Japan Inc. Bullish on Pakistan; Plans Investment to Expand Business
Japanese companies doing business in Pakistan have ranked the country second in the world in terms of business growth, according to a survey conducted by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO).
|Japanese Companies Reporting Profits (Source: JETRO)|
JETRO surveyed 9,371 Japanese multinational companies operating around the world and reported that Pakistan is ranked number 2 in terms of current profitability and expected sales growth. Taiwan leads with 81.8% reporting profits, followed by Pakistan with 74.1% being profitable in 2013.
|Japanese Companies' Sales Growth Forecast (Source: JETRO)|
Pakistan also ranks at number 2 with 81.5% forecasting future sales growth, just behind Myanmar where 84.6% see growth in the next one to two years. Other South Asian nations, including Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, rank much lower for both profits and sales growth.
|Japan to Supply Karachi Circular Railway Trains|
JETRO has been conducting such surveys for many years. Pakistan’s data is based on responses of 27 Japanese firms doing business in the country. The percentage of Japanese firms expecting improved operating profits remained the same level as last year, while varying by country and region. 64.6% of respondents expect an operating profit in 2013, remaining almost the same level as the previous year (63.9%). Looking at the results by country, the percentage for Taiwan is the highest (81.8%), followed by Pakistan (74.1%), South Korea (73.8%), Hong Kong and Macau (72.6%) and Thailand (72.4%), among others. On the other hand, the percentage is relatively low for Sri Lanka (38.7%), Cambodia (38.5%) and Laos (25.0%). Looking at the results by business scale, 69.4% of large-scale companies expect an operating profit, 13.2 points above the percentage for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) (56.2%).
The percentage of respondents planning to expand business operations in the next one or two years was 59.8% overall, a 2.0 point rise from the 57.8% in the previous year. Firms in emerging countries such as Myanmar (84.6%), Pakistan (81.5%) and Cambodia (80.0%) have particularly strong intentions to expand their business for the reasons of “sales increase” and “high growth potential.” The percentage for China increased to 54.2%, a 1.9 point rise from 2012 when it had decreased by 14.5 points from 2011. On the other hand, the percentage for Indonesia decreased 10.9 points from the previous year, the largest decrease among the surveyed countries. While the percentages for the Philippines (58.1%) and Sri Lanka (51.5%) are below overall average, they showed significant increase (9.9 points and 14.0 points, respectively) compared to the previous year.
JETRO survey is the latest ray hope on the heels of impressive share market performance in 2013. Karachi's KSE-100 Stock Market Index was up 49.4% (37% in US$ terms) in 2013, beating all but four stock indices in the world. It handily beat Morgan Stanley's MSCI emerging market index which remained essentially flat. By comparison, India's main stock index rose just 8.89% in the same period. The remaining three BRIC countries--Brazil, Russia and China-- all saw their key stock indices decline in 2013.
|KSE-100 vs MSCI Emerging Markets Index Source: Wall Street Journal|
This is a continuation of the bullish trend seen in 2012 when KSE-100 also rose nearly 50% to top all Asian market indices. As of December 31, 2013, KSE-100 is up 329% since the end of 2008. It is being driven mainly by rapid growth in revenue and profits of the listed companies. Even after the strong run-up, the market still remains cheap—currently trading at over nine times trailing 12 month earnings—a common valuation measure used by stock analysts, according to Wall Street Journal.
|World Stock Indices Performance 2013 Source: Seeking Alpha|
The fresh investor optimism in 2013 was triggered by the election of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif whose government is seen to be business-friendly by investors and businessmen. His finance minister Ishaq Dar claimed that Pakistan's gdp growth accelerated to 5% in July-Sept quarter in 2013. It was driven by large-scale manufacturing (LSM) which grew 12.76 per cent in September 2013 from a year ago.
"Pakistan has a fairly diverse economy with a large and young population that needs to be fed and supplied basic infrastructure such as electricity," Wall Street Journal quoted Caglar Somek, global portfolio manager at Caravel Management in New York, as saying. He manages around $650 million of investments. "If you find the companies that supply those basic needs, growing at double digit with high profitability, you can buy them at valuations that are on average 30% to 40% cheaper than their emerging market peers," said Mr. Somek.
Since the general elections of May, 2013, Pakistan has seen smooth power transfer from one civilian government to another. Other major transitions include the change of President, Army Chief and the nation's powerful Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Power cuts are now less frequent after payment of power generation companies overdue bills by the federal government. Financing has been closed on several power projects, including ADB financing of a major coal-fired plant in Jamshoro and Chinese loans for the nation's largest nuclear power plant planned for Karachi.
The good news for Pakistan in the JETRO report is that the Japanese companies have "strong intentions to expand their business for the reasons of “sales increase” and “high growth potential.”" Let's hope this results in a significant increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country.
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