In recent years it has become clear that the pace of economic growth in Southeast Asia has shown signs of acceleration, largely propelled by sweeping political reforms, changing demographic trends, and underlying economic strength that is supported by solid fundamentals.
It is also clear that a large number of multinational companies have missed these changes, instead choosing to focus their attention on larger headline names like China and India.
Southeast Asia is commonly referred to as the ASEAN bloc or ASEAN, for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations which brings together 10 member countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Vietnam, the Philippines and Singapore. The region has a population of 600 million, a combined GDP of US$2 trillion. Growth trends in both of these areas have put collective GDP estimates ahead of 5.5% for 2013, and these positives are widely supported by a growing middle class and recent partnerships to broaden global trade relationships.
For individual investors, this means that long term opportunities can still be found in these overlooked areas and when we look at recent developments, the evidence shows that these opportunities are the region's economic performance in recent years has shown that Southeast Asia has become an attractive (and profitable) place to invest and build companies.
In previous decades, multinational corporate agendas have used these nations as intermediaries when funnelling business to their larger Asian partners. But these traditional views of ASEAN as another secondary market for low-cost labour have been displaced as an incubating collection of inventive and innovative companies have emerged as viable competition for the traditional emerging markets alternatives.
These factors, when combined with the region's key demographic growth drivers present some compelling investment opportunities when looking at the longer-term time horizons.
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