Asia no longer looking to invest overseas

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The Independent Online
THE FINANCIAL crisis in emerging markets in Asia has slashed Asian companies' direct investment overseas by a quarter, according to new figures from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad).

Although the level of foreign direct investment (FDI) by Asian countries remained close to its annual average for the decade in 1998, at $36bn, it still represented the lowest figure this decade and accounted for a smaller share of world FDI.

The annual tables show that amongst the top 10 outward investors in Asia, six countries experienced a sharp decline in their outflows last year.

These were Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, China, and Thailand.

The stock of overseas investments from developing Asia had reached $317bn by the end of 1998, accounting for more than four-fifths of the value of overseas investment by the entire developing world. More than half this stock is located in other economies in the region. And more than half of that has gone into China, mainly from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Throughout the Nineties, multinationals owned by overseas Chinese and Korea's chaebols have been the two major forces for outward FDI from developing Asia. These companies suffered big losses in the upheavals of 1997 and 1998.

The surprise, perhaps, in the Unctad figures is that Korean companies bucked the trend last year.

Korea's outward FDI increased by 7 per cent to a record $4.8bn in 1998. However, this was due mainly to a sharp rise in financing existing overseas operations, including servicing their debts.

Unctad predicts, in its World Investment Report due out in September, that FDI flows from developing Asia will fall further in 1999.

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