Thu, September 02, 2010
Business > Industries

Asia's 200 best under a billion

2010-09-02 09:12:52 GMT2010-09-02 17:12:52 (Beijing Time)  Forbes

Li Ning (File photo)

Our list of 200 top-performing small and midsize companies has 151 new entries this year. A fast crowd, indeed.

With blistering rates of economic growth following its recovery from the post-Lehman Brothers meltdown, Asia-Pacific stood out as a bright spot in the global landscape.

According to the International Monetary Fund, not only has the region's output returned to pre-crisis levels but its contribution to a global recovery has outstripped that of other regions. Our Best Under A Billion list highlights the 200 top-performing small and midsize enterprises--revenues under $1 billion--that have been at the forefront. In aggregate the market-cap-weighted shares of our 2010 class were up 43% over 12 months vs. 21% for the FTSE Asia Pacific Small Cap stock index.

China-Hong Kong companies predominate, with 71 on the list, though this is down from 78 last year despite the mainland's $590 billion stimulus package that increased expenditure on public infrastructure, pensions, health care and education, lowered taxes to boost purchases of consumer durables, and eased monetary policy to lower interest rates and remove limits on credit. The measures proved an opportunity for savvy, fearless investors. Our China-Hong Kong companies outperformed the FTSE comparable index 48% to 20% last year and averaged a 51% sales growth in the last three years.

Indian companies total 39, up from only 20 last year. Less open than many other Asian economies, India was less exposed to the global downturn. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said investment and savings rates in India's economy make economic growth of 10% a year an achievable target in the medium term. That would be gravy for the winners on our list, which averaged an 89% total return in the last year.

This year marks the entry of our first Vietnamese company, the dairy outfit known as Vinamilk. Its history reflects the different nature of enterprises in nations with long-standing state dominance. For this as well as cultural reasons, some countries with vibrant economies are nonetheless a scant presence on this list. But domestic doldrums can be a factor, too: Only 2 Japanese companies made the cut, down from 24 in 2009, and despite solid sales and growth, they both produced negative total returns for their investors in the last 12 months.

We profile here a sampling of companies, including one of two Malaysian glove makers on the list. Overall, 151 names on the list are new from 2009. Technology firms, both hardware and software, keep making inroads into the 200, along with health-care-related entities. Basic industries hang on, but they aren't in the region's vanguard. Unless, that is, you consider sports shoemaking, where China alone has four entries and another that just outgrew the list. The Best Under A Billion is surely a fast crowd.

(Christina Settimi, Forbes.com)

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