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(SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS REPORTER, TARA JOSEPH, SAYING: "Companies across Asia remain generally upbeat about business ...
prospects. The Thomson Reuters/INSEAD Asia Business Sentiment Index rose to
Tags:reuters,Asia,china,Ilian Mihov,survey,tara joseph
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(SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS REPORTER, TARA JOSEPH, SAYING: "Companies across Asia remain generally upbeat about business prospects. The Thomson Reuters/INSEAD Asia Business Sentiment Index rose to 63 in the fourth quarter of the year, up from 62. A reading above 50 indicates a positive outlook. Companies from the food and drug sector were among the most positive surveyed across the region while airline and building companies were the most pessimistic. Joining me to highlight key talking points on the survey is INSEAD Professor Ilian Mihov in Singapore. Ilian, let's talk about China first of all. How positive were companies in China?" (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS, INSEAD, ILIAN MIHOV, SAYING: "Well actually, it's one of the key points of this survey that Chinese companies became much more positive than before. Indeed in the previous quarter, there were some companies that had a negative outlook for the economy for the next six months in China. But today, we see that companies are either positive or neutral, expecting things to continue growing at the same speed as before. And I think that one straightforward interpretation is that the uncertainty related to the Communist Party Congress is now resolved. There is clarity and there is trust that the new government will be able to continue the growth miracle of China." (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS REPORTER, TARA JOSEPH, SAYING: "Now one of the glowing and the growing areas of Asia in 2012 has been Southeast Asia. Is that still looking as strong in terms of sentiment and business opportunities as we close the year out?" (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS, INSEAD, ILIAN MIHOV, SAYING: "Yes, absolutely. So probably one of the biggest surprises for many people this year is the Philippines. The Philippines, 100% of the companies are optimistic that things will be improving and they will continue to grow. Indeed this year, growth will be 5%, 6% and next year probably even more than that. And it's a development that many analysts did not expect." (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS REPORTER, TARA JOSEPH, SAYING: "There does seem however though to be one outlier when it comes to Southeast Asia and that's Singapore, which had been buzzing over the past few years. Yet it seems to be dwindling when it comes to optimism. Why is that?" (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS, INSEAD, ILIAN MIHOV, SAYING: "And I think that probably companies are a bit more neutral here than in other parts of Southeast Asia because Singapore is very much dependent on what is happening in the US, what will happen with the fiscal cliff, uncertainty related to Europe and of course, still China whether this growth will continue, so." (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS REPORTER, TARA JOSEPH, SAYING: "Well we both know, you in particular that Singapore's becoming a very expensive place to live. Just one quick final note and that's into the sectors. It seems that food and retail were the most positive. Why is that?" (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS, INSEAD, ILIAN MIHOV, SAYING: "Well I think that with growth especially in countries like the Philippines, in Indonesia, in China, in all these countries, the consumption of staples, the consumption of basic food is increasing as people become richer, as a lot of people are lifted out of poverty. And also the retail sector becomes more organized, so you can expect companies who are in this business to do quite well. And that's why I guess they are very optimistic." (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS REPORTER, TARA JOSEPH, SAYING: "We'll leave it on that note. Ilian Mihov, thanks very much for joining us from Singapore today. I'm Tara Joseph, this is Reuters."