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Top 5 Asian Countries for Starting a Business

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Top 5 Asian Countries for Starting a Business

Asia is a top location for investors looking to start a business with some of its main advantages being the available talent pool and investment opportunities – which are growing due to the fact that the region has a large population and it is ever evolving and innovating.

The business environment differs between various Asian countries but what they do share in common is the fact that they do provide a wide array of opportunities for innovative investors. Below, we take a look at the top five Asian countries that have both an attractive business ecosystem and that offer interesting business opportunities.

1. Singapore

One of the top choices for entrepreneurs and for startup owners is Singapore, an Asian city that offers a very attractive business environment, with low taxes for companies and an easy company setup procedure. The city-state has a powerful economy, driven by innovation and high levels of infrastructure, where English is widely spoken – another advantage for foreign entrepreneurs. The standard corporate income tax rate in Singapore is 17% although no tax is levied on 75% of the first 10,000 SGD of normal chargeable income and 50% of the following 290,000 SGD.

Singapore can be a suitable choice for investors looking for a good startup ecosystem in the Asia-Pacific region. Foreign investors can read here how to start a company in Singapore.

2. Hong Kong

Hong Kong is often a competitor to Singapore, in terms of business advantages as well as ease of doing business. Foreign investors have access to a low-tax regime, a simplified company incorporation procedure and a number of types of legal entities, suited to small, medium and large businesses alike. The standard corporate income tax in Hong Kong is 16.5%, with a 15% rate for unincorporated businesses. Foreign companies can expand their operations in Asia by opening a branch in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is often the city of choice for investors who can benefit from opening a company in an international business environment and at the same time remain close to Mainland China.

3. Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur is often the city of choice for investors who are interested in forming a company in Malaysia. Some restrictions are in place in selected fields but most business sectors of interest have been liberalized by the Government and are even encouraged by a set of available investment and tax incentives. Examples include those for high-technology companies, those engaging in healthcare services or manufacturing, as well as biotechnology or environmental protection, to name just a few of the favored activities.

Investors in Malaysia can choose to open a private or a public company – with the private ones not allowing for the transfer of shares or being able to gather capital from public sources (as opposed to the public ones).

4. Thailand

Investors can find that Thailand offers particular and interesting opportunities for foreign entrepreneurs. The country has special investment policies that focus on free trade as well as those that encourage activities that promote technology and innovation. Special conditions are in place for foreigners although they are permitted to fully own a business (except for a number of restricted businesses, as stated in the Foreign Business Act).

Companies in Thailand have access to a number of tax and non-tax incentives, depending on the specific business activities in which they engage. When starting a business in Thailand investors need to choose a business form and then follow the standard incorporation process. There is no specific minimum register capital for Thai companies, however, a minimum share value applies for private companies.

5. Dubai

Dubai is one of the seven emirates that comprise the United Arab Emirates and is conveniently located at the crossroads between Asia, Africa and Europe. Notable opportunities for investors can be found in the Dubai International Financial Centre – a special economic zone that offers an international and supportive business ecosystem.

The process of company incorporation in Dubai is a generally simple process and the United Arab Emirates do not impose a tax on business income for most types of businesses (exemptions include oil and gas production companies as well as branches of foreign banks). Residential investments, professional services, banking or wealth management are just some examples of business opportunities in Dubai.

Entering the Asian market in one of these jurisdictions, or in other locations can offer diverse and interesting opportunities for business development and expansion. We do recommend seeking specialized assistance when first opening a new company in an Asian country.


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