Nikkei Asian Review
Thailand's four largest banks by assets saw their combined net profits rise for the third consecutive quarter in January to March, helped by lower provisioning for future defaults. Although this is a sign that lenders foresee an improvement in Thailand's long sluggish economy, some analysts warn that it is too soon to celebrate, as nonperforming loans continue to rise at a double-digit annual clip.
Japan's Yusen Logistics will build a warehouse that complies with Islamic law in Thailand as early as this month, aiming to capture transport demand in Southeast Asian countries with large Muslim populations such as Indonesia and Malaysia. Islamic law sets various restrictions on products; food and consumer goods such as cosmetics cannot come into contact with pork or alcohol, for instance.
As leaders of Southeast Asian nations prepare to meet for an annual summit starting Wednesday, their collective stance against China's territorial ambitions appears to have grown markedly softer, reflecting delicate balancing acts by countries vying for economic assistance from Beijing.
President Donald Trump on April 20 launched a trade probe against China and other exporters of cheap steel into the U.S. market, raising the possibility of new tariffs and sending shares of some U.S. steel makers up over 8 percent. Citing concerns about national security, Trump made the announcement at a White House ceremony with U.S. steel executives from Nucor Corp, United States Steel Corp and TimkenSteel Corp alongside Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a billionaire businessman who made part of his fortune investing in the steel business.
The U.S. Department of State on April 20 said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will chair a meeting with his counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to be held on May 4 in the U.S. capital. The foreign ministers will discuss China's maritime aggression and ways to cooperate on national security issues, among other topics.
The Trump administration's order to probe U.S. trading partners for unfair practices has provoked outrage in the Southeast Asian nations under scrutiny, and threatens to deepen a divide that leaves the region more exposed to Chinese influence. Indonesia, for one, has challenged the notion that it merits investigation under an executive order signed by U.S. President Donald Trump on March 31, with the aim of determining the causes of significant American trade deficits.
IT company to challenge global giants with low-cost tech. Vietnam's FPT aims to jostle into competition among industry titans like Apple and Google over autonomous vehicles by commercializing a low-cost system within the next two years. The country's leading information technology company is targeting about $200 million in annual sales from the business in 2020.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings will team with Toshiba to manage power grids in Cambodia, hoping to secure a new earnings source as the utility grapples with soaring cleanup costs for the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster. T.T. Network Infrastructure Japan, a joint venture between Tepco and Toshiba, has signed a memorandum of understanding with a Malaysian company handling power transmission in Cambodia. The venture will operate and maintain 130km of 230,000-volt transmission lines that will connect power plants in northern Cambodia to the capital, Phnom Penh.
Myanmar's efforts to promote investment will target 20 newly designated fields covering 192 types of businesses and services, using a law enacted in October that makes it easier for foreign companies to receive tax benefits. The industries covered include manufacturing, agriculture, urban development, communications and medicine, while fields such as mining and finance did not make the list.
China economists increasingly see tighter monetary policy by the People's Bank of China as a downside risk, voicing concerns that efforts to curb capital outflows and a real estate bubble will weigh on the economy. Tighter monetary policy has surged to second place on a list of economists' top concerns about China in a new Nikkei/NQN survey. As in the previous quarterly poll, respondents expressed the greatest concern about a downturn in real estate. Asked to rate how bubbly the market is on a scale of 1 to 10, economists pegged it at 7 on average, unchanged from the last survey.