CARI Captures Issue 611: Global startup ecosystem ranking, 2022 and 2023

Singapore outranks Shanghai and Tokyo as leading startup and venture capital hub
(20 June 2023) According to the latest global study by US-based research company Startup Genome, Singapore now outranks Shanghai and Tokyo as a leading startup and venture capital hub. Singapore now ranks 8th after surging ahead 10 places from the 2022 ranking. In Asia, it placed second behind Beijing, which fell two places to 7th in the same period. The study looked at 3.5 million startups across 290 ecosystems, an ecosystem being defined as a shared pool of resources generally located within a 100 km radius in a given region. The top 40 ecosystems were ranked on six factors: performance, funding, market reach, connectedness, talent and expertise, and knowledge. Singapore was found to rank highly on factors such as funding and connectedness. Singapore is home to around 4,000 tech startups and over 400 venture capital companies. The country now has 18 unicorns, more than four times the global average of 4.

Credit growth slows in Viet Nam amidst softening global demand
(21 June 2023) According to the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV), credit growth slowed in Viet Nam amidst softening global demand. As of 15 June, 2023, credit growth was seen at 3.36% against the end of 2022, and was much lower than the same period in 2022. On 19 June, the SBV lowered key interest rates for the fourth time this year, as it sought to boost growth as the manufacturing-led economy weakens amid softening global demand. The refinance rate was cut to 4.5%, the discount rate to 3.0% and the electronic interbank rate to 5.0%. The SBV attributed the weaker credit growth to fading demand to expand businesses as well as weaker spending by borrowers. The central bank targets credit growth at 14% to 15% for 2023.

Sabah state expected to record more than 1.7 million tourist arrivals in 2023
(19 June 2023) Sabah state is expected to record more than 1.7 million tourist arrivals in 2023. According to Sabah’s Chief Minister, the final number is expected to be higher than the 1.72 million recorded in 2022, but still short of the 2.2 million tourists targeted. From January to April 2023, Sabah registered a total of 792,899 visitor arrivals, a 94% increase year-on-year. Of these, 565,424 were visitors from within Malaysia, while 227,475 were from abroad. The Sabah state government seeks to push for more air connectivity into Sabah to add to the current weekly 100 international flights into the state with a total seat capacity of 18,164 as well as 366 domestic flights with a total seat capacity of 60,303. The state government is currently seeking to upgrade basic tourism facilities for the convenience and safety of tourists, as well as develop and upskill community-based tourism operators.

Used car marketplace Carsome raises fresh funds via mix of equity and debt
(20 June 2023) Southeast Asian used car marketplace Carsome announced it had raised fresh funds via a mix of equity and debt in its latest financing round. The company said the latest round raised the company’s liquidity position to US$200 million. The equity funding round included existing investors 65 Equity Partners, Seatown Private Capital Master Fund, Qatar Investment Authority, Gobi Partners and Asia Partners. Carsome was also able to attract a long-term debt facility from EvolutionX Debt Capital, a growth-stage debt financing platform that backs technology companies in Asia. Earlier in June 2023, Carsome announced that revenue grew 250% in 2022 and that it had achieved operating profitability for the first time in the first quarter of 2023. As of October 2022, the company earned around 60% of its revenue from Malaysia, 25% from Indonesia and 15% from Thailand.

Indonesia to ban export of raw copper once construction of local smelters completed
(20 June 2023) Indonesia will ban the export of raw copper once Freeport Indonesia and Amman Mineral Internasional finish building local smelters in 2024. According to Indonesian President Joko Widodo, once the two companies complete their smelters then the copper will be processed domestically into copper cathodes. He expects both facilities to start production in May 2024. The Indonesian government is pushing for more onshore refining as it seeks to climb up the commodities value chain, having already adopted similar policies for nickel exports. The government has had to push back its plans for an export ban on raw copper several times as the local unit of Freeport McMoRan Inc., the world’s top copper producer, kept seeking extensions for a smelter that started construction in 2021.

Grab Holdings slashes 1,000 jobs, its biggest round of layoffs since COVID-19 pandemic
(20 June 2023) Singapore-based Grab Holdings is slashing over 1,000 jobs in a bid to manage costs and reorganize the company in a competitive landscape. The company primarily focuses on ride-hailing and food delivery services. This is the group’s largest round of layoffs since 2020, when it cut 360 jobs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Grab posted strong revenue growth and narrowed losses in 2022, citing a rebound in mobility demand. Grab is the latest Southeast Asian tech giant to initiate a round of layoffs, with Indonesia’s GoTo announcing it was laying off 600 employees in March 2023 while Singapore-based Sea Ltd slashed more than 7,000 jobs in the last six months of 2022.

Cambodian goods exports to Thailand rises nearly 10% year-on-year in first five months of 2023
(20 June 2023) Cambodian goods exports to Thailand rose by 9.47% year-on-year in the first five months of 2023, reaching US$480.24. Total merchandise trade between both countries in the January-May 2023 period reached US$1.71 billion, down 8.78% year-on-year from US$1.90 billion. Cambodia also imported some US$1.23 billion worth of goods from Thailand, down 14.38% year-on-year from $1.43 billion. Thailand was Cambodia’s fourth largest merchandise trading partner for the five-month period, behind China, the United States and Viet Nam. The majority of Cambodian exports to Thailand are either agricultural products or electronics components. Total merchandise trade between Cambodia and Thailand in 2022 was valued at US$4.66 billion, up 14.22% year-on-year.

RCEP Monitor

Crude oil demand expected to grow less than previously forecast due to strong demand for electric vehicles
(20 June 2023) According to the research arm of state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation’s (CNPC), 2023 crude oil demand is expected to grow less than previously forecast due to strong demand for electric vehicles. In March 2023, the CNPC’s research arm forecasted oil demand to reach 743 million metric tons in 2023. However, more recently, they projected that demand would come in below original forecasts this year, with oil demand reaching 740 million tons. They attributed this downgrade to the growth in demand for electric vehicles, with sales having risen by 10.5% month-on-month in May 2023, accounting for a third of total car sales. Demand for electric vehicles is expected to grow further due to Beijing issuing new measures.

China slashes benchmark lending rates for the first time in almost a year to bolster struggling recovery
(20 June 2023) The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) slashed benchmark lending rates for the first time in almost a year as policymakers seek to push ahead with cautious monetary support to spur more robust growth in the country’s struggling economy. On 20 June, 2023, the one-year loan prime rate (LPR) was reduced by 10 basis points to 3.55%, while the five-year equivalent rate was lowered to 4.2% from 4.3%. Six months after authorities unwound COVID-19-related restrictions, China’s economy has failed to fully rebound, due to both trade headwinds and weaknesses in the property sector. Last week, the PBOC had cut the country’s medium-term lending facility, which affects liquidity in the banking sector, while Beijing unveiled additional tax breaks for businesses.

Number of foreign visitors comes in just below 1.9 million in May 2023
(21 June 2023) The number of foreign visitors to Japan for business and leisure came in just below 1.9 million in May 2023 from a post-pandemic high of 1.95 million in April. Arrivals were down 31.5% from the level in May 2019. Travellers from China, previously Japan’s largest source of tourists, grew 24% to 134,400 in June, though still far below 2019 levels. A sharp weakening in the yen against other major currencies has also made travel to Japan the cheapest in many years. Mid-June sales figures at major department stores indicated strong demand from Chinese visitors, particularly in Osaka and Kyoto.

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