Pitcher Partners Property Breakfast Speech – South East Asia: South Australia’s Largest Export Market

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The Asian Century is often discussed in terms of China and India, as is fair due to the large population size and market capacity. However, far too often our government and business leaders have failed to realise that there are in many cases strong, established and emerging business opportunities in South East Asia, in markets where we have traded successfully for more than a century. With the Asian Century upon us, it is time we returned South East Asia as a market of focus and started to realise the real and tangible opportunities that are rapidly emerging.

Former US Secretary of Defence – Donald Rumsfeld famously said about the search for weapon of mass destruction:

“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

I will go so far as to suggest that many of you here this morning are in the latter category of knowledge about Asia, and indeed South East Asia – that is; there are things about South East Asia which you don’t know that you don’t know.

This is not surprising, for our local market has for many years been the primary focus of many businesses in Australia. However, with a modestly growing and tight economy in the non-mining sector, there are now plenty of reasons to broaden our knowledge of our closest Asian Neighbours – South East Asia.

South East Asia has a population of 600 million people, less than half the population of China or India, but more than 25 times larger than Australia. It comprises a dozen or so countries, and is united by ASEAN – The Association of South East Asian Nations. If ASEAN were a country it would be South Australia’s largest export market, with export trade for 2011/12 of $2.3Billion, surpassing export trade to China of $2.2Billion, and well in front of export trade to India of $759 million. This is an important distinction when our governments focus almost exclusively on China and India.

South East Asia is where four of Australia’s seven Free Trade Agreements have been ratified, including; Singapore, South Australia’s 4th largest trading partner; Malaysia, SA’s 3rd largest export destination; and Thailand, SA’s 10th largest export destination. In addition to these bilateral FTA’s, Australia has ratified an FTA with ASEAN, and is currently in formal negotiations with Indonesia to achieve a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. Should this agreement be achieved as hoped over the next 12 months, it will be Australia’s most outstanding agreement, effectively opening the floodgates to trade and investment between Indonesia and Australia. Indonesia, with a population of over 250 million, provides perhaps the most outstanding growth market for South Australia. It has been a member of the WTO since 1995, and has sustained positive GDP growth trending at greater than 5% over the past 10 years, with 6.3% GDP growth forecast for 2013. This growth figure compares favourably with forecasts for both China (8%) and India (6.2%), and is being sustained by strong domestic demand.

Indonesia is the forgotten market for Australia and South Australia. Export trade from South Australia is coming off a low base but has grown from $132 million export sales in 2009/10 to $603 million export sales in 2011/12. It is now SA’s 6th largest export market. That’s almost a five-fold increase in export sales. Indonesia is the powerhouse market of South East Asia, and with political and economic stability it is rapidly emerging as one of the most import economies in the world. Standard Chartered Bank has predicted the Indonesian economy will surpass the Australian economy in terms of size to become one of the top 10 global economies by 2020, and top 6 by 2030.

There is a rapidly emerging middle and upper class developing across South East Asia, from Indonesia to Vietnam. Jakarta is indicative of this emerging new wealth in South East Asia, characterised by an eclectic mix of street vendors and luxury malls, Maserati’s and Scooters, Mercedes Benz taxis, and motorised rickshaws. An diverse mix of rich and poor, with a rapidly emerging middle class. It’s home to ALL of the big luxury brands. There are 3 Luis Vuitton Stores in Jakarta alone, and they sit side by side with Prada, Mont Blanc, and Cartier. These high-end retail stores are filled with buyers, local Indonesian buyers, paying global prices for genuine luxury clothing and accessories. Indonesian shopping malls are filled with local Indonesian consumers paying global prices for genuine luxury goods. To walk through the shopping malls of Jakarta is to be fully aware of the emergence of the middle class consumer in Indonesia, if not South East Asia.

The Jakarta skyline is replete with high-rise office and residential apartments. The rapid and sustained economic growth in Indonesia has seen the population of Jakarta swell to upwards of 25 million people during the week, and the city sprawl out and absorb the surrounding manufacturing cities of Bogor and Cikarang.

This growth has pushed up the price of quality office and residential accommodation in Jakarta. Colliers International has forecast office vacancy rates in Jakarta of less than 2% for 2013. While Jones Lang Lassalle have forecast residential rental occupancy rates at between 85-90%. This demand for high quality accommodation in Jakarta has seen residential rental agreements requiring between 2-5 years rent upfront to secure an apartment.

This picture of Jakarta, is replicated across South East Asia, in Singapore, where admittedly there is a lack of the ramshackle housing; Kuala Lumpur where the Petronas Towers take centre stage, through to Bangkok, Hanoi and Manila. The middle class is arriving fast across the region and has started to demand products and services, the very products and services that South Australia can supply. I paint this emerging picture of Indonesia and South East Asia to demonstrate that our closest Asian neighbours have developed the capacity to pay, and more and more people are joining the middle class.

The key drivers in the South East Asian economies are based broadly around four core factors:

1. Food Security,
2. Mining, Oil and Gas,
3. Capacity Building and
4. Tourism and Infrastructure

Food Security – There is increasing demand for food, agricultural products, and beverages. This demand has resulted in SA food companies finding new markets in South East Asia. Indonesia for example was South Australia’s largest wheat export market in 2011/12, surpassing even China.

Mining, Oil and Gas – South East Asia is a centre for mining, oil and gas exploration and drilling, benefiting from the same mining boom we have witnessed in Australia. The core minerals being exploited in Indonesia, East Timor, Malaysia and Myanmar include Thermal Coal, Oil, LNG, Coal Seem Gas, Copper, Gold and Silver. The growth in the mining sector in markets such as Indonesia, East Timor, Myanmar and Malaysia, have provided opportunities for Australian engineering, design, and construction companies to help develop the infrastructure needs of these markets. East Timor has for example upwards of $4 Billion in infrastructure projects in the pipeline related to the growth in the oil and gas industry.

Capacity Building – Constraints in terms of skills have seen all governments across the region talk about the need to up-skill their workforce. There is a need for higher educated workforce throughout the region, in both vocational and higher education. Middle class families are looking to education providers in Australia to provide this skilled advantage to their children. As a result, more students from South East Asia, including Indonesia, will be seeking to come to Australia to undertake vocational and higher education studies in the coming years. These students often come from wealthy middle class families and seek accommodation close to the universities in Australia.

Tourism Infrastructure – Tourism is one of the traditional economic opportunities for the region, with resorts from Bali in Indonesia, through to Phuket in Thailand. However, the climactic conditions of the region mean that tourist infrastructure requires constant redevelopment, including hotels, villas, roads, marinas and airports. There are also new tourism sites being developed across South East Asia, from East Timor to Vietnam. South Australian property developers and urban planners are already looking at how they can enter this market.

The key message I would like to impress upon South Australian business is not to ignore the huge market opportunities in South East Asia. Our business leaders should be embracing the many emerging opportunities. Indonesia and South East Asia, provide the greatest opportunity for South Australian businesses to take advantage of the rapidly growing demand for Australian commodities, products, and services. South Australian business should be establishing strategies to leverage these very opportunities.

Tapping into Western Beverage Success Stories in Indonesia

I am often asked to describe market opportunities in Indonesia, and when it comes to the food, agricultural and beverage industry there is a general disbelief that there could possibly be any real market opportunity in Indonesia. This assumption made by many western food producers is wrong, and this is clearly demonstrated by the many food and beverage success stories in the Indonesian market. In recent weeks I have described the demand issues in the Indonesian market for Australian food, and how the emerging Indonesian middle class is driving demand for premium food products. I have also described the increasing need for Indonesia to meet the food security demands of the large Indonesian population approaching 250 million people and beyond. Indonesia is a large complex market, with a highly stratified food market, that provides ample opportunity for Australian and other western beverage producers to enter the market and make it a successful venture.

So who are these success stories and what can other companies learn from their success?

Coca Cola Amatil have invested heavily into the Indonesian market, which included an increase of investment in late 2010 of upwards of $100million. Clearly this investment is large and beyond the scope and capacity for many small and medium sized Australian beverage producers, however, the dedication to the Indonesian market is driving profits and company growth, and it is this lesson that other companies can aspire to achieve. A strategic decision has been made with Coca Cola Amatil to ensure that the Indonesian market is captured, which is so far proving to be a success. This success in the non alcohol sector has been replicated by Berri Juice, owned by Lion (formerly Lion Nathan who has a parent company in Japan – Kirin Holdings). Berri Juice is branded as “Australia’s favourite Juice”, and has strong market penetration throughout food service sector in hotels and restaurants and broadly across the hyper, super and mini market distribution chains. The success of these two large Australian branded products demonstrates the potential success for other Australian beverage brands to leverage. Companies such as Bickford’s are one such company that are increasing market penetration following the same distribution channels as Berri. There is an opportunity for other Australian beverage companies to take the leap of faith into this huge Indonesian market.

Indonesia is not the first market that wine producers think of when they seek export markets, however, there is increasing opportunities for Australian Wine producer. Despite the clear disadvantage of penetrating a traditionally non-alcohol consumption population (due to majority Muslim population), there are some emerging examples of Australian wine brands appearing in food service and supermarkets. It would be folly to assume that there are no distribution channels in Indonesia for Wine. Wine is available through supermarkets, Hypermarkets, dedicated wine shops and of course in the large food service industry. I will write of these specific opportunities in the coming weeks, however, I will provide one unique example of “wine” exports to the Indonesian market. In meeting the challenges of wine production in Indonesia, some Indonesian companies have been importing Australian grape crush, and converting to wine in Indonesia. This is not a super cheap method of developing wine, however, it does in the main avoid issues of excise tax, and import duties on alcohol. Additionally this example provides an indication of the market demand for Australian wine. The advice I would provide to Australian Winemakers is that the Indonesian market is a premium and super-premium market, if you seek to provide quality “expensive” wine you are more likely to succeed.

So my advice is for Australian and Western beverage producers to seriously consider the Indonesian market, with 250 million people it is a great market opportunity. Emerging opportunities exist across the beverage industry, and those companies that take advantage of the opportunities in Indonesia will make a great success…..those that don’t may miss the opportunity. Indonesia is an emerging consumer giant, and Australian beverages can help feed the Indonesian population.

If your company is looking to tap into the increasing demand for food in the Indonesian market, please feel free to send me an email (nathan@asiaaustralis.com), and we can have a chat about how AsiaAustralis can assist your company meet the needs of the Indonesian market. Alternatively come along to the Australia Indonesia Business Council Business Forum – “Identifying opportunities for primary industries in the Indonesian market”  in Adelaide on Friday 30th March, to learn more about the opportunities for food exporters in Indonesia.

Compare the Irish Economic Problems and Austerity Solutions with South Australia: How would you cope?

Is the Irish Government Bailout of the banks a bridge too far?

It is easy to be a little confused about the economic and financial troubles that are affecting Europe at the moment, and in particular Ireland. Surely Ireland is a lovely little place, who are famous for Guinness, potatoes, leprechauns and what else? Well Ireland was previously regarded as a wonder of Europe, with a population of only 4.5 million, and with limited natural resources, Ireland was able to build a reputation as a “smart” country, with a burgeoning IT industry, and construction industry was flourishing , with Ireland one of the major beneficiaries of the Eurozone. But this has now all gone very, very wrong.

Ireland is in bad shape, and was already starting to have difficulties before the Global Financial Crisis started. Throughout much of the last decade Ireland was able to record budget surpluses…so no problem there, but the GFC has brought about a string of problems that have the potential to bankrupt the Irish State. Ireland had a major construction boom throughout the last decade, and this was driving the Irish economy forward, but that has now ended, and property values have now reduced on average by 40%….yep thats right 40%!! Unemployment in Ireland is now over 13%, and these two issues combined with a lack of confidence in the European banking system  has meant that the major Irish Banks were on the verge of collapse. The Irish government came to the rescue and agreed to bail out the banks….which is likely to be in the range of A$ 70-110 billion!! Now that is a lot of money….Now whether that was the right thing to do or not is a matter for debate, but it has meant that now the Irish Government is on the Verge of Bankruptcy! It has to adopt serious austerity measures to have a chance of paying its debts. All the while this is occurring Ireland has had its credit rating reduced to A+, any lower and it will be junk status, which puts the price of borrowings through the roof! Even at A+ the borrowing rates are high, which makes it even harder to repay the large government debt. So in order to cut spending the Irish Government has announced that they will need to cut A$21 billion from the budget bottom line over the next 4 years. But will this be enough?

Bailing out the Banks

The Irish government and banks are now reliant on the European Central bank for funding, and the Irish government say they have enough cash to survive until mid 2011….but the markets, the IMF and other EU Government s are not so convinced.  The cost of borrowings is going up for Ireland, and don’t be surprised if Ireland joins Greece with a credit rating downgraded to Junk Status in the very near future. Ireland is being encouraged/told to accept an IMF-EU bailout, but it is a double edged sword. A bailout might give confidence back to the market in Europe, but it will take economic management away from the Irish Government, and place it in the hand of foreigners….you know the sort of thing the Irish didn’t really like for the past 500 odd years with their English overlords. I can’t see them liking EU control any better.  Any IMF-EU Austerity measures would likely be much tougher than those proposed by the Irish Government….so how do we put this in context?

As a comparison let’s look at Australia, which has not gone into a full blown recession during the GFC, the major banks are recording profits in excess of A$5billion(which means they don’t need a government bailout), property prices are stable and unemployment generally is around the 5% level. If we look at the states in Australia we can get an idea of the impact of these Austerity measures and what their effect would be on Australian states. South Australia current budget figures suggest that revenue and expenditure is roughly about A$15 billion a year and they have a AAA+ credit rating, while the QLD government revenue and expenditure is about A$40B a year with a AA+ credit rating. Why do I include these two states? Well the Irish capital Dublin is a bit bigger than Adelaide, and QLD has roughly the same population as Ireland.  So if we insert the Irish Austerity measures onto the South Australian Government, it would be almost halving expenditure each year for the next 4 years….while the Austerity measures are half the yearly revenue of QLD.  So in SA, we wouldn’t be needing a debate about a stadium, a hospital, a southern Expressway, an Electrification of the railway, or even money for hospitals and schools…it would all be slashed. Jobs would be cut, and public sector wages would be reduced by at least 30%.

So when you next hear or read about the challenges faced in Ireland, think about how you would cope in Adelaide or Brisbane if the government here had to cut expenses by that much. So would you cope?

Hello world!

Welcome to my blog site.

Over the coming weeks I will develop this site and start to publish articles about my impressions of the mulit-cultural world.  I will be engaging in think piece articles aswell as descriptions of my cultural travels and observations.

Hopefully this will provide some entertainment and interest to those of you out there in cyber space.

Nathan

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