Asian SMEs see good times ahead – HSBC survey

By NNN-Bernama

Kuala Lumpur : Small businesses in Asia, including those in Malaysia, expect good times ahead, according to a survey commissioned by The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Ltd (HSBC).

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The HSBC Asia-Pacific Small Business Confidence Survey, conducted in the first quarter of 2007 and covering 1,800 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), showed that the majority of the respondents were positive about economic prospects and willing to invest in their business.

HSBC Bank Malaysia Managing Director for Commercial Banking Eddie Norton said for 44 per cent of Malaysian SMEs surveyed expected faster economic growth this year, while 29 per cent expected the same pace as last year and 27 per cent expected growth to slow down.

“Nearly half also planned to invest in the year, compared with only six per cent planning to close down or cut production,” he said during a briefing on the survey here Monday.

On the 51 per cent of Malaysian respondents citing “no plan” in their investment expectations, Norton said this was because SMEs were usually conservative and investments were considered “life and death” decisions.

In terms of recruitment expectations, the majority of the Malaysian SMEs (63 per cent) said they did not plan to change their headcount during the year, while 32 per cent said they would raise the number of workers and six per cent planned to reduce their workforce, according to the survey.

“Malaysian SMEs which engaged in cross-border trade were generally optimistic about faster trade growth with China (61 per cent), the rest of Asia (55 per cent) and the rest of the world (66 per cent),” Norton said.

A total of 202 SMEs from Malaysia took part in the survey. Besides Malaysia, the other participating countries were Singapore, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Australia, Hong Kong and China.

Norton said that positive and confident SMEs were good for the economy as they were often the biggest employers and job creators.