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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Approved investment figures from S'pore, Europe multiply

Approved investment figures from S'pore, Europe multiply

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Pedestrians walk past a Singapore Banking Corp branch Sunday in Phnom Penh.

Investment by city-state increases more than 300 percent up to end of July as traditional investors China and South Korea drastically reduce capital inflow.

Singapore builds Asian business empire
NEXT time you stay in a luxury resort, buy a loaf of bread or open a bank account in Asia, check the company's country of origin. Chances are you are dealing with a brand based in Singapore. With the global economy apparently on the mend, Singapore Inc is all set to reap the benefits of stepped-up spending by Asia's middle and upper classes. Singapore Airlines has long been an iconic brand, but newer names like resort and spa operator Banyan Tree have established themselves as top-tier players in the region. "If you don't globalise ... you eventually stagnate," the firm's founder and Executive Chairman Ho Kwon Ping said at a recent news conference. Other Singaporean companies are enjoying similar success throughout the region. OSIM, a maker of electronic massage chairs and other lifestyle products, such as air purifiers, has over 1,100 outlets spread across 28 countries and concentrated mainly in the region. Budget carrier Tiger Airways is also becoming a mainstay in the travel industry, having established a wide network across the Asia-Pacific region with flights to 19 destinations from Singapore. It is not to be mistaken for Singapore's Tiger Beer, now one of the most popular beverages in Southeast Asia. AFP

DESPITE an 82 percent decrease in approved investments in the first seven months of this year, as reported by the Post last week, investments by fellow ASEAN member Singapore have risen more than three-fold to US$176.37 million, according to a recently released breakdown of the figures by the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC).

In terms of Cambodian investment, Singapore has now closed the gap with Thailand, the largest ASEAN investor in the Kingdom. Neighbouring Thailand invested $178 million in the first seven months - more than Singapore by less than $2 million - having registered approved investments that totalled $15.33 million more than the city-state over the same period last year.

In the third week of this month, 21 companies from Singapore met with Cambodian officials in Phnom Penh to seek out investment opportunities.

"I believe that investment in Cambodia will enjoy better development in the future because now many investors are eyeing investment opportunities in the Kingdom," Yun Heng, deputy director of the Evaluation and Incentive Department of the Cambodia Investment Board, said Sunday.

The Singaporean companies were mainly planning to target tourism and agriculture, he added.

Lawrence Leow, deputy honourary secretary of the Singapore Business federation and chairman and CEO of Crescendas Group, told the Post during a visit to Cambodia on August 20 that his company would invest between $20 million to $30 million in the tourism sector.

Also this month, Singapore's HLH Agriculture Cambodia Ltd announced that it had invested $15 million to grow red corn in the Kingdom.

According to CDC data, agriculture and tourism remained the most promising sectors for outside investment.

Overall, ASEAN raised its investment into Cambodia from $139.61 million in the first seven months of 2008 to $471.23 million for this year up to the end of July.

Europe also dramatically increased its investment in the Kingdom, up from just $15.6 million in the first seven months of 2008 to $292.95 million during the same period this year. Having represented just 0.19 percent of Cambodia's total investment last year up to the end of July, in 2009, Europe accounted for 19.95 percent of total investment in the Kingdom up to the end of last month.

France increased its investment in Cambodia from just $6.24 million for the whole of last year to $49.68 million in the first seven months of 2009.

"I believe that investment in Cambodia will enjoy better development in the future," said Yun Heng, referring specifically to ASEAN and European investors, notably Singapore and France.

He added that European investors had been especially interested in the tourism sector.

However, the figures showed that Cambodia's traditional investors had largely walked away following the onset of the global economic crisis.

China, which made up nearly half of all investment in Cambodia in the first seven months of last year, decreased investment a staggering 93.34 percent from $3.89 billion to $258.98 million.

Similarly, South Korean investment in Cambodia fell over the same period 91.11 percent from $1.23 billion to $109.25 million.

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