Asian corporate survivors - Life after the crisis: Asia moves on
The Asian crisis delivered a devastating blow to the region's sprawling conglomerates. For years they diversified and grew rapidly, feeding on a rich diet of debt, much of it in foreign currencies. Then suddenly their markets collapsed and their debt service costs soared. But the bad times are ending and after drastic restructuring the best companies are on the move again. Alex Mathias reports.
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This year, Asian financial markets have boomed again as investors grow more confident that recovery in Asia can be as steep and dramatic as was the collapse. Ultimately that confidence may be misplaced, but clearly some Asian companies, after the initial paralyzing shock, have responded energetically and purposefully to the challenge.
Corporate life in Asia is pressing forward again. The theory that some companies and banks were too big to fail has been dismissed and survivors share a new mentality. They are marked by their zealousness in clawing back former expansionist plans and focusing on core business.
Korea's Hanwha Group, for example, has dropped its local newspaper and has focused on the chemical sector. It is on track to cut its number of companies from 32 before the crisis to 10 at the end of the year. It has swapped assets with competitors and disposed of other businesses. Indonesian conglomerate Astra has also disposed of assets.
These and other of the region's surviving companies have proved nimble-footed in the financial markets: renegotiating, and in some cases repurchasing, their debt, issuing shares, convertible bonds and using debt for equity swaps, as well as asset disposals, to recapitalize.