All material subject to strictly enforced copyright laws. © 2022 Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC group
Asia Polls and Awards

Best Managed Company Awards 2016: Asia’s finest stand out

Pandora right size

Asiamoney is pleased to present its choices for Asia’s Best Managed Companies in 2016. In a year marked by political and economic upheaval, the region’s best firms and executives impressed on through a combination of factors including financial performance, innovation and strategic execution.



Sigma Pharmaceuticals

Many attribute Sigma’s success to chief executive Mark Hooper, who took the reins in 2010 — he was previously the company’s chief financial officer between 2001 and 2006 — and drove a turnaround in its fortunes. In the years Hooper was absent Sigma went through tough times: the company’s market cap collapsed and its debts became unmanageable.

Rather than focus on short-term damage control, Hooper chose to prioritise investment and long-term change and development. Sigma has since grown to become Australia’s largest pharmacy network, operating over 700 branded pharmacies in the country.

The company’s continued movement away from reliance on Australia’s Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme (PBS) — a government initiative that provides subsidised prescription drugs — in order to focus on higher margin business has been well received by analysts. A reliance on the PBS kept earnings suppressed during Sigma’s tricky years: the return on invested capital stood at around 6% when Hooper became CEO, but by June 2016 that figure had more than doubled to 15.2%.  In the first half of its 2016-2017 financial year, the company reported a 50% increase in its non-PBS sales.

This year has also seen foreign expansion for Sigma, with the company beginning to operate in China in June, with sales in the country comfortably outstripping the company’s projections.


Treasury Wine Estates

Winemaker Treasury Wine Estates is a perfect example of just how much difference a change in management can make to a company.

Treasury wines 300px
Treasury Wines: sound as a barrel

When Treasury Wine was first carved out of brewer Foster’s Group in 2011 it got off to a rough start. The new company was forced to issue multiple profit warnings, which analysts blamed, at least in part, on poor management. Notably, nobody was blaming the company’s struggles on the strength of its product, with brands that run the gamut from the ubiquitous Blossom Hill to the far more upscale Penfolds. That led to a management change in 2014, with new chief executive Michael Clarke brought in to turn the company’s fortunes around. And turn them around he did. When Clarke joined in February 2014, the company’s stock was worth around A$3.50 ($2.64) per share, now it has climbed up to around A$10.60.

While Treasury Wine has been helped in recent years by a weaker Australian dollar, market observers attribute the company’s turnaround mainly to the change in leadership. Treasury Wine has benefited in particular from decisions to target Chinese wine buyers — in September China overtook the US to become the largest importer of Australian wine on a rolling 12 month basis — and to modify its supply chain management, improving the ways it brings wine from vineyards to consumers.

As one analyst put it: “Their execution is great. They used to just make good wine, now they’re good at selling it too.”



Wesfarmers is often compared to Australia’s other retail giant, Woolworths, which is little surprise when the two are the country’s largest and second largest companies by revenue, respectively. Two things that market watchers love to see are a strong track record and transparency, and it’s definitely the case that analysts value Wesfarmers for its reliability and solid corporate governance — with some presenting these qualities as a contrast to the company’s main rival.

“You get a very conservative view of how they book their numbers,” said one analyst. “It’s very different to how Woolies do it.”

The company’s reputation for reliability may have taken a knock in 2016, however, with one-off impairment charges sharply eroding profits.

The main culprit was the conglomerate’s coal mining business, Curragh, which was hit with a A$2.1bn writedown for the 2016 financial year, a result of slumping commodities prices. However, the price of coal is back on the up — Australian thermal coal closed September at $78.11 per ton, compared to the $55.85 level it started the year at.

These fluctuations mean the business is proving a headache for chief executive Richard Goyder, who looks to end the saga by putting Curragh and its other coal mine Bengalla up for sale in November.

Ultimately, if Wesfarmers is able to successfully offload its mining businesses, the Aussie giant could rebuild its well-earned reputation for reliability.



TCL Communication Technology

It hasn’t been the easiest year for TCL Communication, the mobile handset producer and internet service provider. The level of competition in the mobile phone business has been rising in recent years and within China TCLC has had to face off against companies ranging from the likes of well-established Huawei to upstarts like OneTouch.

There’s no denying that this level of competition has taken a toll on TCLC: both revenues and profits were down when the company reported its half-yearly results at the end of June. Nevertheless, the company remains a favourite of analysts polled.

It’s easy to do well in forgiving conditions, but a management team’s real calibre is shown in how it deals with the tough times. Analysts, it seems, like what they see in TCLC’s reaction to difficult conditions. The company took the step of delisting itself at the end of September, a somewhat radical step that could be just what it needs.

Analysts see the delisting as the first step in a period of repositioning for TCLC, giving the management team the flexibility to undertake a period of reinvestment that could allow the company to regain its edge in the smartphone market. In the short term this is likely to prove painful, but the fact that the delisting was approved by shareholders is a vote of confidence in executive chairman Li Dongsheng’s team.



Fujian-based sportswear company Xtep International has undergone something of a rebranding exercise over the last two years. Originally more of a fashion brand than a true sportswear operation, Xtep has recently shifted its emphasis to offering a greater array of functional products. In particular, the company’s R&D efforts for these new products have been well received.

This move has been greeted favourably by industry experts, who point to lifestyle changes in China towards greater health consciousness and recreational physical activity. The Chinese government has been taking steps to encourage greater participation in sporting activities — particularly football, which it has made a compulsory sport in the nation’s schools — which Xtep has been quick to react to.

Analysts’ opinions aside, the 6% growth in revenues and 16.5% increase in profits reported by Xtep for the first half of 2016 also indicate that the company’s decision to focus on function and not just form is a savvy one.

The company operates over 7,000 stores across China and has enjoyed a steadily growing market share in recent years. Xtep plans to keep the size of its retail network stable in the near future — with the exception of its stores specialising in children’s products, which it intends to expand to capitalise on the government’s push on youth sports — a decision that has been welcomed by analysts, who have indicated a preference for the company to focus on expanding and upgrading existing outlets rather than growth for growth’s sake.


China Mobile

For some companies, numbers alone are enough to impress, China Mobile is one such institution. With a customer base of around 844m mobile subscribers, and providing wired broadband services to a further 74m, the company has the largest mobile phone network in the world.

While the sheer scale of China Mobile’s customer base is impressive, so is its growth rate: over the first nine months of 2016 the company has averaged 1.9m net new customers per month.

The speed at which China Mobile has embraced new technologies has been a key driver of growth. The company’s expansion of its 4G network has been cited by analysts as a particularly positive sign.

 Chinese consumers have been adopting 4G at a far faster rate than they did 3G and that has been particularly true of China Mobile customers. The company has been the leader in 4G in China since the technology was first introduced and the gap between it and its competitors is only widening.

At the end of 2014 just 11.2% of its subscribers bought 4G packages, but analysts’ projections indicate that number should be more like 60% at the end of this year. That growth should offset the slightly weaker earnings that the Chinese telecom sector as a whole suffered from in 2015 and puts China Mobile in a very strong position compared to rivals China Telecom and China Unicom. Numbers at China Mobile are already on the up, with the company boosting its net profits by 5.6% year-on-year for the first half of 2016.



Far East Consortium

Real estate firm Far East Corporation has long been a favourite of analysts and investors and it’s easy to see why. The company has managed to deliver solid and consistent growth over the last seven years. They key to FEC’s success is its level of diversification, particularly impressive for a small cap company.

far east consortium 300px
Diversity is key for Far East Consortium

It owns and manages properties across six different countries — China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and the UK — meaning it operates in six different property cycles and can manage each separately to boost its earnings. By avoiding being locked into any one property cycle, FEC can deliver maximised and consistent profits. The company has a reputation for dipping into a property cycle at its lows, before turning the real estate around at a high when the market recovers.

Buy low and sell high may be a truism, but few small caps have the expertise or resources to operate across such a range of countries and the skills of FEC’s management team are the key to its success.

“It’s the talent of the management that lets them do this, not many small caps have the talent to manage properties across different countries in the same way,” says one analyst. “It really sets them apart from the competition.”

The company is placed to continue its strong track record, having recently added further properties in Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia to its portfolio, with further Australian properties in the pipeline.


Kerry Logistics Network

From its humble origins as a warehouse operator, Kerry Logistics has grown into one of Asia’s most prominent transport and logistics companies. Over the last two years in particular, the company’s growth has been impressive. It has broken into markets as varied as Canada, Dubai and Myanmar, with little sign that its expansion plan is likely to slow.

The firm acquired a majority stake in San Francisco based Apex Maritime in June for $88m, with the plan of using the trans-Pacific trade specialist’s expertise and relationships in order to further its ambitions of a global network. The company is also looking at expanding its networks in both south and southeast Asia, with the latter region earmarked for particular attention.

Analysts have been impressed by Kerry’s performance in a tricky macro environment, with the company’s earnings for the first half of 2016 remaining stable compared to the same period in 2015.

The company’s performance in its international segment suffered from the less than ideal conditions, but it was able to offset that through a good showing in its business in China. While its international expansion may not be paying dividends just yet, industry experts are confident that an upturn in the macro environment will transfer into greater profits for Kerry. Analysts also praise the company for its transparency and extensive investor relations work.


Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing (HKEX)

Conditions were not ideal for Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing in the first half of 2016. Volatile conditions proved tricky for Hong Kong’s bourse as trading volumes dropped off, but the outlook for the company remains positive.

In December, HKEX further expanded its connections to the mainland stock market through a link with the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. The scheme — mirroring a similar scheme operated between HKEX and the Shanghai Stock Exchange — allows Hong Kong-based investors to trade on the Shenzhen exchange and vice-versa.

While the Shenzhen exchange is smaller than the Shanghai bourse, it is still the world’s eighth largest exchange and is comparable size to the Hong Kong exchange. Importantly, Shenzhen has become a popular listing spot for companies in fast-growing sectors like technology and pharmaceuticals, meaning it is likely to prove highly attractive to foreign investors.

Analysts have already cited the Shanghai-Hong Kong link as having been a major boost for HKEX since its inauguration and the addition of the Shenzhen exchange is likely to have a comparable effect on the company.

Coupled with consistent growth in the number of derivatives contracts on the Hong Kong Futures Exchange — volumes hit a record high in the first half of 2016, breaking the record set in the previous year — the increased links to the mainland stock market should help offset what has been a slightly subdued stock market in its domestic market of Hong Kong.


David Chiu, chairman and CEO, Far East Consortium

David Chiu’s career at Far East Consortium, our winner for best small cap company in Hong Kong, has been long and distinguished. Chiu, the son of the company’s founder Deacon, has been the chief executive since 1997 and chairman since 2011. Under his watch the company has flourished, and analysts are comfortable in giving him much of the credit.

Chiu may be the son of the company’s founder, but he did not attain his position at the top of FEC just through the connection. In the 1990s, seeking to step out from his father’s shadow, he moved to Malaysia and set up his own property business Malaysia Land Properties. Operating the business gave him invaluable experience of the Asian property market and he also picked up a pair of honorary titles, allowing him to style himself Tan Sri Dato’ David Chiu.

Industry watchers praise Chiu for how he has assembled a top notch team at Far East Consortium. For such a small company to operate across different countries and manage different property cycles in the way that FEC does is a rare thing and analysts attribute this ability to the company’s ability to spot and attract top-notch talent.



DCB Bank

Flexibility can be important to a good management strategy. In October 2015, DCB Bank announced that it would expand its network by around 150 branches over the following 12 months. This proved to be an unpopular move: the bank’s share price dropped as investors and analysts reacted poorly to the aggressive expansion plan — the bank had already almost doubled its number of branches between 2012 and 2015.

Within days the bank rolled back. While it still planned to open 150 branches, it would slow the pace and open them over two years instead of just one. Chairman Nasser Munjee maintained that the original plan was viable — even preferable to the slower plan — but he also recognised that investor impressions are crucial. Analysts maintain that the original strategy was too aggressive, but they also like that the bank responded to their concerns rather than digging in its heels.

And anyone who had their faith shaken in DCB by its ambitious plans should draw some reassurance from its financial successes. It has added some 30 branches over the last six months — bringing its network across 20 Indian states and provinces up to 228 — but has also managed to boost profits. Pre-tax profits for the six months ending September 30 were up 14%, with the 32% growth in the same metric in the quarter ending that date particularly impressive.

DCB’s growth plan may be ambitious, but the management team are doing an impressive job of showing they can pull it off.


Ashok Leyland

In many ways, it’s been a tough few years for Ashok Leyland. Since 2012, industry wide sales in the firm’s specialist field of heavy vehicles have dropped off, while competition has stepped up as both domestic and foreign auto companies have sought to carve out a chunk of the market.

While other firms began to refocus on other areas of the auto industry, Ashok instead opted to concentrate on its traditional speciality. The company re-invested profits and sought to improve efficiency and cut operating costs. Ashok was forced to cut back staff numbers and restructure its balance sheet, leaving the company looking much healthier, according to analysts.

Now demand for big trucks is once again on the up — a product of a resurgent mining sector in the country — and Ashok looks set to benefit. The company’s market share for medium and heavy commercial vehicles has grown from 22.5% in 2012 to 31% today, just as industry-wide sales are rebounding.

The company’s decision to retain its focus on a tricky industry was neither easy nor certain to pay off, but by playing to its strengths Ashok Leyland is now set to reap the benefits of playing a central role in a rebounding market.


Maruti Suzuki

It’s hard not to be impressed by the dominance that Maruti Suzuki can claim over the Indian automotive market. At the close of the Japanese-owned company’s last fiscal year, it could claim 47% of the market share for passenger vehicles in the country.

Analysts put the company’s sustained success down to its responsiveness to customer demand and a strong track record of launching new products.

“They maintain their peak through product action,” said one analyst. “The strength of the products they launch speaks loudly for them.”

Maruti’s numbers certainly tally with the praise from industry experts. For the quarter ending September, Maruti reported 18.4% yearly growth in sales and an impressive 58% growth in pre-tax profits.

That success is all the more impressive given that conditions haven’t been ideal for Maruti over the last 12 months. The strength of the Japanese yen has been a problem for the company, which has around 20% of its costs denominated in the currency. Maruti imports a large number of parts from Japan and has also historically made royalty payments to its Japanese parent Suzuki in yen. At the start of 2016 the year Rp0.55 was equal to around ¥1, but by the start of November that number had hit Rp0.64.

Fortunately, Maruti’s management were more than aware of the problems that a strong yen posed for them. In April the company announced that it would begin making royalty payments for new models in rupees rather than yen. While payments for old models will remain in the Japanese currency, the change will insulate Maruti somewhat from volatility in the exchange rate.


Siddhartha Lal, CEO and managing director, Eicher Motors

Siddhartha Lal cuts an atypical figure for the chief executive of a motor company. Lal tends to look more like he belongs in the boardroom of a tech startup than in the CEO’s office of an established automaker.

A noted motorbike enthusiast — he started out at Eicher in 2000 as CEO of its motorcycle subsidiary Royal Enfield — Lal is more commonly seen clad in jeans and leathers than a business suit. Lal is open about his dislike for formal dress and, after all, one of the good things about being the boss is that nobody can criticise how you dress

While he may not look the part of a bigtime chief exec, nobody doubts Lal’s knowledge of his sector, or his business prowess. With qualifications in both economics and mechanical engineering, he can boast that he knows his business from top to bottom. His confidence and expertise was apparent when he made the step up to chief operating officer of Eicher in 2004. Wasting no time in changing the business, he shuttered a number of business lines in order to focus on what he perceived as Eicher’s true strengths. There was a focus on heavy vehicles but Royal Enfield, unsurprisingly, also remained intact.

Lal’s decisions were well received and he was promoted to CEO in 2006. Since then he has presided over a debt light company that analysts value for its reliability and solid return on investment.



Sarana Meditama Metropolitan (SMM)

The future looks bright for Sarana Meditama Metropolitan. Operating under the brand name of Omni Hospitals, SMM operates three hospitals in Indonesia, with a fourth set to follow in 2017. The company’s growth prospects are promising, owing to a lack of penetration in Indonesia’s healthcare industry generally and changes in the sector over recent years. In 2014 the government of Indonesia launched the country’s first universal healthcare programme, Jaminan Kesehatan Nasional (JKN), leading to a shake-up in the country’s healthcare sector.

The country has one of the lowest bed-to-population ratios in the world, suggesting that companies like SMM have plenty of scope for growth. Industry experts point to the country’s growing middle class as a factor that will help drive business to SMM, particularly given the company’s proven track record of operating multiple hospitals in different parts of the country.

Analysts are certainly pleased with the work that SMM’s management team — in place since 2012 — have done in improving the company and driving revenues and profits to record highs. Since the company was first listed on the Jakarta exchange in 2013 it has enjoyed strong growth, with profits growing from Rp203.9bn ($15m) in 2014 to Rp253.71bn in 2015 on the back of revenues that increased by over 24%.


Mitra Keluarga Karyasehat (MKK)

Hospital group Mitra Keluarga Karyasehat is another company that looks certain to thrive in the coming years, with high growth prospects driven by increased demand for its services from Indonesia’s growing middle class.

Analysts laud the company for how it has managed the changing landscape of the healthcare industry in Indonesia since the introduction of universal healthcare two years ago and on the discipline it has shown in expanding its business at a steady pace.

The advent of universal healthcare presented a choice to healthcare companies in Indonesia: target the high volume, but low return, business created by the expansion of the sector, or focus on higher margin business from the country’s expanding middle class. MKK opted for the latter, choosing to leverage its existing position as a well reputed provider of private healthcare.

Analysts have been pleased to see the hospital focus on its core business by choosing the private healthcare route and in its decision to prioritise growth and expansion in regions of the country where it is already well known. And not only is MKK set to benefit by leveraging its existing skillset, analysts predict that a supportive operating environment will keep the company sitting pretty in the coming years.

“The market is so big that whatever route you choose, you are in a growth market,” said one analyst. “Penetration is so low that you can just expand as people become wealthier.”


Bank Central Asia (BCA)

Indonesia’s economy has been struggling in 2016, hit by the slump in demand for commodities that impacted markets across the world. That’s bad news for the banking business, making it all the more impressive that Bank Central Asia remains a favoured pick by experts on Indonesia’s markets.

Indeed, in some ways it’s when the going gets tough that Bank Central Asia’s real positive traits begin to shine. After all, what analysts prize most in Indonesia’s largest privately owned bank is its safety and stability. The bank boasts a solid and growing deposit base — Rp493bn as of September, up 6.7% year-on-year —  and keeps a close eye on its loan book to make sure it stays healthy. Non-performing loans are actually up year-on-year, driven by a spike in non-performance for commercial and SME loans, but are still very manageable at just 1.5%.

And while the management may have something of a reputation for conservatism, it doesn’t seem to be hurting the company’s bottom line. In September the bank reported profits for the first nine months of the year of Rp22.1bn, up 20.5% on the same period in 2015.

When BCA won the award for best large cap in Indonesia in 2015, Asiamoney wrote that there was no doubt that it would be the company to beat in 12 months’ time. Unfortunately for its peers, BCA has proved once again to be the top pick in Indonesia.



Media Prima

Media Prima is a well-run company in a tough sector. Historically specialising in TV and print media, Media Prima is facing the same problem as the rest of the sector: print media circulation is falling and revenues for advertising are dropping across the board as customers rethink their spending.

“Revenue for TV and print advertising is struggling,” said one analyst. “People just don’t have the same amount of money to commit to advertising as they did in the past.”

Fortunately, Media Prima has taken steps to remedy this problem and has begun to refocus its efforts on other sources of income, particularly online advertising which has proven to be more resilient than more traditional methods. Media Prima streamlined its digital business in 2015, incurring significant one-off costs but allowing a return to profitability in the first half of 2016. Not only is the business generating a profit again, but revenues for the first half are up 80% year-on-year. Experts are confident that the company’s well established digital presence will allow it to weather problems in other businesses.

The company has also diversified its business, acquiring several radio stations and launching a home shopping business that has helped to somewhat offset some of the problems facing its TV business.

Analysts are confident that things will improve at Media Prima. If there is one criticism to be levelled at the company it’s that it took all the right steps, but took a little too long to do so — it’s not enough to make the right calls, you have to make them at the right time too.


Genting Plantations

“Plantations are sometimes boring,” confided one analyst. “There’s a lot of planting, and a lot of waiting for the fruit to grow.” However, as another analyst noted — one man’s boring is another’s good business. At any rate, Genting Plantations sounds

Genting 300px
Genting continues to grow

anything but tedious. Like other planters in southeast Asia, Genting has struggled with issues outside of its control over the last year. The periodic El Niño weather phenomenon has led to droughts in the region: bad news when you’re in Genting’s line of business.

While Genting may not be able to control the weather, it is encouraging to see management taking long-term steps to mitigate how reliant their business is on meteorological conditions. The company has engaged in extensive expansion work — increasing its acreage in Malaysia, while also expanding into neighbouring Indonesia — and has been conducting genealogical research in a hunt to boost yields and increase resistance to drought.

While these avenues have yet to pay off — the genealogical route, in particular, has yet to make much progress, according to analysts — Genting is set up to thrive once the weather conditions return to normal.

In the meantime, the company is focusing on cost control and expanding the breadth of its operations. Traditionally the company — like most small and medium sized planters — has been involved almost solely in the growing of palm crops. It is now moving into the downstream portions of the business, particularly the refining of palm oil and biochemical applications, which should help control costs by freeing the company from the demands of downstream buyers.


IHH Healthcare

Strong performances from healthcare companies is a running theme this year, with well managed outfits able to take advantage of growing affluence and the ensuing demand for top notch care. IHH Healthcare is no exception, being analysts’ favoured pick in Malaysia’s healthcare sector.

The company has displayed a consistent strong performance. For the first half of 2016, revenues and profits are both up over 20%. Analysts expect these numbers to remain resilient in the future, pointing to growing demand for private healthcare in Malaysia as a result of increasing affluence and an expected shift in demographics towards an older population.

IHH is set to take advantage of that increased demand, having ramped up its bed capacity by expanding through both brownfield and greenfield projects. The company typically has up to 15 expansion projects in the works at any one time and with Malaysia’s bed to population ratio standing at around 1.9 per 1,000 people — the global average is 2.6 per 1,000 — there is certainly untapped capacity to support this rate of growth.

Analysts also praise its decision to diversify by looking at international operations to supplement its core business in Malaysia. Most notably, Singapore and Turkey are strong sources of earnings for IHH, but the company has also made inroads in Hong Kong and India.


Tan See Leng, managing director and CEO, IHH Healthcare

Tan See Leng has assembled a very impressive set of credentials. As both a qualified doctor and the holder of a master’s degree in business administration, the chief executive of IHH Healthcare seems the ideal figure to run a healthcare company.

Tan has a long career in healthcare administration. He founded his own primary healthcare group when he was just 27 years old, building it up to be the second largest of its kind in Singapore before selling it to an international provider.

He later joined Parkway as the chief operating officer of its Mount Elizabeth Hospital, later rising to become its CEO. Parkway was later acquired by IHH and Tan’s rise continued, with him taking the top job at IHH in 2014.

Analysts emphasis that Tan’s influence has been apparent in IHH’s success in recent years, particularly his talent for scoping out inorganic expansion opportunities.



Century Pacific Food

Century Pacific’s mainstay product, canned tuna, may not be the most exciting thing on the market, but the company will do its best to convince you otherwise. Analysts congratulate the company for the clarity of its strategy and its adept use of marketing. The company makes healthy use of young celebrities in its advertising and emphasises the health advantages of its products, appealing to young consumers that value a recognisable brand and clean living.

“It’s very smart marketing,” said one analyst. “They market their products as a lifestyle. It’s good marketing and helps make them relevant in the consumer space.”

This focus on marketing has translated into a booming business. Year-to-date revenues at Century Pacific are up 15% to Ps13bn ($264,000), with that growth driven by boosts in sales volume that the company attributes directly to the success of its extensive marketing efforts. The company was able to translate those increased revenues into a 46% boost to its net income.

As with other food companies in the region, Century Pacific has faced problems generated by the El Niño weather effect, which has led to drought conditions in parts of southeast Asia. However, the company has been able to offset this somewhat by seizing on growing international demand for coconut based products such as coconut water and coconut oil.


Security Bank

In January, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ injected $773m into Security Bank in exchange for a 20% stake in the business. The transaction — the largest ever in a Philippine lender from a foreign financial — is expected to have a big impact on the smaller institution. Analysts have always praised Security Bank for being able to hold its own against larger domestic rivals and the entrance of MUFG is likely to cut that size disparity.

“It’s a huge equity influx,” said one analyst. “With this deal, in the next few years Security Bank should be one of the top five banks in the Philippines.”

The money is expected to be used to allow Security Bank to boost growth and expand its branch network. At the time of the deal, Security Bank said it planned to expand its network from 262 branches to over 500 by 2020.

As well as the substantial cash injection, the involvement of MUFJ is expected to have other positive ramifications for Security Bank, with analysts expecting the deal to allow Security Bank to take advantage of MUFG’s existing relationships with Japanese companies.

The Japanese institution also obtained two seats on Security Bank’s board and is expected to second a number of staff members to the smaller operator, offering a new level of expertise that analysts expect to translate into improved practices for the business as a whole.  


Globe Telecom

Coming second is never fun, and always coming second is even worse. That’s historically been the case for Globe Telecom, which has struggled to displace its historic rival PLDT, which has been the Philippines’ largest telecommunications company since the country achieved independence. That status quo, however, may be in line for a shakeup as Globe gains ground on PLDT.

globe telecom 300px
Globe Telecom: making the right connections

In 2006 PLDT held a market share of around 70%, but the two are now almost neck and neck, with PLDT retaining only a narrow edge. Analysts attribute Globe’s growing share of the market to its focus on innovation and faster pace of technological improvement. In October the company signed deals totalling $750m with FiberHome, Huawei and Nokia in order to upgrade its mobile network.

“In terms of technology and digitalisation, Globe are ahead,” said one. “They’ve leapfrogged PLDT and now have the better network. It’s always been good, but in recent years it’s really leaped ahead.”

As well as the organic growth that Globe has achieved on the back of its improved technology, the company has also grown inorganically. At the end of 2015 it successfully integrated fellow telecoms operator Bayan Telecommunications, which operates in densely populated Manila and neighbouring regions, and committed to invest at least $200m in improving the smaller operator’s sub-standard network.

Unsurprisingly, PLDT has responded with a network upgrade push of its own, but if Globe can sustain its recent pace of growth it may just be able to overtake its well-entrenched rival to become the top player for the first time.


Alberto Villarosa, chairman, Security Bank

Security Bank chairman Alberto Villarosa hasn’t been in his current job long, but he has a long track record at Security Bank that leaves little doubt of his talent. Before making the step up to chairman in May 2015, Villarosa spent 11 years as the bank’s chief executive and president. Prior to that he spent two years as the bank’s chief operating officer, meaning few people have a more detailed understanding of Security Bank’s history and operations than him.

Villarosa began his career at Citibank, later joining CityTrust Banking Corp. CityTrust was acquired by the Bank of the Philippine Islands, where Villarosa also enjoyed a successful career, ultimately serving as the bank’s treasurer.

As both chairman and chief executive, Villarosa — commonly called Abet — has presided over years of growth and success at Security Bank. Analysts credit him for taking the bank from a firm focused on treasury operations to a truly diversified business, and for bringing it into the country’s top 10 banks.



Bumitama Agri

Like other planters in southeast Asia, Bumitama Agri has taken a hit from El Niño over the last 12 months. The drought conditions created by the unwelcome weather effect have hit the small planter hard. The company’s production numbers for the first half of 2016 were down sharply, leading to drops in both revenues and profits.

However, if Bumitama Agri can hold out until weather conditions normalise then the company is set to thrive. Analysts emphasise that the company still has a relatively young plantation profile, meaning that there is strong potential for growth in future earnings. The average life on Bumitama’s palm crop is around eight years, putting their crop’s lifespan at the young end of oil palm trees’ most productive period, which is between seven and 18 years.

The company also makes good use of agronomy practices, producing high yields from its fairly limited acreage while striving to manage the soil erosion that is the inevitable consequence of any kind of intensive farming.

Weather conditions are already beginning to return to normal and the company predicts that its figures for the second half of the year will be stronger, a conclusion that analysts are inclined to agree with.


Raffles Medical Group

Raffles Medical provides a perfect example of just how important it is to know which part of your business to prioritise. At the moment the company owns one large hospital in Singapore, along with a network of smaller clinics and health centres across several countries.

The flagship Raffles Hospital — its specialist services, in particular — has been a key driver of the company’s earnings in recent years and boasts a higher return on equity than other parts of the business. Naturally, then, Raffles has opted to develop this part of its business, much to the delight of analysts. The company is expected to complete an extension to the flagship hospital in 2017.

The company has also begun work on its first full size hospital — it already operates several clinics — in China, having laid the groundwork for a 40,000 square metre site in January. Analysts see the new Shanghai site as a savvy target for expansion and a potentially huge source of revenues, owing to the city’s large and wealthy population, coupled with a surprising scarcity of quality private healthcare. The company’s operation of smaller clinics in China is also seen as a positive, giving it valuable experience in the market.

If Raffles can duplicate the success of its flagship hospital with its new Shanghai venture — and analysts seem to think it can — then the outlook is promising indeed.



Diversification is the name of the game at Singtel and it’s what makes analysts love the company. From its roots as a telecoms company, Singtel has expanded into a variety of other business lines, leading to increased revenues and profits along with a resilience to market downturns in any one of its businesses.

Through its NCS subsidiary the company is involved in IT services provision, including consulting. Its inSing brand offers Singapore-focused lifestyle news, user reviews and editorials, while through Trustwave it provides cyber security and data protection.

While in its home market Singtel has strived to branch out into different business areas, it has also looked to expand its core telecom business abroad. In addition to its Singapore business, Singtel also operates a telecom subsidiary in Australia and has associate agreements with operators in India, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, where it works with Globe Telecom, Asiamoney’s pick for best Philippines large cap.

The international segment looks to be a key part of Singtel’s future, offering higher growth than its home base. In the last quarter profits in Indonesia’s Telkomsel leapt 22% while India’s Airtel saw a 13% improvement. It’s no coincidence then that in October Singtel expanded its exposure to both companies by purchasing stakes in both Telkomsel and Airtel’s holding companies.


Christina Lim, head of investor relations, Bumitama Agri

It is rare indeed to see a company’s head of investor relations nominated for the best executive award. Generally the names that are offered up are at the very top of the corporate ladder, chief executives or chairpersons. Christina Lim is one of the unusual exceptions, having proved herself popular indeed.

Analysts are uniformly positive regarding the investor relations work at Bumitama. For a small cap company, in particular, it is praised for its standards of corporate governance and, most of all, the transparency and responsiveness of its investor relations team.

A quick glance at Lim’s career suggests an obvious explanation for her talents. She began her working life as an investment analyst for Nomura before helping found Harita Securities, an Indonesian brokerage. As a poacher-turned-gamekeeper, Lim is well placed to know exactly what it is that analysts and investors demand from an IR team.



Wonik IPS

Few things are more crucial to modern living than semiconductors. Without companies like Wonik making these ingenious devices, most of the other companies in this list of awards would not be able to do business — and Asiamoney would be putting the list together on a rather more primitive platform.

It’s easy to forget that the development and production of complex technological devices isn’t just done in-house at big tech companies like Apple and Samsung and that much of the heavy lifting is done by smaller firms.

Among those firms, Wonik has earned a solid reputation for its innovative research and development work. Indeed, the small cap has benefited in recent years from a number of deals with tech giant Samsung, mostly contracts to provide semiconductors and similar equipment for the larger Korean company’s high tech offerings. In particular, analysts have recently lauded the company for its work in the field of organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs), a growth area that promises to improve on conventional LEDs in a number of ways.

Profits at Wonik have skyrocketed in recent years. In 2013 the company reported net income of W16.6bn ($14.2m), but by the end of 2015 that number had more than tripled to reach W50.5bn. Analysts note that Wonik’s earnings comfortably outstrip most of its peer group.

Chief executive Byun Cheong Woo took the top job at Wonik in April 2016 and has inherited a solidly run company, but will have to work hard to live up to the standard set by his predecessors.  


Mando Corp

International expansion has suited car parts manufacturer Mando. While its home market of South Korea still makes up just under half of its sales, the company’s international operations are a growing part of its business mix. This is particularly true of Mando’s foray into China, which is thriving in the world’s largest market for car parts.

As of September, the company’s sales of parts into China were up 51% year-on-year, with that acceleration in sales also coming with a higher profit margin than the company’s Korean operations. The company is also enjoying progress in the US market. At the end of 2015 Mando was tapped by electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla to develop failsafe technology for self-driving cars. Investors certainly like what they’ve seen from Mando over the last 12 months: the company’s share price at the start of November was over 50% higher year-on-year.

Mando hasn’t always been a popular name. Some analysts confide that in the past the company has had issues with corporate governance, but are equally keen to emphasise that it has taken steps to deal with those problems over the last two to three years. Rather than complain about the management, analysts now laud the company for its first class investor relations work and reputation for setting (and conveying) realistic goals and expectations for the company.



Korea has a well-deserved reputation as a hub for companies in high tech industries, but this year the analysts’ favourite is in a rather different line of work, with cosmetics company Amorepacific beating out more familiar names like Hyundai and Samsung.

Amorepacific may differ from Mando in both size and industry, but both companies have thrived in the Chinese market. Over the last 12 months the company has launched a number of new products aimed specifically at Chinese consumers and has been rewarded with a 30% uptick in sales in the country. Analysts expect the company’s Chinese adventure to continue successfully as the company begins to target China’s second tier cities — one analyst predicts that Amorepacific could double its sales into the country next year.

A big part of the company’s success has been an understanding of just how important a recognisable brand is to consumers. The company has invested heavily in marketing and advertising in recent years, particularly as part of its push into China. Analysts are clear that this spending has provided the company with a loyal customer following and a solid base for future financial success.

The cosmetics maker is also hoping to emulate its success in China in other markets, most notably southeast Asia. How successful this next push turns out will offer further insight into just how talented Amorepacific’s management is: analysts warn that the customer base and consumption patterns in southeast Asia differ markedly from China and Korea, and the company will have to tinker with its formula in order to ensure quality product performance in the region’s more humid conditions.




It’s companies like Sercomm that provide the groundwork for how modern businesses operate. The production of broadband networking hardware, software and firmware isn’t particularly glamorous, but it’s vital to how companies do business in the modern age. Sercomm has been established in this field since 1992 and while it may remain a small cap company, its reputation is global.

In a world increasingly focused on environmental protection, analysts note that Sercomm is looking to tackle this problem at the source. While routers and the like may not produce a whole lot of pollution in their operation, the production of them can and Sercomm is striving to cut waste and reduce pollution in its manufacturing process.

However, performance is also important and analysts are also pleased to see that Sercomm is able to live up to its green obligations without taking too big of a slice out of the bottom line. The company has been consistently profitable and 2016 has been no exception, with pre-tax profits for the first nine months up 13.3% on the back of sales revenues that are 8.8%. Those numbers suggest Sercomm is on pace to break the records it set in 2015 for both profit and revenues.

taiwan technology 300px
Technology is top in Taiwan

The company also earns praise for its extensive investor relations work, with its IR team singled out for their transparency and talent at outlining the company’s strategy and vision.


Micro-Star International (MSI)

MSI started out in the 1980s as a manufacturer of motherboards and graphics cards for computers, at the time a rather specialist business that wasn’t of huge interest to many people. The company has always had a reputation for quality, but its real genius was to specialise even further and tap into the soaring demand for videogames and the (expensive) hardware that the hobby demands.

The company was quick to recognise and tap into the fact that, for many, videogaming was making the transition from a hobby to a fully-fledged subculture. Its products — now not just cards and chips, but specially tailored desktops and laptops — are all marketed on the basis of how tailored they are for the newest and most demanding offerings from video game developers. The company also sponsors a number of teams in the increasingly popular field of eSports. Put simply, MSI is not in the business of selling you a laptop just so you can check your emails.

Analysts are highly complementary of this decision, praising the marketing direction the company has taken. Sales figures agree: in the first 10 months of 2016 the company has almost equalled its full figures for 2015, and the company is likely to record a substantial sales bump ahead of Christmas.

Revenge of the nerds, indeed.


Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC)

TSMC is a big deal, both in its field and in its country. The company is the world’s largest semiconductor foundry — a product vital to the various technologies, most notably smartphones, that we use on a daily basis — and is by far the largest company by market cap in Taiwan. At the time of writing, TSMC is worth more than double the second largest corporate on the Taipei Exchange.

“It’s their consistency that’s been the key,” said one analyst. “And that when there’s a change in the industry, they’re always quick to catch on and to update investors.”

The explosion of the smartphone market over the last decade has been the key driver of growth at TSMC, with the smartphone segment accounting for around 60% of the company’s revenues. Analysts cite the company’s profitable partnership with Apple, in particular, as key to its success — especially given the recent struggles of the US company’s main rival, Samsung.

However, analysts also express concern that the smartphone market may be nearing saturation and that future growth could be limited. Even so, the customer base for smartphones is likely to remain highly supportive for the company. Even if demand is likely to grow at a slower rate, TSMC is assured a solid revenue basis from repeat customers. Smartphones, impressive though they may be, aren’t exactly known for their long lifespans.


James Wang, CEO and president, Sercomm

Wang has been the chief executive at Sercomm since 2000 and has presided over more than a decade and a half of financial and developmental success for the producer of networking hardware, software and firmware.

Analysts praise the work that has been done at Sercomm under his leadership, particularly the strides the company has made in wireless connectivity and the business savvy of the management team.

Wang is a veteran of the technology sector, with a fresh face belying almost 30 years of experience. Before joining Sercomm, Wang worked for Emerson Electric, helping the company establish an Asian presence by setting up and managing the company’s operations in Suzhou, China. Earlier in his career Wang headed up a number of research and development projects, making good use of his undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications in mechanical engineering.

Wang is no stranger to awards, in 2014 he was named Ernst & Young’s entrepreneur of the year for Taiwan for his work at Sercomm.



Major Cineplex Group

Major Cineplex has been the undisputed top dog in the Thai movie theatre business since 2004 when the group acquired the number two company, EGV Entertainment — owned by a rival branch of Major Cineplex’s owners, the Poolvaraluck family.

The group owns close to 500 cinemas across Thailand, including the country’s largest complex and its only IMAX screen. With the

Major 300px
Major Cineplex is going digital

company’s presence across the country strongly entrenched, analysts have been pleased to see chief executive Kittsanan Ngamphathipong has turned his attention to cost savings. Major Cineplex is shifting over from traditional 35mm projectors to modern digital systems, reducing the need for trained operators and cutting staffing costs. Similarly, the company is rolling out electronic ticket machines in cinema foyers. These cost savings allowed the group to report first half net profits this year of Bt770m, up 12% on the same period last year.

The company has also began to look broad, in 2014 it opened a cinema in Cambodia, following up by opening two further locations in Laos and 2015 and 2016. It is now eyeing expansion into Myanmar, as well as further complexes in Cambodia.

Analysts note Ngamphathipong’s savvy when assessing foreign markets, emphasising his decision to focus on action-heavy and dialogue-light films that will perform better across cultural and linguistic boundaries. It may be a cliché to say that comedy but doesn’t translate well, but analysts’ expectations and Major Cineplex’s profits seem to back it up.


Bumrungrad International Hospital

Not many mid cap companies can boast a website as slick as Bumrungrad Hospital’s — fewer still can do so in more than 10 different languages. Whether you speak English, Arabic or Khmer, the Bangkok based hospital has a version of its website to care for your needs.

Indeed, Bumrungrad’s multilingual approach is key to its success: the hospital is perhaps the quintessential example of the growing popularity of medical tourism.

The hospital was the first in Asia to receive accreditation from the Joint Commission International, the overseas arm of US healthcare accreditor Joint Commission. In 2015 the number of non-Thai patients admitted to the hospital grew by 7.5%, helping to boost net profits for the year by more than 25%.

However, while the hospital has thrived on its strong reputation with international patients, particularly from the Middle East, that reliance on foreign inflows also comes with a price.

Profits have been less impressive in 2016 — pre-tax profits for the first six months of 2016 are basically flat year-on-year— which analysts attribute to falling interest from Middle Eastern patients, a result of both a falling oil price and improving domestic healthcare markets.

Bumrungrad looks ready to face the challenge head on, bringing in new chief executive Ronald Lavater. Lavater, who took up the post in September, brings experience of the Middle East market, having spent the last two years as the chief executive of Emirati healthcare group Al Noor Hospitals.


Bangkok Dusit Medical Services

If Thailand’s best medium cap company, Bumrungrad Hospital, has historically thrived on its targeting of high income patients — particularly from abroad — the much larger Bangkok Dusit Medical Services has taken a very different route.

Analysts love the hospital operator because of its focus on diversification, with BDMS boasting a good mix of medium and high income patients. That stronger domestic customer base has left the company less vulnerable to the downturn in medical tourism that has made 2016 tricky for the more specialist Bumrungrad.

BDMS is comfortably the largest hospital operator in the country — it is expected to open its 50th hospital in the near future. The company aims to cover 20% of Thailand’s patients by 2018. A target that analysts see as completely realistic. Not only will this growth push cement BDMS’s place as Thailand’s largest hospital operator, but it’s also keeping the competition in check. Experts warn that BDMS’s mass hiring of trained hospital staff is acting as an inhibitor to its competitors’ own growth ambitions: there are only so many doctors to go around, after all.

The investment in real estate, staff and equipment needed for BDMS’s growth strategy has meant that profits haven’t been as high as one might expect, but analysts are emphasising the silver lining that this strategy will only benefit the hospital operator over the long term.

“Profitability is suppressed at the moment because of the huge growth push,” said one. “But that just means there’s more room for growth when it pays off.”


Banthoon Lamsam, chairman and CEO, Kasikornbank

As the grandson of Choti Lamsam, who founded Kasikornbank as Thai Farmers Bank in 1945, the younger Lamsam’s career trajectory was always pointed towards the bank. Indeed, aside from a short spell in the Thai military, Banthoon Lamsam has spent his entire career at Kbank, starting out at its international banking division in 1979.

According to analysts, Kbank is streets ahead of the competition in terms of its business strategy — though they admit that a heavy focus on SME lending has not always translated into the best asset quality. In a company the size of Kbank, there’s only so much influence that the chairman can have on day-to-day operations and Lamsam’s real skill, according to analysts, is as a talent spotter and delegator.

In his role as chairman he has impressed analysts by assembling a large and talented management team, assigning each member of that team a very specific focus, and making sure they stick to it.

While running one of Thailand’s largest banks is a time consuming affair, Lamsam has been able to carve out time to pursue other interests. In 2013 he published a hefty 608 page novel set in his adoptive hometown of Nan — sadly, Asiamoney was unable to obtain a copy to review.



Mobile World Corporation

Mobile World opened its first store in Ho Chi Minh City in 2004 and has since swelled to over 900 premises across all of Vietnam’s 63 provinces and cities. That makes the company around triple the size of its next largest competitor and, according to analysts, has given Mobile World unprecedented economy of scale and bargaining power when dealing with the large, foreign companies that produce the electronic products it specialises in.

The company has also began to expand across southeast Asia, now operating in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar as well as Vietnam.

The growth in premises has been accompanied with impressive income growth: the company raked in a little over D1tr ($44m) before tax in the first six months of 2016, compared to a figure of D587bn for the same period in 2015, suggesting that Mobile World will have little problem hitting its stated profit growth target of 30%.

As the name suggests, Mobile World began as a retailer of mobile phones and other handheld electronics, but later expanded to sell larger consumer appliances and in 2016 began implementing a strategy to expand into operating minimarkets, planning to open 200 such stores in the first quarter of 2017.

While this may seem a stark departure from the company’s previous operations, analysts believe that Mobile World’s experience in selling electronics through small stores in rural areas — not to mention its strong brand recognition — leaves it well poised to translate that expertise to other products.


Hoa Phat Group

The talent of Hoa Phat’s management is reflected in the company’s market share in Vietnam, which has tripled over the last five years.

This growing market share is also translating into ever higher profits for the company. It reported record profits of over D3.2bn in 2015 and, with pre-tax profits for the first half of 2016 over double what the company managed in the first six months of 2016, is on course to break that record.

That growth is particularly impressive given the competition that Hoa Phat, and other local steel producers, have faced from cheap steel imported from China. Indeed, Hoa Phat is taking steps to fend off incursions from Chinese competition. It is currently planning a $2.7bn steelworks set to open in 2020 that could more than double its steel output. Hoa Phat is also looking at a smaller $170m mill to be located nearby.

Hoa Phat has an obvious talent for cost control. The company has divested itself of two iron ore mines owned by its subsidiary An Thong, correctly calculating that it would be cheaper to import iron ore rather than struggle with the costs of extracting ore with low iron contents from its own mines.



The next few years are likely to be a time of flux for Vinamilk, Vietnam’s largest company by market value and the largest milk producer in southeast Asia.

The company was formerly entirely state controlled — the country’s communist government established it in the 1970s by

Vinamilk 300px
Vinamilk's profits are soaring

nationalising and amalgamating several private dairies — but the country’s state investment corporation now controls just 45.1% of the shares and that number is set to fall. The government announced in September that it would sell $900m — or around 10% — of Vinamilk shares and the company revealed in May that it would scrap its 49% foreign ownership cap. Fortunately for Vietnam’s government, Vinamilk’s soaring profits are likely to be enticing for potential investors. In the first nine months of 2016 the company racked up pre-tax profits of just over D9tr, up 28% on the same period the previous year.

However, Vinamilk is also likely to face challenges in the near future. Analysts warn that rising milk prices could prove problematic for the company, which at the moment can only supply around 30% of its needed dairy product domestically. If milk imports rise in cost, the company will either have to face declining margins or hike prices for consumers — and it has already committed not to do the latter.

Vinamilk is facing up to these problems and is stepping up its imports of dairy cows in order to boost domestic production, but while that may be good news in the long term, analysts warn that increasing domestic production will be very much a gradual process.


Nguyen Duc Tai, chairman and CEO, Mobile World

Nguyen Duc Tai, the founder and chief executive of Mobile World Corporation, has been the driving force behind the company’s rise from a small scale purveyor of mobile phones to one of the country’s most impressive businesses. One analyst goes so far as to give him the credit for 90% of Mobile World’s successes — claiming that “any company with him would be a winner”.

After graduating with an MBA from the French-Vietnamese Center for Management Education, Nguyen spent a short stint working in real estate but ultimately made the transition to being an entrepreneur, founding Mobile World in 2014. Nguyen and Mobile World’s rise was impressive. By 2014 the soaring value of his shares had made him the eighth richest investor on the Vietnam Stock Exchange.

Analysts positively gush about the success that Nguyen and his company have achieved over recent years. Mobile World’s next step is making the move from a specialist electronics retailer to operating minimarkets. While such a drastic shift is often a cause for concern, analysts are confident that Nguyen can shepherd Mobile World to further success.

They note that he has demonstrated a particular talent for understanding and predicting consumer behaviour and for assembling an impressive management team around himself. 

We use cookies to provide a personalized site experience.
By continuing to use & browse the site you agree to our Privacy Policy.
I agree