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Soybean Market Opportunities, Demand And Supply Outlook

Bar chart showing the world's top 5 soybean importing countries in 2017. China was the world's largest soybean importer with total soybean Imports valued at US$ 39.6 billion in 2017, followed by the European Union with US$ 3.7 billion, Mexico with US$ 1.7 billion, Japan with US$ 1.5 billion, and Thailand with US$ 1.2 billion.

Demand

Global demand for soybeans has increased 145% since the 1990/91 marketing year. This compares with 76% for corn, 35% for cotton, 31% for rice, and 21% for wheat. Growth has been driven by growing demand for protein, and vegetable oil consumption for food. The growth momentum appears set to continue. China, the world’s largest importer of soybeans accounting for two thirds of global soybean imports in 2017 according to UN trade data, imports soybeans for its meat, poultry, and dairy industry which has been booming as Chinese citizens increasingly add more protein to their diets as incomes rise and living standards increase. China is on track to overtake the U.S. to become the world’s largest dairy market according to Euromonitor International, and currently is the world’s largest egg consumer and producer, and the world’s largest meat importer.

Bar chart showing the world's top 5 soybean importing countries in 2017. China was the world's largest soybean importer with total soybean Imports valued at US$ 39.6 billion in 2017, followed by the European Union with US$ 3.7 billion, Mexico with US$ 1.7 billion, Japan with US$ 1.5 billion, and Thailand with US$ 1.2 billion.

Protein intake among Chinese citizens has been steadily growing reaching 96.7 grams per capita per day during 2011-2013 and has reached levels comparable to developed neighbors such South Korea (96 grams per capita per day). However, it has yet to reach levels comparable to other developed nations such as the United States (108.7 grams per capita per day), and Germany (101.7 grams per capita per day) suggesting room for Chinese soybean demand to grow.

Column chart showing average protein supply (in grams per capita per day) (three year average) in China, South Korea, United States, and Germany. In 2008-2010, average protein supply was 91.7 in South Korea, 92.4 in China, 101.3 in Germany, 110.7 in the United States. In 2009-2011, average protein supply was 93 in South Korea, 93.7 in China, 102 in Germany, 109.3 in the United States. In 2010-2012, average protein supply was 94.3 in South Korea, 95.3 in China, 101.7 in Germany, 109 in the United States. In 2011-2013, average protein supply was 96 in South Korea, 96.7 in China, 101.7 in Germany, 108.7 in the United States. Data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

This is particularly true for animal protein which at 38 g/capita/day (3-year average) in China has not yet reached the levels of neighbors Japan (48 g/capita/day), and South Korea (46 g/capita/day), as well as developed nations such as the United States (69 g/capita/day), and Germany (61 g/capita/day).

Chinese meat demand has pushed up meat imports over the past few years and China is the world’s largest meat importer. China’s growing appetite for imported meat should help drive EU soybean demand. As the world’s largest meat exporter, the EU has been a major beneficiary of China’s growing meat consumption which in turn helped push EU soybean imports; the EU is the world’s second largest soybean importer and the world’s largest importer of soybean meal which is used mainly as animal feed. With China driving global meat demand, soybean demand from the EU, the world’s second biggest importer, is poised to grow as well.

India also presents a tremendous growth driver. Incomes and living standards have been rising and India’s average protein supply is a on a firm uptrend but it still about half of China’s suggesting ample room for growth.

Column chart showing the average protein supply in grams, per capita, per day on a 3-year average in China and India. During 2005-2007, average protein supply was 55 grams per capita per day in India, and 87.4 grams per capita per day in China. During 2006-2008, average protein supply was 56.7 grams per capita per day in India, and 89.1 grams per capita per day in China. During 2007 – 2009, average protein supply was 57.3 grams per capita per day in India and 90.8 grams per capita in China. During 2008 – 2010, average protein supply was 58 grams per capita per day in India, and 92.4 grams per capita per day in China. During 2009-2011, average protein supply was 58.7 grams per capita per day in India, and 93.7 grams per capita per day in China. During 2010-2012 average protein supply reached 59.3 grams per capita per day in India and 95.3 grams per capita per day in China. During 2011-2013 average protein supply reached 59.7 grams per capita per day in India, and 96.7 grams per capita per day in China.

In fact, according to the results of a survey conducted by Indian Market research Bureau (IMRB), 73% of urban rich Indians are protein deficient, with 93% of them unaware about their daily protein requirements. With nearly 80% of Indian households expected to rise to middle income status by 2030, up from 50% today, the U.S. Soybean Export Council sees India as a prime export market in the future.

Supply

The top five largest soybean producers are the United States, Brazil, Argentina, China, and India.

Bar chart showing the leading countries in soybean production worldwide. During calendar year 2018-2019, the United States was the leading soybean producer in the world, producing 120.52 million metric tons, followed by Brazil with 119 million metric tons, Argentina with 55.3 million metric tons, China 15.97 million metric tons, India with 10.93 million metric tons, Paraguay with 8.85 million metric tons, Canada with 7.27 million metric tons, Ukraine with 4.83 million metric tons, and Russia with 4.03 million metric tonnes. According to preliminary figures for calendar year 2019-2020, Brazil was the leading soybean producer worldwide with 126 million metric tons, followed by the United States with 96.68 million metric tons, Argentina with 50 million metric tons, China with 18.1 million metric tons, Paraguay with 9.9 million metric tons, India with 9.3 million metric tons, Canada with 6 million metric tons, Russia with 4.36 million metric tons, and Ukraine with 4.05 million metric tons. Data from the United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service.

China, the world’s largest soybean importer and consumer is likely to remain a major import market in the years ahead. Domestic soybean production meets just about 20% of China’s domestic demand of about 100 million metric tons, and while there is potential for the country to increase domestic output by improving yields (particularly with the government reportedly making efforts to boost soybean production), this is unlikely to satisfy demand so the country will continue to depend heavily on imports going forward.

Even if China doubles its soybean production by doubling its yields to match the United States (China’s average soybean yield on the same area of land is about 40% that of the U.S. according to Heilongjiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences), China could potentially increase its production by about 15 million metric tons, which is not even one-fifth of China’s estimated 84 million metric ton soybean import volume during marketing year 2019/2020 according to data from the USDA.

India, the world’s fifth largest soybean producer, is currently a net exporter of soybeans but its net exports have been declining as domestic production is outpaced by domestic demand which suggests that as incomes grow and protein intake increases, the country may well end up becoming a net importer, unless they dramatically increase soybean yields; India’s average soybean yields on the same area of land is just 25% that of the U.S. according to data from the USDA.

That would leave current soybean export leaders Brazil, and the United States to continue dominating the soybean export market in the years ahead.

The fragility of the U.S.-China relationship suggests Brazil is in a better position to capitalize on China’s soybean demand in the long term, presenting opportunities for Brazilian soybean suppliers. The long term impact of losing China as an export market for U.S. soybeans was abundantly clear when prior to the Phase 1 trade deal, the USDA’s long term projections for soybean planting in the U.S. expected only marginal increases and was not expected to recover to pre-trade war levels.

Agribusiness players ADM (NYSE:ADM), Bunge (NYSE:BG), Cargill, which buy crops from farmers, then transport, store and/or process the crops and sell the processed crops to food, feed, and energy buyers all have operations in Brazil and should benefit from improved South American origination volumes as Chinese soybean imports grow along with rising protein demand.

In the short term however, China will likely to continue to buy U.S. soybeans not just as part of a trade deal secured in January this year which helped end a nearly two year trade war between the two nations, but also perhaps to buy time as the country makes the necessary investments to cost effectively diversify its soybean sources in the long term, since top supplier Brazil may be unable to keep up with Chinese soybean demand. The opportunity in Russia is particularly compelling. Russian soybean exports to China have grown 51 times from just 15,000 metric tons in 2013/14 to 763,000 metric tons in 2018/19. Although this is less than 1% of China’s approximately 100 million metric ton soybean consumption currently, the long term potential is significant considering China’s top soybean producing region – Heilongjiang – is just across the China-Russia border from Russia’s top soybean producing region – the Amur region, which if developed could offer China soybeans at very cost effective prices with the added advantage that Russian soybeans are non-GMO (compared with the United States where 94% of US soybean acreage comprises GMO soybeans as of 2018).

All is not lost for U.S. soybeans however. The EU is gradually phasing out palm oil for its domestic biodiesel use, and U.S. soybeans could be a beneficiary of this move. About half of the EU’s 3.9 million metric tons of crude palm oil imports were used as feedstock for biodiesel, 40% used for consumer products such as food and cosmetics, and 10% used for heating and electricity as of 2017 according to OilWorld. While much depends on the soybean oil content and oil extraction technology, generally speaking, one ton of soybeans can produce approximately 20% soybean oil give or take 5% or so. That suggests that satisfying EU’s oil demand for use in biodiesel would require 10 million metric tons of soybeans, equivalent to about 10% of U.S. soybean production currently, and the byproducts of soybean processing i.e., soybean meal can be used in its growing meat and poultry industry, helping fulfill the EU’s soybean meal requirements. While this represents a potential demand of two-thirds of the 15 million metric tons of soybeans imported by the EU in 2018-2019, it amounts to just 25% of the nearly 40 million metric tons of soybeans the U.S. exported to China pre-trade war.

Nevertheless, it should still cushion the blow for companies such as ADM for whom soybean trading accounts for 16% of revenue with most of their origination from North America. In its latest annual report, ADM’s Ag Services and Oilseeds operating unit saw profit drop 4% which the company attributed to weaker North American grain margins and volumes, in part due to changing weather conditions and the U.S.-China trade tensions. Within the Ag Services and Oilseeds unit, Ag Services (which includes results from its origination business which buys grains from farmers) recorded a 23% drop in operating profit, compared with a 45% increase a year earlier.

The company benefited from China’s increased soybean consumption before the trade war and if Brazil replaces the United States as China’s leading soybean supplier or takes an increasing share of Chinese soybean imports, the EU could help partially fill in the void for U.S. soybean producers and traders such as ADM.

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Bright Prospects For China’s Cold Chain Logistics Sector

Column chart showing China's cold chain logistics market size (in RMB billions). China's cold chain logistics market was valued at RMB 81 billion in 2011, RMB 109 billion in 2013, RMB 181 billion in 2015, RMB 236 billion in 2017 (forecast), RMB 368 billion in 2019 (forecast), RMB 470 billion in 2020 (forecast).

China’s cold chain logistics market has been growing steadily over the past several years. According to management consulting firm L.E.K. Consulting, China’s cold chain market grew from RMB 81 billion in 2011 to RMB 181 billion in 2015 representing a growth rate of over 20% annually.

Column chart showing China's cold chain logistics market size (in RMB billions). China's cold chain logistics market was valued at RMB 81 billion in 2011, RMB 109 billion in 2013, RMB 181 billion in 2015, RMB 236 billion in 2017 (forecast), RMB 368 billion in 2019 (forecast), RMB 470 billion in 2020 (forecast).

Yet, there is still ample potential for growth. China’s cold chain logistics network currently represents a relatively small part of the overall logistics industry, with just about 19% of the Chinese market having access to cold chain technologies, compared to 85% in Europe and Japan. This explains why the cargo damage to fresh product (such as fruits and vegetables which accounts for the greatest demand for cold chain logistics services) within China’s cold chain is reportedly as high as 20% to 30% – which is considerably higher than the average 5% to 10% in developed countries.

Furthermore, the market for cold chain logistics is expected to be driven by consumption upgrades (for instance with regards to consumer expectations on product freshness and quality), and growing demand for agricultural commodities such as fresh fruits and vegetables, as a result of rising incomes and living standards.

Considering these growth drivers, market research firm Reportlinker, projects China’s cold chain logistics market to reach RMB 522.5 billion in 2025 from RMB 295.6 billion in 2018 representing a CAGR of 8.5% between 2018 and 2025.

Fundamental growth drivers: rising fresh produce demand along with increasing quality and freshness expectations as living standards rise, driven by rising incomes, and an expanding fresh food e-commerce sector

Demand for cold chain logistics stems largely from five agricultural products including meat, aquatic products, quick-frozen foods, fruits and vegetables, and dairy products, among which cold chain for fruits and vegetables accounts for the greatest demand. With incomes growing and its middle class expanding, demand for such agricultural products are enjoying robust demand in China.

According to data from the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce, and Animal By Products, in 2019 China imported approximately 6.83 million tons of fruit with a total value of US$ 9.5 billion, representing a year-on-year increase of 24% 25% respectively.
With China’s fruit exports amounting to 3.61 million tons at a value of US$ 5.5 billion in 2019, up just 4% and 14% year on year respectively, China is a net fruit importer and is likely to remain so, as per capita fruit consumption grows while economic policy focuses on high-tech industries and high-value manufacturing sectors.
Data released by the National Bureau of Statistics show that per capita consumption of fresh fruits among urban residents was 56.423 kilograms in 2018, up from 47.6 kilograms 2013. With per capita fruit consumption growing steadily, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences projects China’s fruit market will reach US$ 460 billion in 2024.

China’s growing interest in milk and dairy products is also poised to contribute to demand for cold chain logistics. China today is the second largest dairy market behind the United States, the third largest milk producer in the world, with about 13 million dairy cows up from just 120,000 cows in 1949.  The average dairy product consumption per capita has increased from almost just 6 kilograms in 1999 to 36 kilograms in 2019. Yet, there is plenty of potential with China’s per capita consumption of dairy products being half of the rest of Asia and less than one third of the world average according to Milk Quotient report published by the China Dairy Industry Association and Dutch dairy producer Royal Friesland Campina last month in Beijing.

China’s burgeoning fresh food e-commerce sector is expected to drive some of the demand for these products. China fresh food e-commerce industry has been growing steadily over the past few years; according to Euromonitor and Qianzhan Industry Research Institute, in 2019, China’s fresh food e-commerce market was valued at around RMB 288.8 billion up 19.1% 2018 when the market was valued at RMB 242.4 billion in 2018. Yet, with fresh food e-commerce accounting for just 5.6% of the total fresh food industry market in China in 2019, there is tremendous potential for growth.

Column chart showing China's fresh food e-commerce market size, growth, and proportion of total fresh food market size. China's fresh food market was valued at RMB 43.6 trillion in 2015, RMB 47.3 billion in 2016, RMB 47.4 billion in 2017, RMB 49.5 billion in 2018, and RMB 51 billion in 2019. China's fresh food ecommerce market was valued at RMB 828 million 2015, RMB 1.324 billion in 2016, RMB 1.752 billion in 2017 RMB 2.424 billion in 2018, and RMB 2.888 billion in 2019. China's fresh food ecommerce market's sure of the country's overall fresh food market stood at 1.9% in 2015, 2.8% in 2016, 3.7% in 2017, 4.9% in 2018, and 5.66% in 2019. China's fresh food ecommerce market growth rate was 80.7% in 2015, 59.9% in 2016, 32.3% in 2017, 38.4% in 2018, and 19.1% in 2019. Data from Cushman and Wakefield.

However, the bigger growth driver is from fresh food e-commerce’s need for cold storage warehouses closer to the consumer to enable cheap and fast delivery as opposed to the conventional notion that warehouses and distribution centers should be near ports and airports. Much of China’s cold storage warehouse stock is located in provinces with some of the world’s busiest ports. For instance, Liaoning which has the biggest warehouse stock by area in China is home to the Port of Dalian (the world’s 16th busiest port), Guangdong which has the 5th largest logistics warehouse stock is home to the Port of Guangzhou (the world’s 5th busiest port), and Shanghai which has the 11th biggest logistics warehouse stock in China is home to the Port of Shanghai (the world’s busiest port).

Bar chart showing China's cold storage logistics warehouse distribution by storage area (in square metres). The Province with the highest cold storage logistics warehouse by storage space area is Liaoning with 1.065 million square metres, followed by Henan with 1.059 million square metres, Sichuan with 684.9 thousand square metres, Jiangsu with 567.5 thousand square metres, Guangdong with 399.2 thousand square metres, Shandong with 387.3 thousand square metres, Shaanxi with 373 thousand square metres, Tianjin with 363.5 thousand square metres, Beijing with 282.9 thousand square metres, Hubei with 258.5 thousand square metres, Shanghai with 235 thousand square metres, Heilongjiang with 150 thousand square metres, Hebei with 132 thousand square metres, Hainan with 81.7 thousand square metres, Zhejiang with 80 thousand square metres, Hunan with 75 thousand square metres, Chongqing with 72,600 square metres, Fujian with 58,680 square metres, Guangxi with 49,850 square metres, Anhui with 49,218 square metres, Jiangxi with 40,000 square metres, Yunan with 36,000 square metres, Shanxi with 25,300 square metres, Guizhou with 12,000 square metres.

Opportunities in China’s fragmented cold storage warehouse market

Cold storage is a major part of the cold chain logistics industry; according to projections from L.E.K. Consulting, transportation, cold storage, and other services are expected to make up 40%, 30%, and 30% of China’s cold chain logistics market, respectively in 2020.

Currently cold chain storage represents a small part of China’s logistics warehouse stock; according to Warehouse In Cloud (WIC), China’s total cold storage logistics warehouse stock was about 6.65 million square meters in 2019, accounting for just 2.15% of the total logistics warehouse market. Along with the development of China’s cold chain industry, the market for refrigerated warehousing is poised to experienced solid growth.

China’s cold storage market is fragmented with the top 10 cold storage operators commanding a market share of around 21%. One of the country’s largest property developers China Vanke (HKG:2202), is a notable player in China’s cold storage space. The company purchased Swire Cold Chain Logistics from Swire Pacific (HKG:0019) in 2018, propelling Vanke into the ranks of China’s 10 largest temperature controlled-storage providers.

Under its logistics and warehousing Service Platform ” VX Logistic Properties”, has been aggressively acquiring and building its portfolio of high-standard warehouses, cold storage warehouses, as well as cold storage integrated logistics parks. In 2019, China Vanke served more than 850 customers, covering e-commerce, manufacturing, catering, retailing, etc. According to their 2019 financial results, the annual utilization rate of their cold storage warehouses stood at around 82% in 2019. China Vanke is also one of the consortium of investors that participated in the buyout of GLP, cheap the world’s leading logistics solution provider.

Another player worth watching is Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) whose logistics subsidiary Cainiao has been actively building distribution centers equipped with cold storage and delivery facilities to offer B2C cold chain logistics services, which are expected to grow along with the country’s growing fresh food e-commerce sector.
Alibaba’s cross-border ecommerce platform TMall Global offers end-to-end cold chain logistics services including warehousing, processing, packaging, and transportation enabling merchants from around the world sell fresh foods to Chinese buyers. Once in China, the goods are stored in TMall Global’s warehouses and are delivered to consumers within 24 hours.
Alibaba’s marketplace TMall Global has introduced a cold storage logistics option to enable foreign merchants to sell fresh food to Chinese buyers. The service supports refrigeration across warehousing, processing, packaging, and transportation. It also offers customs clearance online. Once the goods have reached China they can be delivered within 24 hours. Cainiao Logistics offers the full chain of services, from cargo storage in bonded warehouses, to packaging and last mile delivery.

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China’s Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) Market Offers Tremendous Growth Potential

A column chart showing China's cloud computing market size in billions of yuan. China's cloud computing market was valued at RMB 9.7 billion in 2015, RMB 17 billion in 2016, RMB 26 billion in 2017, RMB 41.3 billion in 2018 (forecast), RMB 60.8 billion in 2019 (forecast), RMB 84.3 billion in 2020 (forecast), and RMB 110.9 billion in 2021 (forecast).

The public cloud market is growing at a rapid clip around the world. The worldwide public cloud services market is projected to grow from US$ 182.4 billion in 2018 to US$ 331.2 billion by 2022 representing a CAGR of 16.08% according to research from Gartner. The fastest growing market segment is expected to be cloud system infrastructure services, also known as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) which is expected to grow from US$ 30.5 billion in 2018 to US$ 76.6 billion by 2022, representing a CAGR of 25.89%. The second fastest growing market segment is expected to be Cloud application infrastructure services, also known as Platform as a Service (PaaS), which is expected to grow from US$ 15.6 billion in 2018 to US$ 31.8 million by 2022 representing a CAGR of 19.49%. Meanwhile the market for cloud application services, also known as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is expected to grow from US$ 80 billion in 2018 to US$ 143.7 billion by 2022 representing a CAGR of 15.77%.

The story is the same in China where, much like the rest of the world, China’s cloud market has also been on an uptrend.

A column chart showing China's cloud computing market size in billions of yuan. China's cloud computing market was valued at RMB 9.7 billion in 2015, RMB 17 billion in 2016, RMB 26 billion in 2017, RMB 41.3 billion in 2018 (forecast), RMB 60.8 billion in 2019 (forecast), RMB 84.3 billion in 2020 (forecast), and RMB 110.9 billion in 2021 (forecast).

China’s IaaS market is the fastest growing cloud computing segment and is dominated by homegrown tech giants Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) and Tencent (HKG:0700). And although the country’s SaaS market has received relatively little attention compared to the IaaS segment, it is a significant part of China’s overall cloud computing market, being estimated to reach a market value of RMB 47.3 billion in 2020 which accounts for about 56.1% of China’s cloud market which is estimated to reach market value of RMB 84.3 billion the same year.

China’s SaaS market has been growing steadily over the past several years.

A column chart showing China software-as-a-service market size (in RMB billions). China's software-as-a-service market was valued at RMB 3.49 billion In 2013, RMB 5.98 billion in 2014, RMB 9.89 billion in 2015, RMB 12.75 billion in 2016, RMB 16.87 in 2017, RMB 23.21 billion in 2018 (forecast), RMB 33.7 billion) in 2019 (forecast), and RMB 47.34 billion in 2020 (forecast).

Yet, there is still ample potential for growth. China’s SaaS market is expected to reach approximately RMB 47 billion (US$ 6.7 billion) in 2020 according to Statista while the global SaaS market is expected to reach US$157 billion by 2020. This means China would account for just about 4% of the global SaaS market while accounting for about 16% of global GDP indicating ample potential for growth.
Furthermore, according to a 2019 report issued by Alibaba Cloud Research Center, while the number of Chinese companies is 3 times that of the United States, China’s SaaS output is just 24% of the U.S.

There are several growth drivers to support China’s SaaS market. Unlike in the west, a growing number of Chinese firms are not tied to legacy IT infrastructure and they are increasingly moving directly to the cloud, leapfrogging the traditional enterprise software generation in much the same way Chinese citizens leapfrogged the desktop/laptop phase and went straight to mobile. In the medium term, the COVID pandemic may prompt SMEs to accelerate cloud adoption to control costs, facilitate remote working, and online sales. Over the longer run, the industry is likely to enjoy tailwinds thanks to China’s made in China 2025 initiative which aims to upgrade China manufacturing base by developing high-tech Industries including electric cars, robotics, artificial intelligence, agricultural technology engineering new synthetic materials. Cloud computing is among the many technologies expected to drive this development (others include big data and IoT).

Opportunities for local and international SaaS companies

China’s higher end SaaS segment is largely dominated by foreign SaaS behemoths such as Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Oracle (NYSE:ORCL), and SAP (ETR:SAP) whose product offering often comes with a hefty price tag. Homegrown SaaS companies such as Kingdee (HKG:0268), Digiwin, and Yonyou (SHA:600588) on the other hand are not as powerful in terms of functionality compared their foreign counterparts, however their product offering has been improving in terms of sophistication and capabilities, and they are usually significantly cheaper which makes them a very compelling option to fulfill the needs of China’s Small and Medium Enterprises (which make up almost 99% of business establishments in China) as well as state enterprises. This has helped local SaaS providers carve out a niche for themselves in China’s nascent SaaS market while competing against foreign, well-established players.

The country’s SaaS market is highly fragmented the top 10 vendors accounting for only about 30% that the market as of 2018 according to research from PR Underground. Local rising star Kingdee dominated the market with a market share of just 5%, followed by Microsoft, SAP, Salesforce (NYSE:CRM), Oracle, Veeva Systems (NYSE:VEEV), Zoho, Beisen, Yonyou, and Newdo which collectively made up the top 10.

Pie chart showing the market share of China's SaaS vendors during the first half of 2018. Kingdee was the market leader with a 5.1% market share followed by Microsoft (5%), SAP (4.3%), Salesforce (4%), Oracle (3.8%), Veeva Systems (2.6%), Zoho (2.6%), Beisen (2.2%), Yonyou (2%), Newdo (1.8%), and others accounted for the balance 64.5%,

Many of China’s SaaS market verticals are also dominated by homegrown companies. Kingdee for instance, leads in HR, ERP, and accounting. Beijing-based Forceclouds, and Shanghai-based MacroWing lead in document and data management tools for the clinical research, pharmaceutical, and medical device industries. Beisen and DOIT provide CRM solutions in partnership with Tencent.

America boasts a number of SaaS behemoths; in one category America has born-in-the-cloud SaaS companies such as Salesforce, Workday (NASDAQY:WDAY), ServiceNow (NYSE:NOW), Splunk (NASDAQ:SPLK), and Atlassian (NASDAQ:TEAM); in another category there are established software giants with a growing cloud business such as IBM (NYSE:IBM), Oracle, Microsoft, SAP, and Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE); and finally there are IT vendors with a growing SaaS cloud offering such as Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) and Cisco. The world’s top three SaaS companies are American; Microsoft, Salesforce, Adobe with market shares 17%, 12%, and 10% respectively of in 2019 when the SaaS market reached US$ 101 billion according to analysis by Synergy Research.

Chinese SaaS companies on the other hand are still at a relatively early stage of growth. However, in much the same way America’s SaaS market growth spawned a number of homegrown SaaS giants, there is potential for Chinese SaaS companies to blossom along with the growth of China’s SaaS market. Notable SaaS companies worth watching include:

Kingdee

Kingdee is one of China’s largest providers of ERP software with a focus on SMEs, and is one of China’s leading SaaS players with a market share of 5%. Kingdee first started out as an ERP software company building a large user base of enterprise customers. This user base helped Kingdee’s cloud transformation, enabling it to introduce its own cloud products to its existing user bas

In FY 2019, Kingdee’s cloud services revenue grew 54.7% year-on-year accounting for 39.5% of revenue during the year up from 30.2% in 2018 according to their 2019 annual report. Cloud revenue’s share of total revenue is likely to increase going forward as traditional ERP customers migrate to the cloud. Traditional ERP systems are gradually being replaced by SaaS which is generally more cost-efficient and easier to use and manage compared to traditional ERP systems. Notable enterprises upgrading to Kingdee’s “Kingdee Cloud Cosmic” (a cloud platform for large enterprises) include one of China’s largest courier companies SF Express (SHE:002352), Chinese edtech unicorn VIPKid, and Chinese state-owned defense corporation Norinco. The company is targeting cloud revenue to contribute 60% to total revenue by 2020.

While it may seem that cloud can cannibalize Kingdee’s traditional software business, according to figures from its annual report, it is evident that this is not the case with much of Kingdee’s cloud growth being driven by new customers During FY2019, of Kingdee’s “Kingdee Cloud Galaxy” (a digital cloud service platform for medium and large enterprises, and fast-growing enterprises) customer base, 77% of clients were new to ERP, 13% were from competitors, and just 10% were existing clients.

Armed with a wide product range of cloud software spanning e-commerce, supply chain and intelligent manufacturing, a healthy balance sheet (the company’s borrowings stands at RMB 199 million while it has a cash pile of RMB 3.18 billion), a strong brand name among local SaaS companies, and an impressive user base of SMEs as well as large enterprises suggest Kingdee is well placed to capitalize on China’s growing SaaS market.

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Malaysia’s Growing Digital Economy: Opportunities And Sectors To Watch

Bar chart showing usage of ICT tools and systems among Malaysian SMEs. 86.5% of Malaysian SMEs used desktop / laptops, 90.1% used internet connections, 91.4% used smartphones, 43.8% used e-commerce, 70.5% used social media, 50.2% used Finance & Accounting systems, , 28.8% used HR systems, 18.8% used POS systems, 14.5% used inventory systems, 12.5% used Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, 12.3% used supply chain management systems, 11.5% used order fulfillment systems and 10.5% used Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.

Malaysia’s digital economy, as defined by its government registered an average growth of 9% annually between 2010 and 2016 in value-added terms, exceeding Malaysia’s overall GDP growth rate during the period. In 2018, Malaysia’s digital economy grew 6.9% year-on-year to reach RM 267.7 billion, contributing 18.5% to the national economy (up from 18.3% in 2017) according to the Department of Statistics. Although the 2018 growth rate of 6.9% is lower than in 2017 when it grew 9.8%, it is still higher than the country’s overall GDP growth rate of 4.7% recorded for the year according to data from Bank Negara.

This growth momentum is likely to continue thanks to a combination of government support, a youthful, tech-savvy population, and increasing digitization of SMEs among other factors.

On the consumer front, Malaysia boasts favorable demographics to support its growing digital economy. Of Malaysia’s approximately 31 million population, about 42% are aged 24 years and below according to the CIA and the median age of the country’s population is 29.2. This compares with neighboring countries such as Thailand where the median age is 39, Singapore (35.6), and Vietnam (31.9). A relatively young population as well as high incomes have helped push Malaysia’s internet penetration rate to 85.7% as of 2018, which is higher than the approximately 60% penetration rate in the region.

On the enterprise front, large enterprises currently dominate Malaysia’s digital economy as they adopt digital technologies such as e-commerce at higher rates than SMEs, partly due to larger enterprises having greater access to funding and technical expertise. For instance less than 44% of Malaysian SMEs use e-commerce for their business according to data from a 2018 report by SME Corp.

Bar chart showing usage of ICT tools and systems among Malaysian SMEs. 86.5% of Malaysian SMEs used desktop / laptops, 90.1% used internet connections, 91.4% used smartphones, 43.8% used e-commerce, 70.5% used social media, 50.2% used Finance & Accounting systems, , 28.8% used HR systems, 18.8% used POS systems, 14.5% used inventory systems, 12.5% used Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, 12.3% used supply chain management systems, 11.5% used order fulfillment systems and 10.5% used Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.

However, government support (such as the government’s PeDAS program which is aimed at assisting rural SMEs reach a larger consumer base through e-commerce platforms) and a growing breadth of affordable digital enterprise solutions could spur Malaysian SMEs to shift towards digital applications in the future. With SMEs accounting for nearly 99% of Malaysia business establishments, their digital transformation could contribute significantly to the growth of Malaysia’s digital economy.

To add further impetus to Malaysia’s digital economy which is already riding high on strong fundamentals, the Malaysian government has put in place several incentives to encourage greater market expansion and is aiming for the digital economy to contribute 20% to the national economy by 2020, up from 17.8% in 2015.

Some of the incentives include:

  • A RM 210 million allocation under Budget 2020 for the purposes of accelerating the development of digital infrastructure such as industrial parks, and in public buildings such as schools.
  • RM 21.6 billion allocated under Budget 2020 for the five-year National Fiberization and Connectivity Plan (NFCP) which will ensure high-speed connectivity throughout the country along with an additional RM 250 million to increase broadband connectivity in rural and remote areas such as Sabah and Sarawak with technologies such as satellite technology.
  • Under the Malaysia National Industry 4.0 framework, the Industry4WRD Readiness Assessment Intervention Program or in short known as ‘Industry4WRD Intervention Fund’ was launched by the government in Budget 2019. It is a financial support facility for Malaysian SMEs in the manufacturing and related services sectors to adopt Industry 4.0 applications and technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), sensor technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing and others.

With many tailwinds to support market expansion, the International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that by 2022, 21% of Malaysia’s GDP will be digitized, up from about 18% currently.

Sectors and industries to watch within this burgeoning market include:

E-Commerce

E-commerce is one of the few verticals in Malaysia that is relatively ahead of the digitization race with the e-commerce sector alone contributing 8% to Malaysia’s GDP in 2018. Already one of the fastest growing e-commerce markets in Southeast Asia, there is still ample growth ahead with the sector expected to expand to nearly US$ 6 billion by 2024.

Column chart showing Malaysia’s e-commerce revenue, 2017-2024. Malaysia’s e-commerce revenue was 2,651 million in 2017, 3,030 million in 2018, 3,680 million in 2019, 4,337 million in 2020, 4,974 million in 2021 (estimated), 5,433 million in 2022 (estimated), 5,750 million in 2023 (estimated), and 5,995 million in 2024 (estimated.

B2C e-commerce has garnered the most attention contributing to the top-lines of online retails such as Lazada (owned by Alibaba (NYSE:BABA)), Shopee (owned by SEA Group (NYSE: SE), and Zalora (owned by Global Fashion Group (ETR:GFG)).

However B2B e-commerce is poised to catch up as SMEs jump into the e-commerce bandwagon. Alibaba looks set to capitalize on this growth opportunity having emerged as one of the most aggressive players in encouraging and facilitating Malaysian SMEs to adopt e-commerce to reach a global customer base. Under its eWTP (e World Trade Platform), Alibaba collaborated with the Malaysian government to launch the world’s first Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) Aeropolis in 2017 to assist local businesses sell their products in overseas markets through online e-commerce, and position Malaysia as a regional e-commerce hub. And in April this year, Alibaba’s logistics arm Cainiao Smart Logistics Network celebrated the inaugural flight of a new dedicated cargo route between Hangzhou and Kuala Lumpur.

Electrical and electronics

Malaysia is a global electrical & electronics (E&E) hub, with major players such as Intel, Hewlett Packard, Osram, Broadcom, Western Digital, and Samsung having manufacturing and distribution operations in the country notably Penang. Malaysia’s E&E industry (which can be categorized into 4 sub-sectors namely electronic components, consumer electronics, industrial electronics, and electrical products) is the biggest segment in the country’s manufacturing sector. Malaysia is the world’s 7th largest E&E exporter and the E&E sector accounts for 38% of Malaysia’s exports.

As Malaysia’s digital economy grows, spurring greater demand for mobile devices, semiconductors, storage devices, and other hardware, Malaysia strong E&E industry is well-placed to satisfy demand and profit. Only 62% of businesses in Malaysia are connected to the internet, 46% have fixed broadband, and about 28% have a web presence of some kind according to the World Bank. This is lower than the EU average where 96% businesses are connected to the internet, 95% have fixed broadband, and 75% have a website.

In an effort to incentivize Malaysian SMEs to adopt digitalisation measures for their business operations including electronic point of sale systems (e-POS), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and electronic payroll systems, the Malaysian government will provide a 50% matching grant of up to RM 5000 per company for subscription to such digital services under Budget 2020. The government will also allocate RM 550 million to provide smart automation matching grants to 1,000 manufacturing and 1,000 services companies automate their business processes.

Furthermore, the imminent launch of 5G technology in the country (expected by the third quarter of 2020) should add a further boost to the E7E sector thanks to the offering of 5G-compatible smartphones, tablets and other devices. Satisfying this growing demand for electrical and electronic components suggests revenue growth opportunity for local E&E players such as Inari Amertron Bhd (KLSE:INARI).

Although the country’s E&E sector has been hit by production shocks as a result of Covid-19, these blips are likely to be temporary and should recover in the long term as market fundamentals remain supportive.

Cloud services    

IDC projects Malaysia’s overall IT spending to be approximately US$ 11 billion in 2020, with much of that shifting to managed and cloud services.

Research firm GlobalData foresees Malaysia’s digital spending to reach US$ 25.2 billion by 2023 from US$ 16.5 billion in 2018 (representing a CAGR of 8.9% during the period). Much of that spending will be on client computing and cloud solutions.

Bar chart showing Malaysia's ICT market growth rate (CAGR) a leading 5 IT solution areas, 2018 2023. Mobility is expected to grow at a CAGR of 20.9%, cloud computing 19.1%, data and analytics 17.6%, storage 14.3%, outsourcing 10.1% during the forecast period.

By vertical, the manufacturing sector is expected to account for the lion’s share of ICT spend in 2023.

By vertical, the manufacturing sector is expected to account for the lion’s share of ICT spend in 2023.

Cloud adoption is largely concentrated among Malaysia’s larger enterprises while adoption among SMEs, (which accounting for 98.5% of Malaysian business establishments make up the backbone of Malaysia’s economy) is relatively low. However this is poised to change with the Malaysian government encouraging SMEs to adopt digital technologies such as cloud computing, thanks to favorable provisions in Budget 2020.

Yet again, Alibaba has made its moves in Malaysia with its cloud computing arm Alibaba Cloud partnering with local domain registrar WebNIC to tap into this relatively underserved market.

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Untapped Opportunities In Green Chemistry Market

Pie chart showing primary oil and natural gas demand by sector, 2017 (%). Transport was the biggest oil consuming sector, accounting for 56% of oil demand in 2017. Transport was followed by Petrochemicals (14%), Buildings (8%), Other industry (5%), Power (5%) and Other (12%). Power was the biggest natural gas consuming sector in 2017 accounting for 40% of natural gas demand in 2017. Power was followed by Buildings (21%), Other industry (15%), Petrochemicals (8%), Transport (4%) and Other (12%). Data from the International Energy Agency.

Chemicals are used to produce almost everything in the world today. The chemical and petrochemical industry represents the largest contributor to industrial energy demand worldwide accounting for about 10% of global total final energy consumption and about 7% of greenhouse gas emissions associated with industry according to the International Energy Agency. Yet, as the world becomes increasingly decarbonized, the decarbonization of the chemical industry which is one of the biggest fossil fuel consuming sectors suggests ample opportunity for growth in the global green chemistry market opening potentially lucrative business and investment opportunities.

The global market for green chemistry, which includes bio-based chemicals (also known as green chemicals), renewable feedstocks, green polymers and less-toxic chemical formulations is projected to grow from US$ 11 billion in 2015 to nearly US$ 100 billion by 2020, representing a CAGR of 55.5% according to figures from Pike Research.

The growth is underscored by several drivers including greater awareness of the negative environmental impact of petrochemicals, increasing legislative pressure to reduce emissions, and increasing end consumer demand for sustainable and “green” products, which in turn is prompting large retailers and other institutions to adopt policies to source bio-based products and raw materials.

Currently, the chemical industry relies heavily on fossil fuels with petrochemicals (which convert fossil fuels such as oil and gas into products such as plastics, fertilizers, packaging, clothing, paints and coatings such as varnishes, cosmetics, medical equipment, detergents, tires etc) accounting for 90% of the total feedstock demand for the manufacture of chemical commodities. Driven by rising economic growth among other reasons, global demand for petrochemicals has nearly doubled since 2000 (much of it due to increased plastic consumption worldwide) according to data from the International Energy Agency (IEA). The petrochemical sector which currently accounts for about 14% of global oil demand and about 8% of global gas demand is expected to see its share of oil and gas consumption increase driven by greater plastics consumption in developing economies (outweighing the drag to demand from recycling efforts in developed economies) and the difficulty in finding suitable alternatives.

Pie chart showing primary oil and natural gas demand by sector, 2017 (%). Transport was the biggest oil consuming sector, accounting for 56% of oil demand in 2017. Transport was followed by Petrochemicals (14%), Buildings (8%), Other industry (5%), Power (5%) and Other (12%). Power was the biggest natural gas consuming sector in 2017 accounting for 40% of natural gas demand in 2017. Power was followed by Buildings (21%), Other industry (15%), Petrochemicals (8%), Transport (4%) and Other (12%). Data from the International Energy Agency.

Of the nearly 10million barrels of oil per day growth in total oil demand in 2030, the chemical sector is expected to account for more than a third. Furthermore, of the 850 billion cubic meters increase in global gas consumption, the IEA expects the chemical sector to account for 7%.

There a few key possibilities for the decarbonization of the chemical industry, notable options include greater electrification of production processes, and replacing petroleum feedstock (which produces fossil fuel based chemicals), with alternatives such as bio-based feedstock such as plants and organic waste (to produce what is known as “green chemicals”). This suggests that as the world adopts measures to combat climate change, the traditional chemicals industry is ripe for disruption and the green chemistry market is in prime position to meet the global need for a decarbonized chemical sector.

Notable startups in the green chemicals game include Texas-based Solugen, a developer and manufacturer of plant-based alternatives for petroleum based products. In May this year, the startup raised US$ 32 million in its Series B round. Y Combinator, Refactor Capital, Western Technology Investment and others participated in the round.

Sub-sectors within the green chemistry market to watch include:

Bio-plastic 

Much of the growth in petrochemical demand over the past decade has largely been driven by greater demand for plastics which has outpaced demand for other bulk materials such as steel, cement or aluminum. According to figures from the International Energy Agency, plastic production has nearly doubled since 2000 and looks set to continue growing driven by rising per capita plastic demand from emerging economies where plastic consumption per capita is just a fraction of developed economies. For instance, in South Korea, one of the world’s largest consumers of plastic,  per capita plastic consumption stands at 98.9 kilograms per person as of 2015, compared with just 5.5 kilograms per person in Africa, 9.3 kilograms per person in India, and 27.8 kilograms per person in Brazil.

Bar chart showing the per capita consumption of major plastics (plastic resin) in 2015, (kilograms per capita), for selected countries and regions. At 98.9 kg per person, South Korea is one of the world’s biggest consumers of plastic products. Per capita plastic consumption for other countries in the chart are as follows: Canada (98.6 kg/person), Saudi Arabia (86.8 kg/person), United States (81.3 kg/person), Western Europe (62.2 kg/person), Japan (54.4 kg/person), China (45.1 kg/person), Mexico (32.9 kg/person), Brazil (27.8 kg/person), India (9.3 kg/person), and Africa (5.5 kg/person). Data from the International Energy Agency.

However, with countries around the world facing a growing problem of plastic pollution, there is a pressing need for environmentally-friendly alternatives. While recycled plastic could be a growth feedstock in the future (according to an article published in National Geographic, of the 8.3 billion tons of plastic produced over the past six decades, only 9% has been recycled) opening growth opportunities for companies such as UK-based Recycling Technologies, there is considerable potential for bio-plastics to also emerge as a growth market; European plastics trade association PlasticsEurope estimates that of the roughly 335 million tons of plastic produced every year, just about 1% are bio-plastics and demand is on an upward trend and according to trade association European Bioplastics, global bio-plastic production capacities are set to increase in the years ahead which suggests growth opportunities for bio-plastics manufacturers such as NatureWorks and Green Dot Plastics.

Bar chart showing global production capacities of bio-plastics (in 1,000 tons). Global bio-plastic production capacity is expected to increase from around 2.1 million tons in 2018 to 2.6 million tons by 2023. Data from European Bioplastics.

Bio-fertilizers

Fertilizers are an integral component in agriculture. As the world moves towards sustainable agriculture practices and organic food, bio-fertilizer is primed to be a beneficiary as synthetic fertilizers, which have harmful effects on the environment such as groundwater contamination, are replaced with bio-fertilizers which are environmentally friendly. Unlike synthetic fertilizers which are mostly fossil fuel based, bio-fertilizers are mostly derived from plants, and other organic residues such as animal waste.

The global bio-fertilizer market was valued at US$ 946.6 million in 2015 and the market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 14.08% between 2016 and 2022, according to forecasts from research firm MarketsAndMarkets.

The demand is underpinned by growing demand for organic food (which comprises just about 2% of total agriculture produced globally), and a growing need for sustainable agriculture (about 30% of land globally is considered degraded according to analysis by research firm Boston Consulting Group and 28% of cropland (including 56% of irrigated cropland) is in water stressed regions).

London-based bio-fertilizer startup Bio-F Solutions is an exciting startup to watch in this promising sector. Founded by a team of staff and students from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, the startup is pioneering a bio-fertilizer made of algae which contains microorganisms that remove naturally occurring nitrogen in the atmosphere and ‘fix’ it in the soil thereby enriching the soil enabling it to be used for new crops.

Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, also known as NPK, are the “Big 3” primary nutrients in commercial fertilizers, of which nitrogen is considered to be most important nutrient as plants absorb more nitrogen than any other nutrient. This is because nitrogen is essential to the formation of protein which is a key building block of the tissues of most livings things.

Bar chart showing world demand for fertilizer nutrient use, 2015-2020 (in thousand tons). Demand for nitrogen is expected to grow from 110 million tons in 2015 to 118 million tons by 2020, representing a CAGR of 1.5%. Demand for Phosphate is expected to grow from 41 million tons in 2015 to 46 million tons by 2020, representing a CAGR of 2.2%. Demand for Potash is expected to grow from 33 million tons in 2015 to 37 million tons in 2020, representing a CAGR of 2.4%. Data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Although nitrogen makes up 80% of the earth’s atmosphere, it is in a form that is unavailable to plants. For plants to absorb this key nutrient, atmospheric nitrogen must be ‘fixed’ through methods such as crop rotation, green manure or compost. Bio-F Solutions’ algae-based fertilizer takes advantage of microorganisms present in algae (free-living bacteria which includes the cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algea), which are naturally capable of transforming atmospheric nitrogen into fixed nitrogen which are usable by plants.

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Increasing Global Electrification Offers Growth Opportunity For Power Utilities

Bar chart showing the total number of connected devices 2015-2025 (estimate) (in billions of connected devices). In 2015, the number of active connected devices amounted to nearly 14 billion. By 2025, this is expected to grow to over 34 billion, with non-IoT devices (which includes all mobile phones, laptops, tablets , PCs and fixed line phones) amounting to 12.7 billion connected devices and IoT devices (which includes all B2B devices) amounting to 21.5 billion connected devices.

Promising growth opportunities for power utilities as increasing global electrification as a result of rising electricity penetration and usage in emerging markets, greater usage of technologies such as IoT and AI, and the electrification of the transport sector could propel electricity demand in the long term.

Global electricity demand could be set to increase in the long term driven by rising electric vehicle ownership, data centers, and economic growth in emerging markets which could help offset drags to electricity demand from energy efficiency which faces diminishing returns.  According to analysis from Bloomber NEF, global electricity demand is expected to increase 57% by 2050, reaching around 38,700 terawatt-hours from 25,000 terawatt-hours in 2017 driving new investment in power generating capacity. Meanwhile Norway-based quality assurance and risk management company DNV GL foresees electricity’s share of the global energy mix to more than double to 45% in 2050.

The Information Technology Revolution

The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) revolution is electricity intensive, with approximately 3%-5% of the world’s electricity in 2015 being consumed by the ICT technology sector, according to a research paper published by Swedish researcher Anders Andrae, mostly through huge power-hungry data centers (also known as ‘server farms’). Without dramatic increases in efficiency, the communications industry is expected to use 20% of the world’s electricity by 2020 according to Anders Andrae as more people come online, and technologies such as smartphones, cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), which require computer power, play an increasingly pivotal role in an increasingly digitized world.

A 2018 report by Hootsuite and We Are Social found that in 2017 about 4 billion people around the world use the internet (a 7% increase compared to 2016), with nearly a quarter of a billion people coming online for the first time in 2017. Africa saw the highest growth rate with the number of internet users across the continent increasing by more than 20%, driven by affordable smartphones and data plans. But that leaves a little less than half of the world’s nearly eight billion people without access to internet, and as they come online in the future, electricity demand should increase in tandem. US researchers expect power consumption to triple in the next five years as one billion more people come online in developing countries, and technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence, driverless cars, and robots, grow in usage in developed nations.

While the emergence of the Internet of Things (a system which connects everyday things such as cars and home appliances to the internet enabling them to collect and share data), could potentially offer energy saving opportunities (as the data generated from these IoT devices could be used to devise energy saving technologies, and energy saving programs to reduce energy demand), it is not clear whether these would be enough to offset the increase in electricity usage from the proliferation of billions of electricity-powered IoT devices worldwide as well as the electricity-powered data centers necessary to analyze and store the data generated from these IoT devices. The sheer number of active IoT devices expected to be in use in the future far exceeds the number of smartphones, and tablets used currently; IoT Analytics reports that the number of connected things (or IoT devices) in use worldwide has reached 7 billion in 2018, and this is expected to triple to 21.5 billion devices by 2025, which is about twice the number of non-IoT devices (i.e., smartphones, laptops, tablets etc) in use in 2018.

Bar chart showing the total number of connected devices 2015-2025 (estimate) (in billions of connected devices). In 2015, the number of active connected devices amounted to nearly 14 billion. By 2025, this is expected to grow to over 34 billion, with non-IoT devices (which includes all mobile phones, laptops, tablets , PCs and fixed line phones) amounting to 12.7 billion connected devices and IoT devices (which includes all B2B devices) amounting to 21.5 billion connected devices.

While some IoT devices such as sensors may use fractional amounts of electricity, others such as connected vehicles for instance, consume considerably greater amounts of electricity. And it is not just the physical devices themselves that require electricity to operate, but also the bi-directional data transfer between IoT devices, and servers in the network; according to figures from Roger Nichols, 5g Program Manager at Keysight Technologies, it takes approximately 2kWh to download one Gigabyte of data over the internet (which is equivalent to using a 2000watt steam iron continuously for an hour). Meanwhile a 2012 paper by EnerNOC Utility Solutions found that it takes about 5.12 kWh to download one Gigabyte of data with data centers accounting for 48% of the power consumed, end users accounting for 38% and the transport network accounting for the balance 14%.

Pie chart showing the energy usage breakdown to download one Gigabyte of data over the internet (in kWh per GB). The total energy required to download one GB of data is about 5 kWh per GB, with data centers accounting for 48% (equal to 2.47 kWh), end users accounting for 38% (1.96 kWh) and transportation accounting for the balance 14% (0.70 kWh).

Similar to IoT, the rapid rise of Artificial Intelligence could help reduce power consumption in certain cases; for instance, Google is reportedly using DeepMind AI to reduce energy consumption in its data centers by as much as 30%. However, as AI technologies increasingly permeate important sectors like healthcare, communication, transport, business, finance, and education, it remains to be seen whether this could offset higher power consumption as a result of the greater usage of AI-powered devices (from low-power devices such as voice-operated AI assistants such as Amazon Echo, and Google Home, to relatively high-power machines such as autonomous cars), and increased data center workloads to process and store the massive data volumes (the raw material of AI) required for these AI solutions to function. According to a publication by Seagate, the amount of data created worldwide will grow to 163 zettabytes (ZB) by 2025, which is ten times the amount produced in 2017. The report also reveals that by 2025, 75% of the population will be connected, creating and interacting with data. Meanwhile, IDC expects that the “average rate per capita of data-driven interactions per day is expected to increase 20-fold in the next decade as our homes, workplaces, appliances, vehicles, wearables, and implants become data enabled”. A self-driving car for instance, gathers and analyzes tremendous quantities of data about the environment to navigate and drive the vehicle. This requires massive computing power which in turn is drawn from huge amounts of electricity. According to auto parts supplier BorgWarner Inc, some of today’s prototypes for fully autonomous vehicles consume two to four kilowatts of electricity – which is equivalent to the energy consumed by 50-100 laptops.

Economic growth in emerging markets

In 2017, world electricity demand increased 3.1% or 780 TWh significantly higher than the overall increase in world energy demand according to figures from the International Energy Agency (IEA). China and India together accounted for 70% of this growth while another 10% came from other emerging economies in Asia, largely due to rapid economic growth. In China, electricity demand grew 6% (or 360 TWh) on the back of a roaring economy which grew 7%, while India saw electricity demand rise 12% (or 180 TWh), far outpacing the country’s GDP growth rate of 7% for the year 2017.

Yet, there is still ample potential for growth. Although electricity penetration is 100% in China (the world’s largest electricity producer) according to the World Bank, electricity per capita stands at just 4.28 MWh per person, considerably lower than Canada (14.84 MWh per person), the United States (12.83 MWh per person), Oman (7.00 MWh per person), and Russia (6.71 MWh per person) as of 2016 according to figures from the IEA.

Bar chart showing the electricity consumption per capita, top 15 countries, 2016 (MWh per person). Iceland had the highest electricity consumption per capita at 53.91 MWh per person, followed by Norway (23.69 MWh per person), Bahrain (19.51 MWh per person), Qatar (15.48 MWh per person), Finland (15.47 MWh per person), Kuwait (15.28 MWh per person), Canada (14.84 MWh per person), Luxembourg (14.27 MWh per person), Sweden (13.76 MWh per person), United Arab Emirates (13.05 MWh per person), United States (12.83 MWh per person), Chinese Taipei (10.88 MWh per person), Korea (10.62 MWh per person), Australia (9.91 MWh per person), and Saudi Arabia (9.82 MWh per person) according to data from the International Energy Agency .

Bar chart showing the electricity consumption per capita, 2016, for selected emerging markets (MWh per person). Russia’s per capita electricity consumption is one of the highest among emerging markets at 6.71 MWh per person, followed by Malaysia (4.66 MWh per person), China (4.28 MWh per person),Chile (4.18 MWh per person),Hungary (4.18 MWh per person), South Africa (4.03 MWh per person), Turkey (3.11 MWh per person), Thailand (2.87 MWh per person), Brazil (2.5 MWh per person), Mexico (2.29 MWh per person), Egypt (1.78 MWh per person), Peru (1.46 MWh per person), Colombia (1.44 MWh per person), India (0.92 MWh per person), Indonesia (0.87 MWh per person), and the Philippines (0.8 MWh per person) according to data from the International Energy Agency.

Thus, electricity demand from the Middle Kingdom will come from increased electrification of the economy such as transport (by 2040, the IEA expects about 25% of vehicles on Chinese roads are expected to be electric, up from less than 10% in 2018), and consumption (the IEA foresees that by 2040, the average Chinese household will consume nearly twice as much electricity as today), and manufacturing which, at 4,441 TWh accounted for 70% – the biggest share – of China’s electricity consumption in 2017 according to statistics from China’s National Energy Administration.

Pie chart showing China’s electricity consumption by sector in 2017 (in GWh and % of total electricity consumption). At 4,441,300 GWh (equivalent to 70%), China’s secondary industry accounted for the biggest share of the country’s electricity consumption in 2017. Tertiary industry consumed 881,400 GWh (14%), households consumed 869,500 GWh (14%) and primary industry consumed 115,500 GWh (2%) according to data from the China National Energy Administration.

In the manufacturing sector, rising electrification of energy-intensive industries such as food and beverage, glass, pulp and paper, steel, and chemicals in the long run partly in response to the Chinese government’s aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the country’s rise up the manufacturing value-chain by adopting industrial robotics and other technologies requiring electricity such as cloud computing, AI and IoT as part of its “Made in China 2025” strategy, could propel electricity demand from China’s manufacturing sector, in what has been an ongoing trend; according to the IEA, China’s industrial sector electricity demand has increased approximately 9% annually, outpacing demand growth for all other fuels, pushing up electricity’s share of industrial energy consumption from about 10% in 1992 to 18% by 2012.

Meanwhile India (already the world’s third biggest producer and consumer of electricity behind the United States and China), is poised to emerge as a major growth driver for global electricity demand with the country’s electricity penetration at 84.5% as at 2016 according to data from the World Bank, leaving about 15% or 150 million of the country’s one plus billion citizens, most of whom are located in rural areas, without access to electricity – which would rank it among the world’s top ten most populous countries if Indians living without electricity were an independent country. Furthermore, India’s per capita electricity consumption is one of the lowest among emerging markets at just 0.92 MWh per person in 2016, which is lower than Peru (1.46 MWh per person), Egypt (1.78 MWH per person), and Mexico (2.29 MWh per person) according to IEA data.

The Indian government’s ambitious US$ 2.5 billion plan (known as the “Saubhagya scheme”) to electrify all Indian households has helped push up the country’s electricity penetration rate since the plan was announced in 2015, however with millions of Indians still lacking access to electricity, there is potential for further growth in electricity demand in the long run as these Indians gradually get connected to the grid.

India’s power consumption is expected to more than quadruple by 2035-2036 driven by increasing electricity penetration, industrial expansion, and greater economic growth which will contribute to rising per capita income which in turn will push consumption of electric appliances such as air-conditioners as consumer incomes increase.

Electrification of the transport sector worldwide

Accounting for about 27% (equal to about 25 million barrels per day) of 2016 global oil consumption (estimated at 94 million barrels per day), the road transport sector is the single biggest consumer of oil according to data from the International Energy Agency.

Pie chart showing global oil demand by sector, 2016 (% share). At 27%, the Passenger Vehicle sector accounted for the biggest share of global oil consumption in 2016, followed by Freight (17%), Petchem Feedstocks (12%), Other (12%), Buildings (8%), Aviation (6%), Steam & Process Heat (6%), Power Generation (6%), and Maritime (5%) according to data from the International Energy Agency.

However with Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles being gradually replaced by Electric Vehicles (EVs), the global road transport sector is becoming increasingly electrified which could result in a decline in fossil fuel’s share of global oil demand while electricity demand increases, suggesting a bright future in the long term for power utilities.

Several factors could serve as growth drivers for the electric vehicle industry. Electric vehicles convert about 90% or more of their energy into moving the vehicle and thus due to their low energy loss, electric vehicles are generally viewed as more energy efficient than conventional vehicles which convert a maximum of 35% of their energy into moving the vehicle.

Furthermore, as the impacts of climate change such as global warming become increasingly severe, there is a growing sense of urgency to take steps to mitigate its effects. Renewable energy has been identified as a key solution to tackle climate change and as renewables gradually displace conventional fossil fuels in electricity generation (fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas currently account for over two-thirds of electricity generation worldwide according to the International Energy Agency), the electrification of the transport sector which could help decarbonize the sector by reducing its dependence on oil, is expected to follow, helped in part by strong policy support (a number of countries such as France and Britain have announced plans to phase out fossil fuel vehicle sales) and falling costs of components such as EV batteries (analysis from Mack Institute show that EV battery costs have declined 16% annually between 2007 and 2017).

This is reflected in optimistic projections for EV numbers going forward. EVs currently make up a small proportion of the global car fleet (as of 2017 just 1.3% of all the vehicles in the world are electric according to analysis from McKinsey), however, their share is rising as EV sales steadily increase.

Bar chart showing global passenger electric vehicle sales from 2012 to 2018 (estimated) (in thousands of units). In 2017, 1.09 million electric vehicles were sold worldwide, up from 695 thousand in 2016, 448 thousand in 2015, 289 thousand in 2014, 206 thousand in 2013 and 122 thousand in 2012 according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. For 2018, electric vehicle sales are estimated to be 1.59 million.

Consequently, EV’s share of the global car fleet is expected to grow in the next two decades. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), just about 3.1 million passenger vehicles were electric in 2017, and this is expected to increase to 125 million by 2030. Meanwhile forecasts by DNL GL reveal that by 2042, half of the world’s fleet of road vehicles – light and heavy will be electric. Projections from BloombergNEF echo a similar view; by 2040, EVs are expected to make up 55% of new car sales and the total number of EVs is expected to reach 559 million, equal to 33% of the global car fleet.

As EVs displace fossil fuel-powered ICE vehicles in the years ahead, this opens a potential growth opportunity for power utilities as the transport sector’s oil demand is replaced with electricity. The International Energy Agency foresees oil demand being cut by 3.3 million barrels per day by 2040 thanks to a projected 300 million EVs on the road. According to BloombergNEF, EVs displaced 17.8 thousand barrels of oil per day as of the end of 2016. Going forward BloombergNEF expects electrified buses and cars will displace a combined 7.3 million barrels per day of transportation fuel in 2040.

Bar chart showing fuel displaced by EVs on the road (in thousand barrels a day) in between 2011 and 2017 (estimated). 17.8 thousand barrels of oil were displaced by EVs as of the end of 2016, up from 10.1 thousand barrels per day in 2015, 5.8 thousand barrels per day in 2014, 2.9 thousand barrels per day in 2013, 1.2 thousand barrels per day in 2012 and 0.3 thousand barrels per day in 2011. 28.4 thousand barrels per day are expected to be displaced by EVs in 2018 according to figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

While the rise of EVs serves as a drag to oil demand, the opposite is true for electricity. Electricity demand from EVs worldwide (which is equal to just about 0.2% of total global electricity consumption in 2017) has been increasing over the past few years and this trend is expected to continue as the global EV fleet grows. The IEA estimates global electricity demand from all EVs increased 21% over 2016 to reach about 54 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2017, an amount which is slightly higher than Greece’s electricity demand.

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Southeast Asia E-Commerce: Opportunity and Optimism Abound

Southeast Asia digital spend by category, 2016 (US$ billions)

Rising internet penetration, a young population, and rising incomes are pushing Southeast Asian shoppers online, thereby opening exciting opportunities for business and investment.

Southeast Asia’s 655 million plus population is increasingly migrating towards a digital-centric lifestyle, going online to conduct day-to-day activities such as shopping, entertainment, payments, and transport. Driven by an expanding middle class and a youthful, tech savvy population (about 43% of Southeast Asia’s inhabitants are aged 24 years and below according to data from the CIA), this evolution of consumer culture is expected to drive the region’s internet economy in the years ahead and e-commerce has emerged as one of the top categories for digital spending according to Bain & Company; of the region’s estimated US$ 50 billion internet economy in 2016, e-commerce accounted for US$ 15 billion or 30%, second only to travel and tourism which accounted for US$ 22 billion (equal to about 44%) of digital spending.

Southeast Asia digital spend by category, 2016 (US$ billions)

The dynamism is reflected in the growth numbers with Southeast Asia’s e-commerce sales of first-hand goods reaching US$ 10.9 billion in 2017, up from US$ 5.5 billion in 2015, representing a CAGR of 41% according to data from Google and Temasek’s “e-Conomy SEA Spotlight 2017” report.

Yet, there is still plenty of growth potential. With just about 390 million people in Southeast Asia connected to the internet, (making it the world’s third biggest internet population), internet penetration in the region stands at about 59%, thereby offering an untapped market of over 200 million people.

Bar chart showing the population of internet users and non-internet users in Southeast Asia by country as at December 2017. Indonesia had the highest number of internet users (143.26 million people) as well as the highest number of non-internet users (123.53 million people). After Indonesia, countries with the highest number of internet users are as follows: Philippines (67 million), Vietnam (64 million), Thailand (57 million), Malaysia (25.08 million), Myanmar (18 million), Cambodia (8.01 million), Singapore (4.84 million), Laos (2.44 million), Brunei (0.41 million) and Timor Leste (0.41 million).

And among this army of internet users, just a handful of them are active online shoppers and e-commerce accounts for just about 1% of total retail sales for most countries in Southeast Asia according to a report by ResearchAndMarkets. In Singapore, one of the region’s most mature e-commerce markets, online sales made up just 2.1% of total retail sales in 2015 – the highest proportion among Southeast Asian countries according to a report by Google and Temasek. This compared with China where e-commerce accounted for about 12.1% of total retail sales in 2015, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Unsurprisingly, there is an air of optimism about Southeast Asia’s e-commerce growth prospects and the region is expected to be the next rising star of e-commerce in Asia. Asia-Pacific e-commerce sales grew 31.1% in 2017, according to data from eMarketer, however nearly 83% of those sales came from China alone, the world’s biggest e-commerce market. Japan, South Korea and India make up the top four e-commerce markets in Asia-Pacific, which leaves Southeast Asia as the next frontier for e-commerce growth thereby opening opportunities for business and investment in the region. BMI Research projects Southeast Asia’s e-commerce sales to explode from US$ 37.7 billion in 2017 to US$ 64.8 billion by 2021, representing a CAGR of 14.5%.

Indonesia

Boasting the fourth largest population in the world, the largest population of internet users and the largest economy in Southeast Asia, Indonesia is often touted as one of the most promising e-commerce markets in the region.

Indonesia’s e-commerce market was valued at US$ 8 billion in 2017 according to McKinsey and the market is forecast to grow eight-fold to US$ 55-65 billion by 2022, representing a grand CAGR of over 45% driven by increasing internet penetration and a growing consumer class; just about 53% of the country’s 260 million plus population is connected to the internet, leaving an unconnected population of over 120 million, and the country’s consumer class is projected to grow from 45 million in 2010 to 135 million by 2030 according to analysis by McKinsey Global Institute which represents huge potential for internet retailers.

With e-commerce accounting for 1.6% of Indonesia’s total retail sales as of 2016 (compared with 13% in China the same year) according to a report by AusTrade, and with just 15% (equal to about 30 million) of Indonesia’s adult population of 195 million being active online shoppers as of 2017, Indonesia’s e-commerce market, already the largest in Southeast Asia, is still at an infant stage of development and these driving forces are expected to propel the number of Indonesian online shoppers to 43.9 million people by 2022 and Indonesia’s online sales are expected to make up about 20% of total retail sales by 2020 according to estimates by Indonesia’s Trade Ministry. ResearchAndMarkets released a year 2018 report which foresees Indonesia to have the highest e-commerce growth rate in the region through 2025, and the potential has lured the likes of e-commerce giants Amazon, Alibaba who are aiming to capture a slice of this ever-growing pie which is currently dominated by homegrown head honcho Tokopedia with a 14% market share according to data from CLSA. Tokopedia is followed by Singapore-rebased Shopee with a market share of 11%, Bukalapak and Alibaba-backed Lazada with 6% each. 28% is taken up by other e-commerce platforms (such as Zalora, Blibli, MatahariMall and China’s JD.com-owned JD.id) while 36% of Indonesian online sales is generated by social media platforms, (notably Facebook and Instagram) and messaging apps (such as Whatsapp).

Part of the reason for the rise of social commerce in Indonesia could be attributed to a few factors; Indonesians are avid social media users (according to Hootsuite, Indonesia has the world’s fourth biggest population of Facebook users, and the world’s fourth biggest population of Instagram users, and according to Twitter, Indonesia has the world’s fifth biggest population of Twitter users), and Indonesian online shoppers seem to have a preference for interacting one-on-one with the seller prior to making a purchase. Banking on this consumer culture, a number of Indonesian SMEs began selling their wares online using available online channels such as social media, way before e-commerce platforms became ubiquitous. As a result, social commerce developed before e-commerce websites became mainstream with social commerce accounting for as much as 50% of online sales in Indonesia before dropping to 36% in 2017 as e-commerce websites gained traction.

While e-commerce is gathering momentum among Indonesian online shoppers, quite the opposite is taking place in China, the world’s biggest e-commerce market, where social commerce is gradually taking root and finding its place alongside well-entrenched e-tailing websites. Barely three years old, Pinduoduo, a Chinese social commerce platform launched in 2015, filed for an IPO this year, raising US$ 1.6 billion in what was the second-biggest Chinese IPO in the United States.

Hence, if the ongoing evolution of the relatively more mature Chinese e-commerce is anything to by, social commerce is likely to remain a formidable channel in Indonesia’s e-commerce sector going forward. However, the growth opportunity for dedicated e-commerce platforms could be more exciting as they potentially continue taking up market share from social media platforms. According to McKinsey, Indonesian online sales through e-commerce websites is forecast to grow eight-fold from US$ 5 billion in 2017 to US$ 40 billion by 2022 while online sales from social media is expected to rise about five-fold or so from US$ 3 billion in 2017 to US$ 15-25 billion by 2022.

Bar chart showing Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) in Indonesia’s e-commerce market in 2017 and 2022 (forecast) (US$ billions). In 2017, Indonesia’s total GMV was estimated at over US$ 8 billion with about US$ 5 billion being generated by e-tailing websites and over US$ 3 billion being generated by social commerce channels. By 2022, Indonesia’s GMV is forecast to grow to US$ 55065 billion with US$ 40 billion being generated by e-tailing websites and US$ 15-25 billion being generated by social commerce channels.

So far, certain categories have been high flyers in Indonesia’s e-commerce growth wave. Much like in other Asian e-commerce markets such as India, Indonesian online shopping baskets tend to contain products in Fashion (the leading product category as per one market survey); Electronics & Media; Furniture & Appliances; Food & Personal Care; and Toys, Hobby & DIY product categories.

Although integrated e-commerce platforms such as Tokopedia, Lazada, and Blibli have been taking the limelight, specialist e-commerce websites that cater to these popular product niches are also showing promise. Seven-year old Islamic fashion e-tailing startup Hijup for instance, was ranked 20th in the number of visits to e-commerce sites in Indonesia in the second quarter of 2018 with a monthly average of 930,000 visits and has topped the list as the most followed e-commerce business on Instagram.

Much like the ongoing evolution of mature e-commerce markets such as China and India, where a proliferation of specialist e-tailing websites such as China’s Gome and Vipshop (which specialize in home ware and fashion respectively), and India’s Pepperfry and Ajio.com (which specialize in furniture and fashion respectively) take market share from integrated e-commerce bigwigs such as Alibaba in China and Flipkart in India, there is tremendous long term growth opportunity for such specialist sites in Indonesia as the country’s e-commerce market matures.

Indonesia’s largest luxury retailer, Masari Group appears to have spotted one such gap; luxury fashion. Although Indonesia isn’t particularly noted for its affluent class (unlike India or China for instance where swelling high income consumers has given birth to a burgeoning luxury fashion e-commerce market), the country is seeing a steady growth in its population of affluent consumers. And yet, there is no clear e-commerce platform for luxury fashion and unlike in India or China where existing e-commerce players are adding a luxury fashion component to their respective websites (Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart’s fashion arm Jabong for instance is piloting a ‘Jabong Luxe Store’ while Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba launched ‘Luxury Pavilion’, an invite-only platform for premium and luxury brands to strut their stuff) so far there has yet to be such a move towards a dedicated platform for luxury brands by Indonesian e-commerce websites. Sensing an opportunity to offer an avenue for the country’s affluent demographic to shop online for high-end fashion wear, accessories, and shoes, Masari Group launched an e-commerce website showcasing products from brands such as Les Petits Joueurs, Rodo, Dorateymur to name a few.

Malaysia

A young, tech-savvy population with relatively high incomes, and a strong infrastructure make Malaysia a potentially lucrative e-commerce market.

As Malaysians increasingly turn to online channels for their shopping needs, e-commerce has been steadily growing its share of Malaysia’s GDP; e-commerce’s share of Malaysia’s GDP stood at 6.1% or RM 74.6 billion in 2016 according to Malaysia’s Statistics Department, up from 5.9% or RM 68.3 billion of in 2015. Online sales made up about 2.5% of Malaysia’s total retail sales in 2015 and the figure is expected to reach 4%-5% this year according to online deal website 11street. A 2016 report by yStats foresees Malaysia’s e-commerce sales jumping five-fold by 2025.

Several factors suggest that Malaysia, Southeast Asia’s fourth-largest economy according to data from the IMF is at an inflection point of e-commerce growth; internet penetration stands at about 78% as at December 2017, according to data from Internet World Stats, the country’s middle class is expanding (Malaysia, ranked third among Southeast Asian nations in terms of GDP per capita by PPP as of 2017 according to figures from the CIA, and incomes are rising among Malaysia’s youthful population (the median age of the country’s population is 28.5 as of 2017 according to the CIA, making it the country with the sixth-youngest population in Southeast Asia, younger than Thailand (median age: 37.7), Singapore (34.6), Indonesia (30.2), Vietnam (30.5), and Brunei (30.2). And with about 45% of the country’s population aged 24 and below according to data from the CIA, the long term outlook for Malaysia’s online sales growth is bright as these tech-savvy youngsters rise up the income ladder.

Although pundits point out that Malaysia’s logistic infrastructure may pose a bottleneck to the country’s burgeoning e-commerce sector, it is still worth noting that regionally Malaysia’s infrastructure is second only to Singapore according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index 2017-2018. This could make delivery quality, speed and costs relatively more competitive in Malaysia compared to regional peers, which could better enable Malaysian e-tailers to profitably offer free shipping (an important advantage in an era where free shipping is increasingly becoming a competitive necessity) which incentivizes buyers to spend more money shopping online and thereby propel the domestic e-commerce market forward.

Bar chart showing the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index, 2017-2018 Infrastructure score for selected Southeast Asian nations. Singapore ranks highest with a score of 6.5, followed by Malaysia (5.5), Thailand (4.7), Indonesia (4.5), Brunei (4.3), Vietnam (3.9), Philippines (3.4), Laos (3.3) and Cambodia (3.1)

With the e-commerce space in Malaysia seemingly ripe for the taking, competition is heating up among e-tailers both foreign and local for a share of the pie. The horizontal e-commerce space is crowded with well-established players dominating the arena such as Alibaba-backed Lazada, Singapore-based Shopee, and homegrown e-commerce pioneer Lelong. Competition could get stiffer in the years ahead with deep-pocketed e-commerce heavyweights such as Amazon (which has already established operations in neighboring Singapore) and Chinese e-tailer JD.com (which has tied up with retail giant Walmart to tackle the Southeast Asian market) potentially setting up shop in Malaysia.

Vertical e-commerce however offers ample opportunity. Similar to most e-commerce markets, Fashion is the leading online shopping category in Malaysia, and there has been a blossoming of a number of local and international fashion and fashion-related platforms, the success of which minted a fair number of millionaire founders. Homegrown online beauty store Hermo was acquired by Japanese beauty portal iStyle, netting Gobi Partners (Hermo’s ex-investors) a 91% Internal Rate of Return (IRR) in just one and a half years. Meanwhile Fashion Valet, another homegrown fashion e-commerce platform successfully closed its Series C round this year with an investment from Malaysia’s main sovereign fund Khazanah.

Apart from Fashion, other popular categories include Electronics; and Sports & Hobbies. Opportunities exist in other verticals which are tremendously popular offline but have yet to established online. Furniture is one example; Malaysia’s furniture market has grown in along with the growth of the country’s middle class and the country’s has a vibrant furniture industry, currently ranked as the world’s eighth largest furniture exporter as of 2017 and has a target of being among the world’s top five furniture exporters by 2022.

While horizontal e-marketplaces such as Lazada and Rakuten sell furniture online, specialist online furniture marketplaces are a relatively new concept in Malaysia and there is so far no dominant specialist furniture e-commerce site in Malaysia as is found in other countries such as Pepperfy and Urban Ladder in India, and Wayfair(NYSE:W) in the United States. Malaysian furniture online stores iHias and Apver could be poised to ride this potential.

Vietnam

With its relatively high internet penetration rate, youthful, tech-savvy workforce, and rising status as a low-cost manufacturing hotspot, Vietnam’s e-commerce sector could be one of the hottest growth stories in the region propelled by domestic as well as cross-border e-commerce.

With about 64 million of its approximately 96 million population connected to the internet (reflecting an internet penetration of about 67% according to data from Internet World Stats) and about 40% of the population aged 24 and below (the median age is 30.5) according to the CIA, Vietnam’s e-commerce market, which accounts for a meager 1% of the country’s total retail sales is a growth opportunity. Online sales grew 25% in 2017 to US$ 1.75 billion up from US$ 1.4 billion in 2016 according to data from Statista, driven by its young, tech-savvy workforce who happen to be among the most frequent online shoppers in Southeast Asia. According to the Visa Consumer Payment Attitudes Study 2017, Vietnamese were the second most frequent online shoppers with 84% of the 517 Vietnamese respondents saying they shopped online at least once a month, behind only the Thai respondents, 85% of which shopped online at least once a month.

And although challenges such as a relatively weak logistics weak infrastructure network (Vietnam ranks sixth out of nine selected Southeast Asian countries in terms of infrastructure according to the world Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index, and logistics costs account for about 21% of Vietnam’s GDP as of 2016 according to figures from the World Bank) and low online payments penetration continue to dog Vietnam’s e-commerce sector, they have not deterred e-commerce behemoths such as Lazada, Amazon, JD.com and Shopee who, clearly playing the long game, continue to invest heavily as they race to capture market share in the Vietnam’s burgeoning online retail market. Euromonitor projects Vietnam’s e-commerce market to expand from US$ 1 billion in 2016 to US$ 2.3 billion by 2020, representing a CAGR of over 23%.

Like most other e-commerce markets around the world, fashion is the leading product category, with Vietnam’s working class women who have money to spend but little time to stop by every store, instead peruse a variety of online stores at the convenience of their internet-enabled devices to hunt for clothes, handbags, shoes and fashion accessories. Fashion is the most product popular category not just on e-commerce portals but also on social commerce channels such as Facebook.

Bar chart showing the most popular categories among online shoppers in e-commerce platforms and social commerce platforms according to a 2017 survey by Q&Me Vietnam Market Research. Fashion was the most popular category with 73% of e-commerce shoppers and 68% of social commerce shoppers spending the most on fashion products over the past 12 months. Fashion was followed by IT / Mobile phones, Food and beverage, Cosmetics, Kitchen appliances, Books / Stationery, Sports goods, Ticketing, Supplements / Functional foods, Consumer electronics, SPA / Beauty services, Flowers and plants, Music / Video.

After fashion, IT products, cosmetics, food and beverages, and books and stationery according to a 2017 survey conducted by Vietnamese market research firm Q&Me. While there is clearly tremendous potential for Vietnam’s domestic e-commerce market going forward, the more exciting part of the story however is Vietnam’s rising status as a manufacturing hotspot and the implications this status has on e-commerce. As manufacturing costs rise in China as result of rising costs of labor and land among others, a number of China-based manufacturers are shifting some or all of their manufacturing facilities away to other countries, a strategy known as the “China+1” production model. Thanks to its geographical advantage of being located close to China, Vietnam (particularly northern Vietnamese provinces such as Hai Phong) has been a major beneficiary of this trend, which has had the effect of widening the country’s manufacturing base, and boosting the area’s GDP and real estate demand. Vietnam’s ascent has a manufacturing hotspot gives the country’s local businesses an advantage in selling to the global market, which suggests bright prospects for Vietnam’s cross-border e-commerce sector.

Global e-tailing giant Amazon has clearly noticed Vietnam’s potential in this space. This year, Amazon announced a partnership with the Vietnam E-Commerce Association (VECOM) to allow local and small and medium-sized enterprises to sell and export Vietnamese-made goods through the platform. Alibaba-backed Lazada has also jumped into the ring with the company revealing that it was developing tools to help sellers peddle their wares to Southeast Asian countries in which Lazada has operations such as Malaysia. Tiki.vn, backed by Chinese e-tailer JD.com has launched a cross-border e-commerce channel, “Tiki Global”, to enable consumers to purchase foreign products directly from foreign manufacturers.

Philippines

In a country where logistics infrastructure is lacking and shopping malls function as “destinations” whereby they represent more than just places to shop, dine and entertain friends, but also serve as places of worship, workout classes and more, e-commerce may not necessarily displace Philippines’s plethora of shopping malls in the near term. The long term outlook however for online retailing in Southeast Asia’s second most populous country is a lot more exciting.

Retailing is big business in the Philippines with the country being home to three of the top 10 largest malls in the world in terms of Gross Leasable Area according to a ranking compiled by WorldAtlas. For Filippinos however, shopping malls are not just places to shop, dine, watch movies and hang out with friends; shopping malls also function as places to pay bills, worship, workout (such as Zumba classes), conduct government transactions (such as applying for driver’s licenses and business permits) and more.

With shopping malls performing an ever-growing list of functions to cater to a shopping lifestyle somewhat unique to the Philippines, the rise of e-commerce may not necessarily spell the demise of the country’s shopping malls (at least in the near term) as has been the case in the west. Furthermore with Philippines being a notable infrastructure laggard (the country’s logistics infrastructure network that is among the weakest among Southeast Asian nations), the resulting relatively uncompetitive delivery charges could be a turn off to the country’s price conscious shoppers (at about US$ 8,300 per person Philippines’ income per capita is also among the lowest in the ASEAN region according to data from the CIA) which means online retailers may be compelled to absorb bulk of the delivery cost at the expense of their bottom lines. This challenge may impede Philippines’ e-commerce sector from achieving its fullest potential going forward.

Bar chart showing the 2017 GDP per capita (Purchasing Power Parity) among Southeast Asian nations according to data from the Central Intelligence Agency. At US$ 93,900 per person, Singapore had the highest GDP per capita. Singapore was followed by Brunei (US$ 78,200), Malaysia (US$ 29,000), Thailand (US$ 17,900), Indonesia (US$ 12,400), Philippines (US$ 8,300), Laos (US$ 7,400), Vietnam (US$ 6,900), Myanmar (US$ 6,200), Timor Leste (US$ 5,400) and Cambodia (US$ 4,000).

Although the near term view for Philippines’s online retail market may not appear to be as potentially lucrative compared to regional peers such as Indonesia or Vietnam, that however does not necessarily reflect a lack of long term potential. With just about 1% of Philippines’s total retail sales coming from e-commerce in 2017 according to The Philippine Retailers Association, and with the country expected to overcome its infrastructure inadequacies over the next decade through development programs such as the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program, Philippines’ e-commerce businesses could be set to ride a wave of growth in the long term in a market that could prove to be one of the biggest in Southeast Asia; among Southeast Asian nations, Philippines has the second largest population (estimated at over 100 million in 2017 according to data from the CIA), the second largest population of internet users (estimated at 67 million in 2017 according to Internet World Stats), and the second-youngest population with a median age of 23.5 (behind Timor Leste where the median age is 18.9 according to data from the CIA).

Like many other e-commerce markets in Southeast Asia, Philippines’ online retail sector is driven by its youth and as this tech-savvy generation climbs up the income ladder in the years ahead, there is tremendous growth potential for online consumption growth. Unsurprisingly, a report by Google and Temasek projects Philippines’ e-commerce sector to be worth US$ 19 billion by 2025, overtaking Malaysia and Singapore.

 

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Opportunities In Philippines’s Multi-Billion Dollar Infrastructure Bonanza

Pie chart showing 2017 FDI inflow into the Philippines, share by industry (%). The largest share of FDI inflows to the Philippines went to the electricity, gas, steam and AC industry (42.4%), followed by Manufacturing (35.2%), Real estate activities (7.6%), Construction (4.9%), and Finance and insurance (4.2%) while the balance 5.6% was taken up by other industries.

President Duterte’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ (BBB) project, an ambitious infrastructure program that will see US$ 180 billion being spent over the next decade towards building much needed roads, dams, bridges, airports, seaports and more in the Philippines is expected to push Philippines’s infrastructure spending from 6.3% of GDP this year to 7.3% by 2022 helping close the infrastructure gap between the Philippines and other countries; in the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Competitiveness Index, the Philippines ranks 97th out of 137 nations in terms of infrastructure ranking, lagging behind most of its Southeast Asian neighbors according to the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Competitiveness Report.

Bar chart showing the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index, 2017-2018 Infrastructure score for selected Southeast Asian nations. Singapore ranks highest with a score of 6.5, followed by Malaysia (5.5), Thailand (4.7), Indonesia (4.5), Brunei (4.3), Vietnam (3.9), Philippines (3.4), Laos (3.3) and Cambodia (3.1)

The latest World Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey also revealed that inadequate supply of infrastructure is considered to be the second most problematic factor for doing business in the Philippines (inefficient government bureaucracy was rated as the number one problematic factor for doing business).

Philippines’s infrastructure challenge and the government’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ initiative which aims to usher in a “golden age of infrastructure” opens numerous avenues for business and investment for locals as well as foreigners. Business and investment opportunities in Philippines’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ program is attracting foreign investor interest, with the country enjoying record high FDI in 2017 which reached US$ 10.05 billion, a 21% YoY increase. Direct equity investment for local companies which made up 32% total FDI inflows, increased 26% YoY, much of which were channeled towards electricity, gas, steam and air-conditioning supply; construction; manufacturing; and real estate activities.

Pie chart showing 2017 FDI inflow into the Philippines, share by industry (%). The largest share of FDI inflows to the Philippines went to the electricity, gas, steam and AC industry (42.4%), followed by Manufacturing (35.2%), Real estate activities (7.6%), Construction (4.9%), and Finance and insurance (4.2%) while the balance 5.6% was taken up by other industries.

Numerous opportunities exist for local and foreign players in areas such as design engineering, cement and construction equipment, noteworthy opportunities are discussed below.

Cement

At about 212 kilograms per person (as of 2014), Philippines has one of the lowest per capita cement consumption compared to its ASEAN counterparts, and is about half the global average per capita cement consumption. However, that figure is set to improve as President Duterte’s Golden Age of Infrastructure which includes building six airports, 32 roads and bridges and a number of other developments such as bus rapid transits, industrial estates, and seaports drives domestic cement demand which is estimated to exceed 40 million metric tons by 2021, according to estimates from the Philippines’s Department of Trade and Industry. This is about double the quantity of Philippines’s current cement consumption which stood at 25.9 million metric tons in 2016.

This is a growth opportunity for cement firms such as LafargeHolcim, Cemex Holdings Philippines, Republic Cement and Eagle Cement Corporation. These four cement industry players account for about 80% and 82% of total clinker and cement domestic production, respectively.

German industrial giant Thyssenkrupp AG (ETR:TKA) expects its Philippines revenues to rise three-fold as a result of the country’s BBB initiative with much of that being driven by cement.

Cement producers are actively building capacity to capture a share of the country’s anticipated increase in cement demand. As of December 2016, the Philippine cement industry has an estimated annual clinker and cement capacity of 20.6 and 28.63 million tons, respectively, according to the 2017 Cement Market Report. The Philippine cement industry is estimated to need over 10 million tons of additional cement capacity to meet domestic cement demand until 2025. Unless local cement manufacturers increase capacity, the Philippines will have to fill the deficit through imports.

Construction equipment

According to BMI Research, Philippines’s construction industry is forecast to expand at an average real rate of 9.8% between 2017 and 2026, and the firm expects Philippines to be one of the fastest growing construction markets in Asia, which is expected to create heavy demand for construction equipment such as cranes, excavators and other heavy machinery, an opportunity companies such as Korean automotive firm Hyundai, Swedish auto firm Volvo, American heavy machinery giant Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) among others are aiming to capitalize on.

Hyundai Heavy Machineries dominates Philippines’s excavator market and is expanding capacity to participate in the government’s BBB program.

Volvo Construction Equipment, the second largest player in Philippines’s excavators market according to a 2016 report by Ken Research is aiming to supply construction equipment as well as trucks, and buses to help with the program.

American heavy machinery giant Caterpillar is bullish on heavy machinery opportunities from the BBB initiative such as supplying excavators.

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High-Flying Growth Prospects In India’s Domestic Travel Market

Bar chart showing domestic and foreign visits to Indian states, 2006-2016 (in millions of visits). Domestic visits to Indian states grew from 462.4 million in 2006 to 1,613.6 million in 2016 while foreign visits grew from 11.7 million in 2006 to 24.7 million in 2016.

Tourism is booming in India, and the industry is emerging as a key growth driver in India’s service sector. Much of the growth stems from India’s domestic tourism sector which has seen a steady increase in visits from domestic travelers over the past decade; domestic tourist visits (DTVs)  increased 12.7% to 1.613 billion in FY 2016, (the latest year for which data is available) according to statistics from India’s Ministry of Tourism.

Domestic tourist visits have consistently registered positive growth rates over the past decade; during 2006-2016 domestic tourist visits grew at double digit rates every year except in years 2008 and 2013 when growth was at single digits. This compares with foreign tourist visits which mostly saw single-digit growth and sometimes zero or negative growth. In 2012 for instance, foreign tourist visits registered negative 6% growth while domestic tourist visits jumped 20%.

The rise of India’s domestic visitor numbers has been a long term trend; during the period 1991-2016, domestic visits to all Indian states grew at a CAGR of 13.03%, far outpacing foreign visits which grew at a CAGR of 8.25% during the same period according to data from India’s Ministry of Tourism.

Bar chart showing domestic and foreign visits to Indian states, 2006-2016 (in millions of visits). Domestic visits to Indian states grew from 462.4 million in 2006 to 1,613.6 million in 2016 while foreign visits grew from 11.7 million in 2006 to 24.7 million in 2016.

Domestic travelers also account for the lion’s share of tourism earnings; India’s tourism industry contributes about 7% to India’s GDP, and domestic travelers accounted for 88% of the sector’s contribution to GDP in 2016.

India’s rising numbers of domestic tourists have largely been driven by an expanding middle class with rapidly increasing purchasing power (currently estimated at 250 million Indians and counting), infrastructure development, a growing fleet of low cost airlines, and initiatives such as the UDAN Regional Connectivity Scheme.

Yet, there is considerable potential for further growth as a result of demographic, regulatory and economic factors. The number of middle class Indians is small compared to China and their purchasing power is considerably lower than their Chinese counterparts. However, India continues to be the fastest growing major economy in the world and this is likely to remain so in the foreseeable future; the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts India’s Gross domestic Product (GDP) will grow at an average of more than 8% every year over the next five years and this should drive income growth. According to Global Insight Inc, some 150 million additional Indian households are due to achieve real PPP incomes of more than US$ 20,000 by 2026, almost triple the amount in 2016 and according to Steelcase Growth Market Research, India’s middle class population is expected to grow to around 475 million people by 2030.

India’s expanding middle class citizens are expected to drive India’s consumption expenditures to reach US$ 4 trillion by 2025, helping India emerge as the world’s third biggest consumer market by 2025 according to consultancy firm Boston Consulting Group.

India’s domestic tourism sector is also benefiting from an encouraging regulatory environment; the Indian government is planning to turbocharge the tourism sector with tax cuts, incentives, infrastructure development and more. The Union Budget 2018 focuses on expansion of airport infrastructure (a key constraint limiting air traffic growth in the country) and there are expectations of a reduction in hotel tariffs and tax exemptions on investments in new hotels.

Thus, with several growth drivers in place from favorable demographics to a supportive policy environment, India’s domestic tourism sector is poised for greater expansion in the future. Domestic tourism is expected to maintain its dominance in India’s tourism industry through 2021. A report by Google India and Boston Consulting Group projects India’s domestic travel market to grow at a five-year CAGR of 11.2% to US$ 48 billion by 2020 from US$ 27 billion in 2015 opening numerous opportunities for businesses and investors.

 

Airlines

India’s domestic air traffic crossed the 100 million mark for the first time with 117 million passengers flying in 2017, up 18% from 99.88 million passengers in 2016 according to data from India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) making India the world’s fastest growing domestic aviation market for the third consecutive year according to IATA. India was followed by China and Russia where domestic air passenger numbers increased 13.3% and 10.1% respectively in 2017.

Bar chart showing India’s domestic air traffic, 2013-2017 (in millions of passengers). India’s domestic air traffic grew from 61,426 million passengers in 2013 to 117,176 passengers in 2017, representing a CAGR of 17.5% between 2013 and 2017.

The boom in domestic air travel was a boon to local airlines such as Indigo (NSE:INDIGO), Jet Airways (NSE:JETAIRWAYS), Spice Jet (BOM:500285) and Vistara (a joint venture between Tata Group and Singapore Airlines) which enjoyed higher passenger load factors.

In 2017, market leader Indigo commanded a market share of 39.6%, Jet Airways had 17.8%, Air India 13.3%, Spice Jet 13.2%, Go Air 8.5%, Air Asia 3.7%, and Vistara 3.5%.

Yet the growth potential is still enormous; less than 10% of Indians take to flying and at around 0.08 annual domestic seats per capita, India’s penetration rate is relatively low compared to other developing markets such as Brazil (0.6) and China (0.4) according to data from flight information and data company OAG. By comparison, the United States has around 2.8 annual domestic seats per capita.

Rising incomes particularly among India’s tech-savvy millennial generation (those born between 1981 and 1996) which have a greater affinity to travel could propel India’s domestic aviation sector in the years to come. India has about 400 million millenials which account for about a third of the country’s one billion plus population and India is expected to be the youngest nation in the world by 2020 with a median age of 29. A survey by Phocuswright and ixigo revealed that Indian millenials take more trips per year compared to seniors and they also spend more.

The Indian government is also taking encouraging measures to boost efficiency and reduce flying costs. For instance, India is mulling the prospect of breaking the monopoly held by public sector oil companies in the supply of Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) at the Mumbai airport by allowing private refiners to enter the market, thereby improving operating costs and increasing efficiency. Mumbai airport, India’s busiest airport, accounts for about 20% of India’s ATF consumption. With ATF costs making up about 40% of the operating costs of airlines, the move could be a boon for India’s aviation industry, benefiting airlines as well as private refiners such as Reliance Industries (NSE:RELIANCE).

The International Air Transport Association expects India to overtake the United Kingdom to emerge as the third largest aviation market by 2025 (China will be the biggest market followed by the United States).

Morgan Stanley forecasts India to witness a CAGR of 13% in domestic air traffic during 2016-2026.

According to a report by Google India and Boston Consulting Group, air travel is expected to be the biggest contributor to the India’s travel market, registering a CAGR of 15% reaching a market value of US$ 30 billion by 2020, making up over 50% of the projected value of India’s domestic travel market which is forecast to reach US$ 48 billion by 2020.

Hotels

Overinvestment, cost overruns and high interest rates have hampered the financial performance of India’s hotel industry with stressed loans jumping 63% over the past three years.

Much of the industry’s woes appear to be concentrated on branded, full-service hotels in the luxury and upscale segment in Tier I and Tier II cities.

On the other hand, India’s mid-market hotel segment (i.e., two, three and four star hotels) is booming, driven by both domestic and overseas tourists, encouraging brands such as Lemon Tree Hotels (NSE:LEMONTREE), and Royal Orchid Hotels (NSE:ROHLTD) to expand into the sector pushing up the supply of mid-market hotel rooms over the past several years; in 2002, some 6,000 of the 26,000 branded hotel rooms in India – less than 25% percent – were mid-market hotel rooms. By 2017, mid-market hotel rooms jumped nine-fold to 53,200, accounting for 43% of the total branded hotel rooms in the country which increased five-fold to 125,000 according to data from hospitality consulting firm Horwath HTL.

However, there are signs of recovery in India’s hotel industry with occupancy rates rising to 66% in 2017 – the highest in nine years according to a report by Horwath HTL – and average room rates growing by 8% since 2008 according to hotel consultant firm Hotelivate.

Bar chart showing all-India hotel occupancy rates, FY 2013 - FY 2017 (E). Occupancy rates have been rising in India; during FY 2013, FY 2014, FY 2015, FY 2016 and FY 2017 (E) hotel occupancy rates were 58%, 59%, 61%, 64% and 66% respectively.

The momentum is expected to continue going forward driven by a muted hotel room supply pipeline, an increasingly travel-hungry Indian middle class population, and favorable policies such as the Indian government’s UDAN scheme Phase-II which is expected to open new opportunities benefiting domestic mid-tier hotels in particular. Horwath HTL anticipates all-India occupancy rates to be more than 70% next year and mid-market segment occupancy rates will hit 82%.

The annual average leisure hotel spend per household is expected to grow 7% to US$ 18 by 2020 compared with US$ 13 in 2015.

A report by Google India and Boston Consulting Group expects hotels to grow at CAGR of 13% to US$ 13 billion by 2020, making up slightly more than a quarter of the overall domestic travel industry which is expected to be valued at US$ 48 billion. Much of the demand will be fueled by domestic travelers who are expected to account for over 60% of hotel spend in India. The mid-scale segment is expected to retain its dominant share, accounting for about 44% of India’s branded hotel rooms in 2020.

Bar chart showing India hotel spend by domestic and foreign tourists in 2010, 2015 and 2020 (forecast) (in US$ billions). India’s hotel market was valued at US$ 4 billion in 2010, US$ 7 billion in 2015 and is expected to grow to US$ 13 billion by 2020. At about US$ 9 billion - US$ 10 billion, domestic travelers will account for more than 60% of hotel spend in India by 2020.

Online travel portals

According to consulting firm Praxis, India’s online travel market was valued at US$ 5.71 billion at the end of 2015, and is expected to more than double to US$ 13.6 billion by 2021, representing a CAGR of over about 16% driven by increasing penetration of international hotel and flight bookings from travel portals such as MakeMyTrip (NASDAQ:MMYT) (India’s largest online travel agency), Yatra (NASDAQ:YTRA), and Cleartrip to name a few.

Increasing internet penetration and rising incomes among India’s tech savvy millenials as they increasingly climb up the income ladder are some of the tailwinds that are expected to drive India’s online hotel market. The country’s internet user base stood at 481 million in December 2017, up 11.34% from a year earlier, representing an internet penetration rate of less than 40% indicating ample potential for growth. Much of India’s offline population resides in rural India. However, even in urban India where incomes are higher and residents generally have a higher propensity to travel, there is potential for higher internet penetration; about 295 million (equal to about 64%) of India’s 455 million urban population are connected to the internet leaving a potential market of about 160 million internet users in urban India alone. This is equal to nearly one half of the entire population of the United States.

Indian millenials are expected to be a key driving force in India’s online travel market going forward. According to booking data from India’s largest online travel company MakeMyTrip which is often touted as India’s answer to Ctrip  (NASDAQ:CTRP) and Expedia (NASDAQ:EXPE), the majority of the platform’s customers were millenials; over half of travelers who made bookings through MakemyTrip were under 35 years of age.

India has the world’s largest millenial population and as their disposable incomes grow, they are likely to travel more and thereby drive the country’s online travel market as they plan their itineraries online, presenting a major growth opportunity for online travel companies.

Online hotel bookings in particular presents a major growth opportunity in India’s online travel market. According to a report by Morgan Stanley, Indian millenials have shifted a large part of their activities online, for instance through the adoption of digital entertainment channels (to the detriment of traditional channels such as radio) and online shopping. However, online travel booking is an exception to the trend with 63% of all hotel bookings being reportedly made by walking into hotels. Less than 20% of hotels were booked online, and only one third of those were booked using travel agencies indicating tremendous potential for growth.

One third of all hotels are expected to be booked online helping the sector grow at a CAGR of 25% to be worth US$ 4 billion by 2020 according to a report by BCG and Google India.

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Healthy Opportunities In China’s Blossoming Healthcare Market

Bar chart showing the top 10 countries by health expenditure per capita and China’s health expenditure per capita (in US dollars), 2000, 2005, 2015 according to data from the World Health Organization. The top countries by per capita health spend as at 2015 are: Switzerland (US$ 9,818), U.S.A. (US$ 9,536), Norway (US$ 7,464), Luxembourg (US$ 6,236), Sweden (US$ 5,600), Denmark (US$ 5,497), Australia (US$ 4,934), Ireland (US$ 4,757), Netherlands (US$ 4,746), and Germany (US$ 4,592). By comparison, China’s per capita health expenditure in 2015 amounted to just US$ 426.

China, the world’s second largest healthcare market in the world after the United States, is growing rapidly driven by an ageing population, government support,  and rising urbanization (which is contributing to an increase in lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and cancer.

China is currently the fastest growing major healthcare market in the world with a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17% compared with just 4% for the United States and -2% in Japan according to 2015 information from the World Bank. Healthcare spending in China has risen four-fold from about CNY 1 trillion (US$ 126 billion) in 2006 to CNY 4.6 trillion in 2016 (US$ 698 billion).

Yet, the Chinese healthcare market is still relatively immature compared to developed economies such as the United States and Germany. China holds nearly 20% of the world’s population but the country accounts for just about 3% of the world’s healthcare spend.

As a percentage of GDP, China’s healthcare expenditure is about 5.6% of the country’s GDP compared with 17.1% for the United States, 11.3% for Germany and 10.3% for Japan according to 2013 data from the World Health Organization.

Furthermore, despite being the world’s second biggest healthcare market, China’s per capita healthcare spending is only a fraction of mature markets such as the United States, Luxembourg and Germany. China does not even make it to the list of the world’s top 10 countries with the highest per capita health expenditure indicating huge potential for spending increases.

Bar chart showing the top 10 countries by health expenditure per capita and China’s health expenditure per capita (in US dollars), 2000, 2005, 2015 according to data from the World Health Organization. The top countries by per capita health spend as at 2015 are: Switzerland (US$ 9,818), U.S.A. (US$ 9,536), Norway (US$ 7,464), Luxembourg (US$ 6,236), Sweden (US$ 5,600), Denmark (US$ 5,497), Australia (US$ 4,934), Ireland (US$ 4,757), Netherlands (US$ 4,746), and Germany (US$ 4,592). By comparison, China’s per capita health expenditure in 2015 amounted to just US$ 426.

China’s healthcare market is expected to continue its rapid growth in the years to come propelled by growth drivers such as an greying population, increasing lifestyle diseases as a result of increasing urbanization and government support.

China’s population is ageing with the country’s over-65 year olds accounting for 11.4% of the total population in 2017, up from 10.8% in 2016 and less than 8% in 2000 according to data from the statistics bureau. That equates to over 150 million Chinese over the age of 65 which is slightly less than half of the entire population of the United States. This number is expected to grow with the State Council expecting 25% of China’s population to be aged 60 and over by 2030, up from 13% in 2010 which is expected to drive healthcare costs going forward.

China’s urbanization rate has been on the rise and it currently stands at 59% according to the National Statistics Bureau. This compares with the United States which is at 82%, the United Kingdom which is at 83% and South Korea which is at 83%. China’s increasing urbanization has contributed to a greater incidence of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and cancer. China has the most number of obese children in the world and has the world’s second -biggest population of obese adults after the United States according to the Global Burden of Disease report by a team at the University of Washington.

The urbanization process is continuing in China and thus as Chinese get increasingly wealthier and urbanized which leads to unhealthy diets and sedentary lives, the country’s lifestyle disease burden is expected to increase thereby driving China’s healthcare market.

Recognizing the need for a robust healthcare industry to meet the country’s increasing healthcare needs, the Chinese government has undertaken a series of reforms and supportive government policies such as the blueprint “Healthy China 2030” which aims to improve the level of health throughout the country by improving health services, expanding the medical industry and encouraging private investment in the local healthcare sector.

By 2030, the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) estimates China’s health-related industries will reach CNY 16 trillion (approximately US$ 2.4 trillion).

These factors are expected to drive China’s healthcare industry going forward. According to a 2017 report by Research ad Markets, China’s healthcare market is poised to expand from around US$ 710 billion in 2016 to over US$ 1.11 trillion in 2020 creating numerous opportunities.

Pharmaceuticals

Pharmaceuticals is the largest sector of China’s healthcare market and China’s pharmaceuticals industry has been growing rapidly; the Chinese pharmaceutical market grew at a CAGR of 9.4% from 2013 to 2017 helping China overtake Japan to emerge as the world’s second largest pharmaceutical in the world after the United States.

Bar chart showing the world’s top 10 pharmaceutical markets in 2016 by market value (US$ billion). The top 10 markets are U.S.A. (US$ 461.7 billion), China (US$ 116.7 billion), Japan (US$ 90.1 billion), Germany (US$ 43.1 billion), France (US$32.1 billion), Italy (US$ 28.8 billion), U.K. (US$ 27 billion), Brazil (US$ 26.9 billion), Spain (US$ 20.7 billion), and Canada (US$19.3 billion).

Yet, China’s pharmaceutical market lags far behind the United States in sales; despite having a population that is three times the size of the United States, at US$ 122.6 billion in 2017, China’s pharmaceutical market was worth less than a quarter of the United States’ which was valued at US$ 466.6 billion the same year according to data from health information vendor IQVIA. However, with drug demand expected to grow due to factors such as a greater incidence of lifestyle diseases and faster drug approvals, IQVIA forecasts China’s pharmaceutical market to expand from US$ 122.6 billion in 2017 to reach US$ 145 billion to US$ 175 billion by 2022.

In 2017, China announced new rules aimed at speeding up the country’s inefficient drug approval process, which could be a revenue boost for pharmaceutical companies.

Foreign pharmaceutical companies in particular stand to benefit as the new rules allow foreign drug makers to file for drug approval in China using data from international, multinational trials (provided China is included as a study site) which enables them to gain greater inroads into the Chinese market and eliminates the necessity of conducting additional costly and often time-consuming clinical trials in China after receiving approval overseas.

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG (VTX: NOVN) aims to double China sales over the next five years.

AstraZeneca (LON:AZN) has deepened its substantial China business with the announcement of a new company Dizal Pharmaceutical, which is a drug development joint venture with the Chinese Future Industry Investment Fund (FIIF).

French pharma giant Sanofi (EPA:SAN), one of the leading insulin providers in the world and in China, expects to maintain double-digit sales growth in China thanks to China’s growing diabetes population. One third of the world’s approximately 420 million diabetic population live in China which amounts to over 100 million diabetic Chinese, accounting for about 11% of Chinese adults as of 2015 up from less than 1% in 1980, a dramatic increase over the past 35 years. China’s growing insulin demand has been a boon to Sanofi’s rival insulin makers as well, Novo Nordisk (CPH:NOVO-B) and Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY).

Local drug makers also stand to benefit from accelerated drug approvals.

Hutchison MediPharma, a subsidiary of Hutchison Meditech (LON:HCM) is expected to receive approval this year for its fruquintinib capsule for colorectal cancer, the second-most common prevalent cancer in China with about 380,000 new cases annually according to the National Central Cancer Registry of China. The market potential for cancer drugs in China is substantial with cancer rates rising nationwide as a result of aging, and environmental factors among other reasons. With China seeing approximately 700,000 new cancer cases annually, the country has one-third of new cancer patients in the world.

While China is the world’s biggest producer of APIs, the country lags behind the U.S. and other developed markets in drug innovation, and most innovative drugs are produced by foreign pharmaceutical companies. To help its pharmaceutical industry move up the global value chain, the Chinese government has been actively creating a supportive regulatory framework to galvanize homegrown pharmaceutical companies through grants and tax breaks for research, and through initiatives such as the ‘Made in China 2025’ plan which mentions innovation in pharmaceuticals, among 10 other key sectors, a national priority.

With the results of such initiatives likely to bear fruit in the long term, in the shorter term Chinese pharmaceutical companies’ expansion efforts are likely to remain focused on capturing market share in the global generic drugs market. China’s drugs market is dominated by generics, accounting for 85% of total drug sales as of 2016 according to data from Fitch, and over 95% of the 170,000 drug approvals by the China FDA according to data from the National Health Commission. China’s generics market is dominated by a large number of low-cost domestic pharmaceutical companies, and these Chinese pharmaceutical companies are now venturing out to overseas markets. In the United States, the world’s largest generics market, Chinese generic drug manufacturers have reportedly won approval for 38 generic drugs from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration in 2017, up from 22 in 2016. Jiangsu Hengrui (SHA;600276), Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical (SHA:600521), Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceutical (SHA:600267) are among the Chinese pharmas that received U.S. FDA approval.

Meanwhile the world’s largest exporter of generic drugs, India, (which won U.S. FDA approval for 300 drugs, roughly one third of the 927 generic drugs granted U.S. FDA approval in 2016)  has seen its imports of Chinese generic drugs soar 50% in dollar terms over the past four years (2012/2013 – 2016/2017) according to data from the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council (Pharmexcil).

Medical devices

One of China’s fastest growing sectors, the Chinese medical device industry has grown in leaps and bounds, with the industry maintaining double digit growth for over a decade. According to data from China Medical Pharmaceutical Material Association, China’s medical device market expanded from CNY 53.5 billion in 2007 to CNY 370 billion in 2016, representing a CAGR of 23.97%, which is three times faster than the global average growth rate of 8%.

Bar chart showing China’s medical device market size (US$ billions) in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 (estimate). China’s medical device industry has been growing at double digits over the past few years with the market valued at US$ 39.32 billion in 2014, US$ 47.38 billion in 2015, US$ 53.62 billion in 2016 and an estimated US$ 58.63 billion in 2017.

The stellar growth has helped boost sales of multinational medical device manufacturers such as Siemens (ETR:SIE), J&J (NYSE:JNJ), Philips, and General Electric (NYSE:GE).

Yet the Chinese medical device market is still at a relatively immature stage considering the fact that globally, the medical device market is about 42% the size of the pharmaceutical market but in China however, the percentage is considerably lower at about 14%, indicating an attractive growth opportunity for medical device manufacturers.

China is Johnson & Johnson’s second largest market after the United States and the company expects China to remain as a key growth engine in the years to come.

Carlyle Group (NASDAQ:CG) owned American in-vitro diagnostics company, Ortho Clinical Diagnostics plans to build manufacturing facilities in China, as it banks on the mainland to be its “No. 1 growth country”. China’s in-vitro diagnostics (IVD) market is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 14% by 2021 according to research firm Technavio, which could be a boon for Swiss healthcare giant Roche Holdings (VTX:ROG), which is the dominant player in China’s IVD market.

But much like China’s pharmaceutical industry, foreign-made medical device brands are perceived to be of superior quality compared to those produced by domestic manufacturers. Consequently, while Chinese medical device manufacturers dominate the local market in general, the vast majority of them compete in the low to mid-range medical device product categories (according to figures from the International Trade Administration, more than 80% of Chinese medical device manufacturers compete in the low to mid-end medical device categories).

Meanwhile foreign medical device manufacturers such as those from the United States, Germany and Japan tend to dominate the higher-end, high-value medical device product category; medical device brands from the United States, which is the number one foreign supplier of medical devices in China, rake in nearly 75% of their local revenue from China’s top tier i.e., Tier III hospitals with the rest from Tier II hospitals according to figures from the International Trade Administration.

In an effort to help local medical device manufacturers play a greater role in the higher-end medical device segment, the Chinese government unveiled its ‘Made in China 2025’ plan which focuses on domestic high-end medical devices in sectors such as diagnostic imaging, medical robots, wearable devices and telemedicine.

Under the plan, China hopes to increase the use of domestically produced medical devices in hospitals to 50% by 2020 and 75% by 2025. The move could further accelerate the rise of local device manufacturers which have been growing faster than multinationals, (albeit from a smaller revenue base), and as a result of continuous product improvement, they have been increasingly taking market share from foreign rivals in medium-level segments of the country’s medical device sector.

For instance, multinationals’ share of China’s orthopedic implant market has dropped from 80% to less than 50% over the past five years, multinationals’ share of China’s drug-eluting stents market (which stood at about 90% as recently as 2004), has declined considerably with local manufacturers such as Biosensors International, Lepu Medical, and MicroPort selling about 80% of China’s drug-eluting stents and multinationals’ share of China’s direct radiography market has dropped from 100% in 2004 to about 50% currently according to data from Boston Consulting Group.

Buoyed by their growing financial, technological and R&D capabilities and supportive government initiatives, Chinese medical device manufacturers appear poised to take further market share in more of China’s medical device sectors in the long term.