Asian Mega Wealth

Rich Get Richer in China

It seems if you want to go where the wealth is, China is where it’s at. Today there are over a million millionaires living there; financial growth having escalated in the last year, alongside a thriving currency. Statistics from a BCG Global Wealth Survey show an increase in China of 31 percent of millionaires to 1.11 million from the previous year, placing China “in third place for millionaire households.” In addition, in worldwide figures, China is at number 8 vis-à-vis households having assets at a value of more than $100m.

Inaccurate Stats?

These figures however, only give part of the picture since monies earned from private businesses did not figure in the survey, nor did yachts, art, or fine wines. According to a partner at Hong Kong BCG, Tjun Tang, “this grossly underestimates true overall wealth in China.” As well, only around 5 percent of wealth is held offshore and there is a limit on the amount of products that international wealth management companies are able to offer inside the country.

Asian Affluence

Singapore isn’t a bad place to live either if you want to be bringing in the money. A staggering 15.5 percent of those living in Singapore are millionaires. Qatar came in at 8.9 percent which isn’t anything to be ashamed of either. In general, if you are anywhere in the Asia-Pacific region, the rate for growth wealth has an anticipated growth of 11.4 percent in the next four years. When compared to worldwide figures for the same time-frame, the growth rate is around half of this. Japan wasn’t included in the Asian anticipated economic growth for these years. India isn’t doing too badly either, coming in ahead of Canada with its 190,000 millionaires. Things are going to be getting even better for India too, with an anticipated wealth increase of 14 percent per year over the next five years alongside China’s 18 percent. But China seems to look good no matter which way you turn, as, according to the Bloomberg Economic Momentum Index for Developing Asia, it ranks “first among 22 emerging Asian economies as the country most likely to maintain steady and rapid growth over the next five years.

New Zealand New Hotspot

Chinese NZ Investment

New Zealand is becoming an increasingly more attractive to investors. This has been especially evident in China which has been purchasing more NZ bonds than ever. Recent reports show that investments from China could amount to $6b which will have an impact on the kiwi dollar that could increase to 81 cents (which would be a three year peak) “against the greenback.” According to Craigs Investment Partners market analyst Peter McIntyre, “there have been reports that the Chinese foreign exchange reserves are looking to diversify around about 1.5 percent of their assets into New Zealand denominated assets like government bonds, companies and dairy farms.”

Nice New Zealand

That is one way of describing the country. Nice. New Zealand is definitely “nice” for investors since in terms of financial security, it is very stable. There is also a “high domestic inflation rate” with large returns too. It seems to be the whole region is finding New Zealand attractive, most notably Singapore and Hong Kong which are looking into government bonds.

These changes have been happening for a few years now. Countries in Asia are boasting “very large reserves.” There is likely to be additional investments ahead too. China will see an increase in investment from BUD, the Brazilian-Belgium owned Anheuser-Busch InBev and intends to establish a “brewery to make Budweiser in the mainland by the third quarter,” according to Carlos Brito, CEO of the company. The intention is to put in “several hundred million dollars this year.”

Better Beer

The three “top-priority markets” set to “drive the volume growth of the global beer industry,” are: Brazil, China and the USA. Indeed, China alone drinks around 30 liters of beer per annum, rendering it “responsible for around 25 percent of global beer consumption.” Just last week the first brewery was launched by AB InBev in Sichuan, a southwest China province, which according to the company’s Asia Pacific president Miguel Patricio, “aims to better serve the 200 million consumers in the region.” So if you happen to be visiting the Great Wall, consider quenching your thirst with a barrel of beer.

Awesome Asian Achievements? Coming Soon

Asian Job Creation Scheme

The economic climate and job potential in Asia is about to get a kick-start. A group of economic development officials led by Gov. Bob McDonnell just set out on an “11-day job creation and economic development marketing mission,” to China, Japan and South Korea at an estimated cost of $278,000. This scheme will be financed by taxpayers. He is being joined by Jim Cheng, Secretary of Commerce and Trade, Todd Haymore, Secretary of Agriculture and those connected with Virginia.

The group is Virginia Economic Development Partnership which will – through the efforts – be able to try and develop relations with various companies and potentially acquiesce new clients for their projects as their will be a promotion of various investment/business opportunities hopefully also resulting in “job creation initiatives throughout the Commonwealth.”

Project Gets First Lady Backing

Not only is First Lady Maureen McDonnell supportive of this great project, she is showing it by being part of the mission. McDonnell will be traveling to China and South Korea “focusing her efforts on promoting tourism and the Virginia wine industry.” Her husband believes they have much to offer, offering “a great tax, regulatory and litigation environment,” amongst other incentives.

There will be meetings with CEO’s and business executives from around the world who will be told about the benefits of investing in Virginia. It is essential that jobs are created for “our citizens” who need them he said and thus the company “will not sit by and watch as the jobs….are awarded to other states and countries that choose to be more proactive and visible.”

Worldwide Job Creation Competition

It seems that right now there is a lot of competition to try and get more jobs in the private sector area that is set to “power and define the 21st century economy.” McDonnell wants Virginia to “win that competition,” which will lead to extra “jobs and opportunities” for the citizens to ensure a “better and stronger Commonwealth in the years ahead.”

Escalating Chinese Exports

In terms of the export markets, things are going well for China now. In 2000, china ranked number 14 but now it holds the number 2 position. This is why it is now a great environment to receive McDonnell and his mission in an attempt to “promote Virginia’s location advantages to approximately key 100 business executives.”

There is a great chance that this mission will be successful since McDonnell has done it before when he went to Europe last year. At the time he “helped close a lucrative economic development deal that led to the company investing $28.3 million to expand its O’Sullivan Films operation in Winchester.” Over 150 new jobs were created there following this.

So let’s hope McDonnell does it again and Asia’s job market will really benefit too.

Foxy Financial Females?

Are Asian Women Financially Savvy Today?

Years ago the answer for sure would have been a resounding “no.” But today things are somewhat different. It seems that women in Asia (especially those married, 30+, in the workforce) know their won from their yen and their level of competence is likely to increase further “especially among the younger generation.”

For example, women from Thailand topped financial planning (87) and investment (69.3) scores for financial literacy but Vietnamese women also did pretty well, scoring 70.1 overall, placing them in fourth place. There wasn’t much to sniff at with women from the Philippines either (who did extremely well in Financial Planning), but those from Korea and Japan could probably learn a lesson or two on how to get more financially in-the-know.

Survey Assesses Savvyness

It was the MasterCard Index of Financial Literacy that took a survey of these countries. The questions were posed to 24 markets around APMEA (Asia/Pacific Middle East Africa). It looked at three main areas: Basic Money Management (budgeting, savings and credit responsibility); Financial Planning (their understanding of financial products and services as well as ability to make long-term financial plans); Investment (understanding of risks and products associated with investments). In general, Asian women as a whole did best in Financial Planning.

In developed markets it was women from Australia and New Zealand who were most successful in their financial knowledge. Females from Singapore are pretty good at basic money management but were pretty clueless vis-à-vis anything to do with investments. But when looking at financial literacy, India and China don’t seem to be all that with it.

According to VP of Communications for Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa, MasterCard Worldwide, Georgette Tan, “this new MasterCard Index has certainly provided us with fresh insights to women’s aptitude for and knowledge of managing their finances. While it is encouraging to see that women across Asia/Pacific have some degree of financial literacy, it is also apparent that there is still work to be done to improve levels across the board.” This is important as complexities increase in the financial world resulting in a necessity for women to become “more financially confident and competent.” MasterCard also seeks to give more power to these women.

Malaysia Strong Asian Investment Opportunity

Malaysia: Major Asia Asset

Just two days ago a $3.7bn investment announcement came from Malaysia, set to “to jumpstart foreign interest in its economy even as other Asian countries try to stem speculative inflows in search of higher-yielding markets.” The country’s Prime Minister (Najib Razak) intends to try and get $444bn worth of investments resulting in Malaysia becoming a “developed country by 2020,” including $165m by Asia Media to create digital media infrastructure as well as the establishment of a state-owned energy development agency to be able to attract $106m worth of investments this year. This is all part of the country’s “Economic Transformation Programme,” a project that is due to be put into practice over the next decade.

Other Asian Countries Less Successful

Malaysia has been doing pretty well recently vis-à-vis investments. Indeed it has already attracted around $5bn in pledges from Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell Pic as well as other (smaller) projects. For example Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand are having quite a few issues attracting investments anything near to the success of neighboring Malaysia.

But this hasn’t deterred Najib who is determined to ensure Malaysia stays one step ahead, “transforming [it] into a high-income economy within 10 years by generating new growth areas and restructuring the economy to lure investors.” Yet this goal is not as easy as it may seem. Investment blueprints from the past aren’t showing such great results. As well, in general the economy has been suffering from a less-than-skilled workforce to enable it to develop into the “financial services hub” it wants to. Yet it is past the stage of being a low-end manufacturing center,” as countries such as Vietnam now have that role.

Notorious Najib

Still, given all these efforts made by the country’s premier, the public is remaining loyal to Najib. Although one has only to look at the facts on the ground to see where the country really is, given that the exchange was down more than 5 percent from where it was just four years ago. While there is now more opportunity for competition, in general, investors are expecting the government to “take more aggressive steps to reduce its fiscal deficit and overhaul an affirmative action policy they say hinders competition.”

Malaysia PJ: Malaysia Post Japan’s Trauma

It might not have been a surprise if any parts of Asia – including Malaysia – would have been negatively impacted by Japan’s trauma. But in fact this hasn’t been the case, according to Datuk Donald Lim Siang Chai, the country’s Deputy Finance Minister. He claimed that it will “have little impact on the Malaysian economy in 2011.” Vis-à-vis the country’s exports to Japan he said that actually some areas (like plywood and liquid natural gas) would actually probably “increase during the second quarter of this year as Japan increases its reconstruction work of earthquake-damaged areas.”

As well, Malaysia probably won’t be affected by Mid-East and North African troubles either since trade between those countries is anyway only at around 2 percent.

So all in all things are looking good right now for Malaysia. The country has developed a strong enough economy and excellent relations with regions with which to continue exporting to see it through any troubled times Asia may be encountering.

Boost to Azerbaijan’s Investment Options

Good news is potentially on the horizon for Azerbaijan.  According to experts the country looks set to move from a “stable” to a “positive” status suggesting the country will become “an investment-grade territory” in the very near future.  This is within the backdrop of the country showing general improvements vis-à-vis the government’s fiscal and external positions.  This has been most noted in the country’s acquisition of State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan’s assets.

<h3>Other Great Economic Stats</h3>

Simultaneous to this good financial news for the country is the fact that its government “registered a fiscal surplus of 14 percent of GDP in its consolidated budget,” a substantial change from its figure in 2010 of 30 percent.  Further, the government has been  making investments in other (non-oil based) sectors which are likewise starting to reap benefits with a 7.9 percent jump last year, more than double of the figure for the year before.

<h3>Need for Economic Freedom</h3>

While this of course is all great news for Azerbaijan, the country is still a long way from becoming a true global economic player.  Before that has even a hope of happening, the country  will be forced to engage in some major renovations and liberations of its economic structure.  Further the country’s securities need to be worked on which will take some efforts from its PashaBank vis-à-vis a portfolio diversification.  Because it plans on joining the overseas capital markets, there is an expected 5-y percent worth of profits from operations with securities this year.  Currently the bank’s investment portfolio stands at 31 percent of securities assets (bonds, etc.).  Experts have noted that the country needs to make it a priority to show its interest in “investing in sovereign bonds of foreign countries….particularly in Russia, Ukraine and Central Europe.”

Financial things are a-changing in Azerbaijan, that’s for sure.  But it’s going to take time.  There are a lot of economic factors that are beginning to work well in the country but its deeper political issues (i.e. the required infrastructure reform) is still a subject with which to contend.

Online Drug Companies Abusing Tsunami Disaster?


Obama Causing Panic?


There’s always someone who tries to make money from a disaster.  And this time it’s following Japan’s tsunami, with the threat that Americans might be in danger of the nuclear fallout.  This is likely due to the panic President Barack Obama and his top medical official raised which has led to Americans buying drugs for protection.  Although Obama himself was given the assurance that “any harmful radiation from Japan will have dissipated before it reaches Hawaii or the US mainland.”  


So why the panic?  Because everyone likes to be prepared and according to US Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, it is a good idea to buy radiation antidotes “as a precaution,” such as potassium iodine pills which is often able to protect the thyroid gland against cancer and radiation, reducing the amount of iodine the body can absorb.


Drug Suppliers Reap Benefits


So now drug companies are getting wise to how they can make some extra money. Although it seems a bit like black money.  Indeed one drug supplier in America sold 250,000 anti-radiation pills since last Friday, ordering more medicines to meet increasing demand.  Those who haven’t managed to buy them yet are spending extortionate amounts of money by purchasing them on line.  It seems everyone is suffering from Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, but drug companies are taking advantage of what happened.


Brits Try to Escape Too


Brits are now being warned to leave Tokyo and other areas in danger of radiation poisoning.  The country’s Foreign Office is even considering putting on extra planes to ensure all Brits trapped in the country are able to leave on free “rescue flights.”


Asia, America, the whole world, has been affected by Japan’s tsunami.  The question remains, what is one’s host country doing to help, first their own citizens, and second, those working on a recovery plan in Japan?  As the situation changes daily, only time will tell which governments and administrations will really pull their fingers out.  Let’s just hope that in the meantime, entrepreneurs work for the good of the people, rather than trying to exploit them.
 

Price of Tsunami in Japan With a Potentially Crumbling California


<h3>Tsunami is Costly Vis-à-vis Dollars and Death</h3>
As Japan still faces a disaster that seems to keep continuing, the financial impact is slowly being assessed.  It is thought that the country will be facing tens of millions of dollars worth of damage as well as continuing fatalities, the latest being when 25 year old Dustin Weber was swept away and has not been found, as he turned his back to the surging sea.
<h3>How is California Coping?</h3>
Now there is talk of what is going to be with California.  Crescent City seems to be most affected as the  north part of the state is being impacted by roiling the waters.  According to Josh Zulliger, (warden at the California Department of Fish and Game), “there are three-foot waves still coming in here.”  It is not surprising that it is Crescent City that is being impacted the most since it is known for being a very vulnerable area vis-à-vis tsunamis probably due to its underwater ridge offshore  as well as the shape of the harbor that “effectively bounces waves directly back into the line of incoming waves.”
So the boats are sinking in California.  Everyone has been so focused (naturally) on Japan following the earthquake and tsunami, that California hasn’t been in the press much recently.  But the waves ultimately sent over “an eight-foot swell into the enclosed harbor here, smashing dozens of boats.”  Clearly Japan’s disaster is having a worldwide impact, not just on markets and the economy, but also more directly on people and the potential danger to their lives.

California now has to find a way to pick up the pieces.  Japan has their own – greater – problems that will no doubt take a very long time (and lots of capital) to fix.  But it seems like the west is being affected too and places like Crescent City need to find their own resources to get back to normal as well.  The lesson from this is thus clear:  such an earthquake and tsunami is not just restricted to Japan, or even Asia, but will have a worldwide boomerang effect, especially on an already volatile global economy.

Pridiyathorn To Peak Asia’s Economy?

Asia’s economy is a bit of a mess.  Actually it's a  big mess.  And it doesn’t look like this situation is about to improve any time soon either.  Inflation looks set to continue; capital flows are extremely volatile.  But the fact that China has been trying to liberalize its currency exchange rate could be good news for economies in the region, enabling them to move away from trade settlement within the current global economic climate.  It’s a shame Pridiyathorn Devakula is somewhat removed from the political scene these days though.  Thailand’s previous Deputy Prime Minister is quite well-to-do these days.  His wife has a staggering Bt258 million to enjoy while their daughter isn’t too badly off either at Bt7 million.  Perhaps if the family shares some of its wealth it can pull the region out of its financial hole.

Yuan Goes International

But even if the Devakula family decides to keep their wealth to themselves (giving them near-billionaire status), the yuan need not suffer.  It seems like the government of China is moving toward the possibility of internationalizing this currency alongside the Euro and the dollar.  As well, plans are set for Hong Kong to become the traing center for yuan-denominated assets enabling foreign companies to “issue yuan-denominated assets in Hong Kong” which will also mean the Bank of China NY branch will be able to open yuan deposits.  The hope is that investment abroad will increase too.  As well, if they adopt Devakula’s idea of “co-operation among regional economies” to establish a benchmark currency, then the region’s economy could potentially peak.

What Would King George VI Have Said About Singapore’s Rice Crisis?

Pest storms are devastating rice production in Singapore, which is no good for anyone since this grain is a staple throughout Asia.  This is becoming a threat to the country’s food security and could completely destroy rice farms throughout the region, according to Singapore scientists.  Indeed, there is talk that the pesticides used to counter this problem may be doing the opposite – making it worse.  The problem has partly been caused by trying to go cheap:  use of less expensive pesticides; poor farmer education and destruction of ecosystems around paddies, to name but a few.

Historically this wouldn’t have been the case.  Farmers took immense pride in their plots and ensured their produce was protected.  King George VI would have been ashamed at his Asian brethren and might not have so readily agreed to having his face emblazoned on a set of Singapore stamps issued in 1948.