‘Malaysia a prime gateway to Asean region’

'The big players are around here because they see Malaysia as a good market and base for them.' - Gunn Jorid Roset

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is considered a prime gateway to the Asean market by Nordic countries, due to its favourable business environment, good logistics, facilities and access to resources.

Investments from the Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – have grown over the years, with some of the global names such as Nokia from Finland, Ikea (Sweden), Lego (Denmark) and Jotun Paints (Nor­way) having long established their brands in Malaysia.

Swedish ambassador to Malaysia, Dag Juhlin-Dannfelt, said several Swedish brands had a long presence in Malaysia due to its attractive business climate.

“We do our best to promote trade but at the end, the companies decide if this country is good for business or not. So far, Malaysia has been living up to that standard, and there is a big Swedish business presence here,” he said after appearing on Bernama News Channel’s (BNC) talk programme, Bernama Today, re­­cent­­ly.

Besides Ikea, other Swedish brands in Malaysia include home appliances company Electrolux, clo­thing retail H&M, Scania (commer­cial vehicles producer specifically heavy trucks and buses) and multi­national networking and telecom­mu­nications company Ericsson.

Also present at the BNC interview were Denmark’s ambassador to Malaysia, Jesper Vahr, Norwegian ambassador to Malaysia, Gunn Jorid Roset and the deputy head of mission at the Embassy of Finland in Malaysia, Teemu Laakkonen.

As for Norway’s investments, Roset said there were close to 50 Norwegian companies operating in Malaysia.

She said the country was considered a reputable market with good logistics that enabled them to operate from here and also with the rest of the Asean region.

“The energy sector has been always the strongest foothold for us here, as well as oil and gas.

“There is also increasing interest in renewable and solar energy. The big players are around here because they see Malaysia as a good market and base for them,” she added.

Notable Norwegian companies operating in Malaysia include Scatec Solar, Aker Solutions, DNV GL, Jotun, Telenor (known locally by the name of their subsidiary DiGi) and shipping company Wilhelmsen.

Vahr said there were various Danish investments in Malaysia, but the most significant was in the pharmaceutical sector.

One of the leading names is Novo Nordisk, a global healthcare company in diabetes care that made Malaysia its regional hub and clinical centre.

It entered the Malaysian market in 1992 and moved its South-East Asia headquarters from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur in 2010.

For Finland, Laakkonen said there were many Finnish firms looking at Malaysia as their regional hub for South-East Asia. This was due to several bullish factors including logistics and talents.

“We have our own strengths like information communications technology (ICT) sector, while education is one thing that we are engaging in (with Malaysia) right now,” he added.

On the Nordic countries’ focus of cooperation with the new Malaysian government, Swedish ambassador Juhlin-Dannfelt said they will continue to push for areas of priorities such as climate change and sustainability.

Danish ambassador Vahr also said that a key factor for Malaysia’s attractiveness as an investment destination was their predictability for their business partners regardless of who governed the country.

He said the continuity in terms of business rules remained in tandem with the business environment and that was an important factor in sustaining their commercial activities in the country.

Roset said it will also be crucial for the Malaysian business community to seek cooperation based on the respective strengths and expertise offered by businesses from the Nordic countries.

She said businesses would have to look into the priorities of the new government and match that with what the countries had to offer as a region or an individual country.

The focus, for example, could be on renewable energy, environment, sustainability and palm oil industry, she said.

The Nordic countries form a geographical and cultural region in Northern Europe and North Atlantic, with a combined population of around 27 million people. — Bernama

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