CEOs won’t succumb to Asian flu

In the wake of what is widely known as “The Asian Meltdown”, at a time when countries throughout Asia are struggling to emerge from their financial crises, CEOs in the region are optimistic that their businesses will experience growth. And, most say, Asia itself is where the growth opportunities are greatest.

Those findings come from a major new survey of CEOs in Asia conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the World Economic Forum. The survey results were released at the World Economic Forum’s 1998 East Asia Economic Summit in Singapore. Nearly 300 CEOs from major companies in nine Asian countries participated in the survey, which is part of a broader annual PwC/World Economic Forum survey of global CEOs.

Looking at their corporate growth prospects over the next three years, 15 percent of the CEOs were “extremely optimistic,” and 56 percent were “somewhat optimistic.” Japanese CEOs were far less likely than their Asia at-large counterparts to register extreme optimism, and more likely to respond with caution – however, even among Japanese CEOs, tempered optimism was the prevailing response on the issue of short-term growth. PwC chief executive officer Jim Schiro presented the survey results, and commented: “The attitude of CEOs in Asia seems to be one of steadfast confidence, which is interesting in light of the economic turmoil their countries are going through. We can only conclude that these CEOs see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

World Economic Forum president Klaus Schwab noted: “It is far from clear whether Asia has yet come through its financial crises. In this period of uncertainty it is a testament to the will, determination and ingenuity of these CEOs that they appear to be quite optimistic about future growth.”

Two thirds of the CEOs surveyed see Asia itself as presenting the greatest growth opportunity. Only 13 percent see Europe as a top growth area.

“Clearly, CEOs in Asia see cross-border growth within Asia as a priority, before expanding into global markets,” Schiro said.

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