Asian growth slower and profits elusory, says new EY/HBR Analytic Services report

BY Fraser Tennant

Opportunities for companies in the Asia-Pacific region to grow are fewer and profits more elusive, according to a new report by EY and Harvard Business Review (HBR) Analytic Services.

In ‘Asia: Time to Refocus’, EY/HBR Analytic Services note that despite Asia having been a major source of growth for multinationals and private equity firms for 20 years, expected profits have not materialised and the current outlook is that the land-grabbing strategies of old are no longer sustainable.

Moreover, the Asia-Pacific companies that once relied upon an almost unlimitless potential for growth but that are now struggling to adapt their products and value propositions, are being advised to adopt a ‘depth-over-breadth’ capital strategy in order to re-engage with the region’s complex business environment. 

“Asia today is not the Asia of 20 years ago, or 10 years ago, or even five years ago," said Vikram Chakravarty, EY’s Asia-Pacific capital transformation and operational transaction services leader. “It continues to grow faster than most developed economies, but more slowly than it did in the past.

“It remains a region of great opportunity, but also one where profitability remains elusive for those unwilling to invest the resources necessary to tailor their offerings and business models to its individual markets.”

The challenge for companies in the region, says Chakravarty, is for them to identify how and where they should be focusing their capital and other resources, and also where they should be taking a step back.

To do this, the EY/HBR Analytic Services report advises companies looking to transition to a new capital strategy in Asia to: (i) conduct a portfolio review; (ii) launch a large-scale cost-cutting initiative to improve profitability; (iii) right-size their go-to-market models; (iv) reorganise to emphasise country over category; (v) plan a path to exit, and limit losses, where market leadership and profitability are not realistic; and (vi) double down in priority countries by undertaking transformative deals — big-bang M&A transactions and partnerships — to boost market share quickly.

Chakravarty concluded: “Companies that have yet to see Asia’s promise cascade to the bottom line must determine where they have a path to profitability and focus their attention there. Depth, not breadth, will win the day.”

Report: ‘Asia: Time to Refocus’

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