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Companies voice cautious optimism   2011-01-05 - VNS

An electrical equipment production line of the Xuan Loc Tho Ltd Co. Sixty-two per cent of the nation's private businesses said they were optimistic about the country's economic future. — VNA/VNS Photo Ngoc Ha

HCM CITY — Sixty-two per cent of privately-held business owners said they were optimistic about their country's economic performance, according to the 2011 Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR).

The percentage put Viet Nam at the 16th of the 39 economies worldwide surveyed by Grant Thornton.

The Viet Nam figure was significantly higher than the global average of 23 per cent and higher than the average of 50 per cent for the Asia-Pacific region (excluding Japan), according to the report.

The IBR is a survey of medium to large privately held businesses that conducted research on the opinions of more than 5,700 businesses in the fourth quarter of 2010. More than 11,000 businesses are surveyed on an annual basis.

The survey found that confidence levels were higher in Latin America than any other regions of the world, which recorded a 75 per cent optimistic rate.

This is the first year that Latin America has led the world in that category.

Globally, Chile (95 per cent) scored the highest optimism of any country, followed by India (93 per cent), Philippines (87 per cent) and Switzerland (85 per cent).

North America was only 26 per cent, with Europe the least optimistic region, at 22 per cent.

Survey respondents were chief executive officers, managing directors, chairmen or other senior executives from 39 economies, primarily across five industries: manufacturing (25 per cent), services (25 per cent), retail (15 per cent) and construction (10 per cent), with the remaining 25 per cent spreading across all industries.

The managing partner of Grant Thornton Vietnam, Ken Atkinson, said: "In recent years, the global focus for emerging economies has been on the BRIC economies of Brazil, Russia, India and mainland China. However, this survey helps confirm that a wider view of Asian and Latin American economies reveals many other countries with strong levels of business confidence and high forecast growth rates in 2011."

Asia-Pacific, last year's leading region for business optimism, saw a fall in overall optimism from 64 per cent to 50 per cent as economies such as mainland China (down from 60 per cent in 2010 to 42 per cent), Australia (down from 79 to 37 per cent) and New Zealand (down from 66 to 35 per cent) showed large negative swings in optimism.

Viet Nam also saw a decrease in optimism from one year earlier (down from 72 to 62 per cent).

Atkinson said inflation and rising interest rates had had an impact on the levels of Vietnamese optimism. Thus, the 62 per cent rate in Viet Nam on optimism was actually a fairly strong result, he added.

The survey showed that business owners around the world expected to see only moderate levels of investment in 2011.

Around 35 per cent more businesses expected to see increases in investment in plant and machinery, and only 24 per cent expected to see an increase in research and development (R&D).

A notable exception to this trend is mainland China, where 47 per cent of businesses expected to increase investment in plant and machinery and 61 per cent expected to increase their R&D.

Despite somewhat declining optimism, businesses in Viet Nam continued to take a long-term view.

A balance of 41 per cent of businesses expected to increase expenditures on R&D (global average: 24 per cent); 34 per cent expected to increase investment in plants and machinery (global average: 35 per cent); and 78 per cent (global average: 29 per cent) expected to hire more employees.

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