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  • Monday, 31 Aug 2015

ABAC to set up Asean SME digital finance platform

The Asean Business Advisory Council (Abac) will set up an Asean digital finance platform for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as well as an Asean young entrepreneurs council before the integrated the Asean Economic Community (AEC) is fully established by the end of the year.

ABAC chairman Tan Sri Dr Mohd Munir Abdul Majid said the digital finance platform for SMEs would be driven by the private sector.

“This platform will provide finance for eligible SMEs in a more efficient and faster way,” he told reporters.

On expanding retail e-commerce transactions, he said this could be done by improving the necessary infrastructure, such as e-payment systems and logistics.

Munir pointed out that in terms of loans and equities crossing borders, there were certain cross-border regulatory issues that needed to be addressed as every country had a different e-payment system.

The Abac meeting was held on the sidelines of the 47th Asean Economic Ministers’ Meeting and Related Meetings last week.

Munir also said the Asean young entrepreneurs council would be formed in the same month.

He said the council would allow the young entrepreneurs to represent themselves in dialogues with officials and ministers.

“This is to ensure that the young will know directly what they want, and after the council is established, they don’t have to come through ABAC anymore,” Munir elaborated.

He said the next step for Abac was to make sure that when the establishment of the AEC is pronounced in November, the council would have some real tangible things in there.

“We are going to work together in this last two to three months with the Asean Secretariat and the Asean High Level Task Senior Economic Officials to identify what deliverables can be made to happen,” said Mohd Munir.

Established in 2003 by Asean leaders to represent the private sector, Abac comprises 30 council members, including three from each country with at least one from the SME sector. The 10-member Asean grouping, which adopted the AEC blueprint in 2007, has fixed Dec 31, 2015 as the target date for the creation of a single market.

Startup ZocDoc valued at US$1.8bil in latest funding

ZocDoc, which helps users book doctor appointments online, said last week it had raised US$130mil in funding, valuing the US digital healthcare company at US$1.8bil.

The funding was led by Baillie Gifford and Atomico, with participation from existing investor Founders Fund.

The proceeds would be used to develop products and expand beyond its scheduling capability, the company said.

ZocDoc, founded in 2007, is used by millions of people in all 50 US states and covers 60% of the country’s population. The New York-based startup also helps patients find in-network neighbourhood doctors and get reminders for upcoming appointments and check-ups.

EU to encourage its SMEs to expand in Asean

The European Union (EU) is keen on strengthening economic ties with Asean countries by encouraging its SMEs to enhance their business in the region.

EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EUMCCI) chairman Fermin Fautsch said the European Commission had initiated a programmed called the Support For European Business In South-East Asia Markets (Sebseam).

“The Sebseam programme was first launched in Malaysia in 2013, prior to other member states, and it basically aims to attract European businesses to trade and invest in Malaysia, which is the gateway to Asean.

“European SMEs, which are particularly strong in the areas of high-technology and pharmaceuticals, are interested in the Asean market. However, they do not have the resources to expand their businesses,” he said.

With this assistance, he anticipated an increasing number of European SMEs to tap into the thriving Asean market.

In the case of Malaysia, for instance, the areas of focus would be agrifood, professional services, transportation and green technology.

When asked whether the current economic challenges faced by Malaysia would in any way affect the EU’s investment decisions in Malaysia, Fautsch said companies would normally look at a particular economy’s longer-term performance.

He said Malaysia had a positive growth data and, in terms of investment, had about 70% growth in foreign direct investments from EU companies.

On the weakening regional currencies, including the ringgit, he said this was due to the outflow of funds from regional currencies going into the US dollar, following reports of a possible interest rate hike by the US Federal Reserves.

“There is market talks right now saying that the ringgit’s actual value is about RM3.65-RM3.70 against a US dollar, and not the value it is trading at right now,” he added.

EU-Asean Business Council Executive Director Chris Humphrey said Europe was Asean second largest external trading partner.

In 2014, inflows of European investment into Asean amounted to US$29.4bil.

“European businesses, large and small, view Asean as a good platform to manufacture and export their products,” he added.

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