Diversification key to globalization for Asian companies

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As Asian companies aspire to grow, they become more inclined to look beyond their home turf. Some of the successful forerunners present at the FT-Nikkei Asia300 Forum on Monday morning embody the importance of companies diversifying their business portfolios.

The top Philippine brewer San Miguel established its first overseas footprint in Hong Kong in 1948, and today it is the only one left in the territory. Seeking for decades to be competitive in the “showcase of all breweries of the world,” as Ferdinand Constantino, San Miguel’s senior vice president and chief financial officer, describes it, the company expanded further to mainland China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, mainly through acquisitions, and turned them into a “platform for San Miguel” by leveraging its brand recognition. Today, the brewer also exports to about 80 markets, not only in Asia but in North America and Africa as well.

In recent years, San Miguel’s diversification has gone beyond its core business of beer, food and packaging — and into infrastructure. The main driver was the fact that the company was controlling 95% of the local beer market, and infrastructure in the Philippines was “very, very, inadequate.” Taking advantage of the recent two administrations’ moves to privatize formerly state-owned energy and infrastructure assets, the company diversified into a very different field.