Mystery, malevolence and also business acumen are just some of the qualities associated with the Year of the Snake. Here’s a look at some of the major successes – and failures – in Asian business in 2013.
Chung Mong-Koo: Listed by INSEAD among its best performing “global CEOs” of 2013, the 75-year-old Hyundai Motor boss is credited for helping South Korea’s largest automaker drive its product quality upmarket and become the world’s fourth-biggest carmaker.
Lui Chee Woo: The head of a hotel, property and casino conglomerate, Lui grew his net worth by $8.3 billion in 2013 to $19.6 billion on the back of strong revenue growth in Macau casinos, boosting the share price of his Galaxy Entertainment Group. A China native, the 84-year-old resides in Hong Kong and is ranked as Asia’s second richest man.
Ma Huateng: Nicknamed “Pony Ma,” the 42-year-old founder and chief executive of Chinese internet company Tencent has been rated among this year’s best business leaders, helped by a push into mobile: “To say that 2013 has been a good year for him and his firm would be an understatement. The market valuation of Tencent has skyrocketed to more than $100 [billion]…and the company appears to be poised for tremendous growth.
Masayoshi Son: The founder and chief executive of SoftBank Corp, Japan’s second-richest man increased his net worth by more than $10 billion to reach $19.1 billion as of December 11, helped by an aggressive acquisition strategy including Sprint Corp. The 56-year-old aims to build the world’s biggest mobile internet company, with Son’s latest move a bid for US wireless carrier T-Mobile US.
Mike Smith: The former HSBC boss earned kudos for taking Australia’s ANZ into Asia, helping the bank earn a record A$6.5 billion cash profit and picking up a tidy A$10 million for his services. Despite skepticism from some analysts, Smith says there is more “gas in the tank” for his “super regional” strategy.
Akio Toyoda: The grandson of Toyota Motor’s founder is eyeing record profits after cutting costs and boosting exports, helped by a weaker yen. The 57-year-old was rated this year’s second-best CEO for his efforts in helping the Japanese giant recover from US product recalls to become the world’s best-selling automaker.
Chinese manufacturing: From solar power companies such as Suntech Power to airlines and shipbuilders, a range of Chinese manufacturers have foundered after growing bloated on a diet of “chronic overcapacity and debt,” as noted by The Diplomat’s James Parker. Many of the affected industries are deemed strategic by Beijing, with their growth reflecting the “overweening ambitions of local Chinese politicians.” China’s food makers also suffered more scandals, including cooking oil made from discarded animal parts and meat products from animal waste.
India’s “Coalgate”: The continued scandal over government allocation of coal mines dragged in more big names from Indian business in 2013, including Kumar Birla, chairman of the Aditya Birla conglomerate, as well as Naveen Jindal of Jindal Steel & Power.
Japanese banks: Japan’s top lenders Mizuho, Mitsubishi UFJ and Sumitomo Mitsui were rocked by reports of loans to gangster-related businesses, a scandal described by finance minister Taro Aso as “extremely serious.” Mizuho chairman Takashi Tsukamoto announced his resignation to take responsibility for loans provided via its consumer finance affiliate, while Shinsei Bank also admitted dealings with “anti-social forces.”
Korea Electric Power Corp (Kepco): The South Korean utility was hit by a scandal over fake safety certificates at its nuclear reactors, not unlike the scandal at its similarly named Japanese rival. The scandal resulted in indictments for 100 people, including Kepco’s vice president, threatening the nation’s nuclear export ambitions.
Nathan Tinkler: The coal industry downturn hit the former billionaire hard, with Tinkler dropped from Australia’s BRW Young Rich List in 2013 after having topped the same list two years prior with wealth of A$1.1 billion. “Never before has a member of the Young Rich List had such a dramatic rise and fall,” BRW said, although he is reportedly planning a comeback with a new coal deal.
Who will be Asia’s top business winners and losers in 2014, the Year of the Horse? Business leaders will be undoubtedly hoping the zodiac sign’s qualities of endurance, stability and successful decision-making rub off on their operations in the year ahead.