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Managing risks in key emerging Asian markets

Managing risk, as an exporter or subcontractor, can be a complex undertaking for businesses wanting to expand into emerging markets.

Established markets, like the US and the UK, generally have lower barriers to entry, and are seen by many businesses as a favourable first step to growing exports. But if we look at the fastest growing economies in the world today for Australian export businesses, then emerging markets are where the opportunities may lie, particularly for Australian businesses providing quality food products and specialised professional and technical services.

In 2017, the IMF said that emerging markets and developing economies accounted for around 80% of global economic growth, almost double from 20 years ago:

“Their relevance for the global economy isn’t simply as centres of production or trading hubs packaging and shipping goods to advanced economies. They have also become increasingly important as final destinations for consumer goods and services, now accounting for close to 85% of the growth in global consumption, more than double their share in the 1990s.[1]

While emerging markets face growing systemic risks to financial stability with higher US interest rates and the upcoming withdrawal of monetary stimulus in Europe, Efic’s economists looked at four measures to provide insights into which emerging markets are more favourable. The four broad measures are:

  • Domestic position—how leveraged is the private and public sector?
  • External position—what is the external debt and reserves position? Is the current account in deficit and how far has the currency deviated from its long term average?
  • Economic stability—what is the growth and inflation outlook? How reliant is the country on commodity exports, given the weakness in global commodity prices?
  • Policy effectiveness—how effective is the regulatory environment and how severe are political risks?

This analysis suggests that Australia’s largest emerging export markets, including India, Indonesia and Vietnam, are relatively well -placed to handle financial market turbulence (see the table below).

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Source: Bloomberg, S&P, Efic calculations

India

As the world’s largest democracy with a population of over 1.3 billion, India’s GDP growth is expected to increase to 7.4% by 2020. While India is Australia’s 5th largest export market with merchandise and services exporters reaching about A$20.16 billion in 2017, and presents untapped export opportunities, there are factors you should consider when doing business in the country.

For example, if you’re a business operating in India, expect to wait longer to get paid. In 2017 it took 75 days for the average business to get payment from its debtors, which is higher than the 66 days noted in 2012. Payment times in Australia are closer to 42 days on average. Indian utility companies and businesses that provide goods or services to the manufacturing and construction sectors are experiencing longer delays. This could be a challenge for Australian exporters exposed to these sectors.

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While the ability enforce contracts in India can be quite weak, according to the World Bank’s ease of doing business rankings, understanding how every export opportunity will impact your business – both positively and negatively – can help you develop a country-specific risk plan to help mitigate the risks of operating in an emerging economy. This includes ensuring you have strong contract terms in place, including payment terms, that support your international growth.

Vietnam

Vietnam was Australia’s 15th largest trading partner in 2017 with exports of goods totaling A$4.6b. With an increasingly deregulated business environment and ambitious reform, Vietnam’s GDP is projected to grow by 7.1% in 2018 and 6.8% in 2019 according to the Asian Development Bank.

When it comes to trading across borders, Vietnam ranks the best out of our three mentioned emerging economies (94), slightly ahead of Indonesia’s 112, and outranking India’s 146.

The World Bank’s ease of doing business ranking lists Vietnam’s business climate 68 out of 190 economies with Vietnam outperforming the regional average on most gauges of doing business, but starting a business and resolving insolvency is harder in Vietnam. 

As part of your business’s risk assessment plan, becoming familiar with the operating environment of new markets is a crucial step to develop your market entry plan. As part of your market discovery you may find a number of differences between Australia and other markets. Some important factors include the paying taxes, industrial relations and the costs of importing.

The average time it will take your business to ensure border compliance when importing goods into Vietnam – including time and cost for obtaining, preparing and submitting documents during port or border handling, customs clearance and inspection procedures – is listed as taking about 56 hours. While still relatively high compared to the UK’s 3 hours, it is still substantially lower than India’s 267 hours and Indonesia’s 80 hours.

Indonesia

Indonesia was Australia’s 14th largest trading partner in 2017 accounting for 1.9% of Australia’s trading relationship. Australia’s merchandise exports were worth A$7b in 2017 while services exports totalled A$1.6b—made up largely of education and tourism.  

The Indonesian consuming class —households with incomes of more than US$10,000 per annum—numbered 19.6 million in 2016 and is forecast to increase to 23.9 million by 2030. Australia is expected to benefit from rising Indonesian consumer demand for education, finance, healthcare, information and communications technology, and tourism in particular.

According to the ease of doing business ranking, starting a new business in Indonesia takes about 22 days, with the OECD average sitting at 8.5 days. However, when it comes to Indonesia’s Commercial Risk rating, according to export credit agency CREDENDO, it is considered ‘normal’ with a B ranking. This takes into account exchange rates, local financing costs, debtor defaults, quality of the legal system and corruption. This is on par with India and Vietnam. 

For Australian businesses in the services industry, setting up in country can provide better access to opportunities. However, it is important to understand some of potential barriers including access to labour, prudential and regulatory requirements, and limits to foreign direct investment when setting up in an emerging market.

Regardless of the emerging market you decide to do business in or expand to, getting the right legal and taxation advice, and information on the local market conditions that will impact your business is imperative.

There is help available, talk to:

Efic – for your export finance needs. Efic’s specialises in providing finance solutions to Australian businesses securing export opportunities emerging markets.

Austrade – leverage their deep commercial knowledge and relationships of international and domestic networks to help your business succeed internationally. With offices on the ground across the world, Austrade can provide in country expertise to help your business succeed.

[1] https://blogs.imf.org/2017/04/12/emerging-markets-and-developing-economies-sustaining-growth-in-a-less-supportive-external-environment/