Cover Story : The Best Companies In Asia

ANNUAL SURVEY



AIRLINES

Singapore Airlines

CEO: Chew Choon Seng

 

It is a measure of Singapore Airlines’ strength that it took the SARS epidemic to cause it to post its firstever quarterly loss in the quarter that ended in June. The company emerged relatively unscathed from the Asia crisis and shrugged off fears of global terrorism, but SARS prompted an unavoidable loss. SIA reported losses of S$377 million ($218 million), down from a profit of S$244 million over the same three-month period a year earlier. But the company has been proactive in cutting jobs and flights and has negotiated wage cuts for its remaining staff. Seats are already substantially fuller than earlier in the year.

www.singaporeair.com


AUTOMOTIVE

Nissan Motors

President and CEO: Carlos Ghosn

 

One year ahead of schedule Nissan has successfully completed its three-year plan designed to revive the company. CEO Carlos Ghosn has also been busy on the acquisition front, recently buying 50% of Dong Feng Motor in China for $1 billion, in the process gaining a valuable foothold in the potentially vast Chinese market. Sales revenues in 2002 rose 10.2%, and the company has eliminated its debt in a year.

www.nissan-global.com


BEVERAGES

Kirin Brewery

President and CEO: Koichiro Aramaki

 

Kirin may have increased sales by only 1% in the first six months of 2003, but net income in the same period rose by 35%. The company continues to innovate and recently launched a new product into the happo-shu market—low-malt sparkling alcoholic beverages with a lower tax category than other liquor—which fulfills Japan’s unique customer requirements by removing 90% of purine (a substance found in most food and apparently distasteful to many consumers).

www.kirin.co.jp


CHEMICALS

Sumitomo Chemical

Chairman: Akio Kosai

 

Sumitomo Chemical’s consolidated net sales for the financial year that ended in March were ¥1,111.1 billion ($9.24 billion), a 9.1% increase from the previous year. Net income increased 3.1%, to ¥31.1 billion ($259 million) over the same period. The basic chemicals segment showed an 11.1% growth in sales over the previous year, but the star performer was the IT-related chemicals division, which increased sales by 38%.

www.sumitomo-chem.co.jp


COMPUTER HARDWARE

Hon Hai Precision

Chairman and CEO: Terry Gou

 

Hon Hai Precision is Taiwan’s largest electronics parts maker and largest listed private manufacturer and operates in the US as Foxconn Electronics. Net income rose to T$5.35 billion ($157 million) in the second quarter from T$4.75 billion in the first. Net sales reached T$61.4 billion, only just ahead of the T$60.4 billion of the first quarter but 21% higher year-on-year. Its products are sold by Sony, Nokia and Apple, and profits and sales are well above the industry average. Revenues grew by 60% between 2001 and 2002.

www.foxconn.com


COMPUTER SOFTWARE

Infosys Technologies

CEO, President and Managing Director:Nandan Nilekani

 

Indian outsourcing firm Infosys recently completed its second offering of ADSs in the US and the company also received a top corporate governance rating from Indian ratings agency Crisil, which remarked that the company is world class in every way. But the real proof of the company’s credentials is its client list (Telstra, DHL, Boeing, Chrysler and Toyota, among others), which expanded by 22 companies in the quarter ended June 2003, and its financial statistics. Revenues in that same quarter were $233.3 million, up 49.26% from the same quarter last fiscal year.

www.infosys.com


CONGLOMERATES

Hutchison Whampoa

Chairman: Li Ka-Shing

 

One of Asia’s most renowned and prolific deal makers, Li Ka-Shing has been under fire recently for his $16.7 billion commitment to 3G mobile telephony—most notably in the UK, where the launch of its new network, named simply ‘3,’ has not gone quite to plan. But the company posted a net profit of HK$6.07 billion ($778 million) for the six months ended June 30, compared with HK$5.95 billion a year earlier, thanks to surging traffic at its Chinese container ports and the purchase last year of European retail chain Kruidvat Group.

www.hutchison-whampoa.com


CONSTRUCTION & ENGINEERING

Hopewell Holdings

Chairman: Gordon Wu

 

Hong Kong-based Hopewell Holdings has vast assets in Hong Kong, China and other Asian territories. For the year ended in June 2003 its revenues dropped to HK$799 million from HK$1.13 billion a year earlier, but net profit surged 82%, to HK$618 million, due to the strong performance of its GS Superhighway project and a HK$366 million provision write-back.The SARS epidemic resulted in a fall in profits of the hotel unit, but it still pulled in HK$19 million.

www.hopewellholdings.com


CONSUMER DURABLES

Samsung Electronics

Chairman and CEO: Kun-Hee Lee Vice Chairman and CEO: Jong-Yong Yun

 

Samsung Electronics has effectively built a huge consumer brand in four years and transformed itself from a cheap box shifter to a high-value, brand-focused and high-profile (with its sponsorship of the Olympics and the Matrix films) firm.It now ranks almost as high as Sony in brand recognition and quality perception and is in the top three in most of its markets. In the quarter ended June, revenue grew 2.5% in a difficult market.

www.samsungelectronics.com


CONSUMER NON-DURABLES

Kao Corporation

President and CEO: Takuya Goto

 

Kao is Japan’s number-one maker of personal care, laundry and cleaning products. It increased net sales by 3.1%, to ¥865.2 billion ($7.20 billion), in the year ended March 2003, and operating income increased for the 13th consecutive year, rising 2.9%, to ¥114.9 billion ($956 million). The company has expanded by acquisition in the US, buying John Frieda Professional Hair Care, and is investing heavily in the burgeoning China market.

www.kao.com


ELECTRONICS

Hitachi

President and CEO: Etsuhiko Shoyama

 

Hitachi has suffered like all electronics manufacturers in the past year but overall reversed a $978 million loss in 2001 to achieve a $1.28 billion operating income in 2002 as a result of restructuring. The electronics division increased revenues by 6%, to $13.08 billion, and while this produced a loss of $194 million, that compares to $1.36 billion the previous year. Hitachi is a rare example of a Japanese firm biting the bullet and restructuring to achieve growth.

www.hitachi.com


ENERGY SERVICES/ELECTRICITY

CLP Holdings

Group managing director and CEO: Andrew Brandler

 

China Light & Power is one of the largest utilities in Asia and dominates the market in the part of Hong Kong attached to the Chinese mainland.In the first half of 2003 total earnings increased by 8.2%, to HK$3.7 billion, but growth outside Hong Kong was 25%.During the period, CLP acquired all of Powergen’s remaining interest in BLCP in Thailand, Yallourn Energy in Australia and GPEC in India, and in July it consolidated its subsidiaries operating in China into CLP Power Asia to streamline its rapid growth there.

www.clpholdings.com


FOOD

Ajinomoto

President and CEO: Kunio Egashira

 

Ajinomoto is a leading food and health group in Japan and aims to become a global player. Operating income increased by 10.3%, to $450 million,between 2002 and 2003,and the company is on course to hit its 10% return-on-equity target for 2005. Consolidated net sales, operating income and ordinary income increased for the fourth consecutive financial year, to their highest levels. Ajinomoto has concentrated resources in selected core markets to build a broadly based product portfolio of number-one and strong number- two brands in their respective segments.

www.ajinomoto.com


FRANCHISES

7-Eleven Japan

Chairman and CEO: Toshifumi Suzuki

 

Retail analysts expect that the recent liberalization of liquor laws will benefit 7-Eleven Japan, the country’s largest convenience-store chain, with 9,743 stores. But the key to 7- Eleven’s success is its steady growth. Total store sales have risen continually since the company was established in 1973, rising to ¥2,228.2 billion by the fiscal year ended February 2003. The company has recorded seven consecutive years of growth in consolidated revenues and profits.

www.sej.co.jp


HOTELS

Raffles Holdings

President and CEO: Jennie Chua Kheng Yeng

 

Singapore suffered extensively as a result of the SARS outbreak, but during the second quarter Raffles— which manages hotels from the Watergate in Washington to Germany’s Vier Jahreszeiten—achieved a net profit of S$34.5 million ($20 million), almost a two-fold increase on the same quarter in 2002. Analysts say that the company has doubled occupancy at its core Singapore hotels since April, and its stock has shot up as a result.

www.rafflesholdings.com


INSURANCE

Mitsui Sumitomo

Chairman and CEO: Takeo Inokuchi President and CEO: Hiroyuki Uemura

 

This major non-life insurer recently raised its net profit forecast for 2003- 2004 by 87%, sending its stock rocketing. For the first quarter of fiscal 2003, net premiums written increased by 10.1% compared to 2002. Revenues rose in every line of insurance compared to the previous year’s first quarter, and subsidiaries in Europe and Asia also increased revenues.

www.ms-ins.com


MEDIA & ENTERTAINMENT

News Corporation

Chairman and CEO: Rupert Murdoch

 

In April News Corp finally acquired Hughes Electronics,the GM unit that contains DIRECTV. The 11 million subscribers of this satellite broadcaster had long been a target, and the deal rounds out the company’s satellite concerns, which range from BSkyB in Europe to Star TV in Asia. Full-year operating income increased 36%,to a record $2.5 billion, on the back of huge growth, especially in its television operations.


METALS & MINING

BHP Billiton

CEO: Charles Goodyear

 

This Anglo-Australian firm reported profits of $1.92 billion, 2.9% above last year’s $1.86 billion, in the year ended June. Synergies from the merger in 2001 are already $595 million, against a target of $770 million by June 2005. Production of all major minerals either increased or stayed flat, and the company set a number of production records during the year.

www.bhpbilliton.com


OIL & GAS

China National Petroleum Corporation

President: Ma Fucai

 

CNPC is China's largest integrated oil and gas company and in the 10 years since it won its first overseas project has grown operations to 20 countries globally. Its Hong Kong and ADR-listed subsidiary PetroChina provides two-thirds of China’s oil and gas and was partly spun off in 2000 to allow CNPC to focus on foreign exploration.

www.cnpc.com.cn


PHARMACEUTICALS

Takeda Chemical Industries

Chairman and CEO: Kunio Takeda

 

Japan’s largest drug company increased net sales by 4.1% in fiscal 2002,giving it a hefty 15.3% increase in net income.The company’s ambitions to become a global pharmaceutical powerhouse have recently been dealt a blow by the discontinuation of development on a planned anti-diabetes drug, but the company has beefed up the resources of its US subsidiary and expects much of its growth to come from that market.

www.takeda.co.jp


RETAILING

Esprit

Deputy Chairman and CEO: Heinz Krogner

 

This Hong Kong-based company has succeeded in becoming an Asiabased fashion retailer with global kudos. Having acquired the separately held European unit of the same name in 1996 and the US unit in 2002, the company has expanded globally at a huge rate. For the year ended June, turnover grew by 34%, and operating profit recorded a 31% year-on-year increase, while net profit grew by 28%.Analysts expect double- digit growth to continue in 2004.

www.esprit.com


TELECOM EQUIPMENT

Kyocera

CEO: Yasuo Nishiguchi

 

The remarkable growth of WiFi has benefited this Japan-based telecoms equipment manufacturer. Kyocera has also seized growth opportunities in India by setting up a new subsidiary in one of the fastest-growing wireless markets in the world; it aims to become a leading handset manufacturer there. Although quarterly figures to June were lower than expected, the company has announced that it expects US handset sales to be double those of 2002.

www.kyocera.co.jp


TELECOM SERVICES

NTT

President and CEO: Norio Wada

 

NTT’s 63%-owned subsidiary DoCo- Mo recently announced the 1 millionth subscriber to its 3G services, and overall the company showed improvement in its year-end figures to March. The continuing dire state of the Japanese economy hit operating revenues, which were down 9.7% from 2002, but the company posted a recurring profit 90.6% higher than the previous year's. NTT also completed its transformation into an IPbased telecom provider during the past year.

www.ntt.co.jp


TOBACCO

Japan Tobacco

President and CEO: Katsuhiko Honda

 

Japan Tobacco retained its place as the third-largest cigarette manufacturer in the world but is implementing a thorough three-year restructuring of its domestic operations. Already the company has announced the closure of six factories with a view to increase efficiency and profits in the medium term, and the plan resulted in the highest levels of operating income and recurring profit since JT’s incorporation in 1985.

www.jti.co.jp

 

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