies in Asia Pacific are in a broadly positive mood about their growth prospects, with retailers, packaged food groups and beverage manufacturers among the most optimistic.

Thomson Reuters, the information provider, and INSEAD, the business school, polled 177 brand owners, 78 of which agreed the business climate for the next six months appeared to be favourable.

By contrast, 87 regarded the situation as essentially unchanged, and 12 were pessimistic. The overall index barometer of business sentiment also fell to 69 points in June from 74 points in March, but was still above the 50-point neutral benchmark.

Some 111 respondents reported that uncertain global economic conditions were the "biggest risk factor" they faced, while 28 cited rising costs.

"Asian businesses - the big exporters - face potential weakness in essentially most of their end-markets," said Nick Paulson-Ellis, the India head at Espirito Santo Securities.

"It's clearly not going to be an easy time. You've got slowdowns domestically after pretty aggressive tightening last year in a lot of developing economies and you've got weakness in end-markets, so it's a very, very tough period for Asian corporates."

Seven of the 12 featured retailers were optimistic, as were ten of the 16 food and beverage manufacturers and four of the six pharmaceutical companies on the panel.

Elsewhere, 13 of 32 technology specialists were positive, 18 were neutral and one was negative. Within this, nine of the ten Japanese firms - a group including Sharp, Toshiba and Softbank - were neutral.

Just over half of the 30 financial services providers assessed were also neutral and 12 were upbeat. Similarly, six of the nine participating automakers expected the trading environment to remain flat.

"Companies in consumer staples such as instant coffee and supermarkets seem to be slightly more bullish," said James Koh, an analyst at Maybank Kim Eng ."They're less affected by any slowdown in industrial production and higher-end spending, and their exposure is more local rather than macro."

A modest two out of 12 operators from Australia were optimistic, as were four of the 19 organisations based in China. In India, six of the 13 firms expressed positive views, and none were negative.

Sentiment also hardened in Japan, where five corporations were confident on improving conditions, 18 were neutral and none were negative, while only one had seen a recent decline in orders. Indonesia, however, posted the strongest returns, with 21 of 24 contributors in upbeat mood.

Data sourced from Reuters; additional content by Warc staff