Picking winners amid the economic gloom

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 June, 2012, 12:00am


DHL and the South China Morning Post launched the 23rd Hong Kong Business Awards yesterday against a stormy global economic outlook, with business leaders calling on the government to cut red tape and help small- and medium-sized enterprises weather the potentially tough times ahead.

Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce chief executive Shirley Yuen, a member of the judging panel, also called for clarity in the regulatory environment, saying ambiguities in market regulations could stifle business growth, especially at a time when cost control mattered.

'When costs rise but prices cannot, we have to look for ways to cut back and that may mean making some difficult choices,' Yuen said.

'In times like these, we really do need to focus on our core competencies and spend less time on peripheral matters.

'That is why it is particularly painful to spend inordinate amounts of time complying with regulations that are vaguely written or are simply redundant.

'The chamber favours proper regulatory impact assessments and well-drafted laws that clearly state what is, and what is not, permitted or required.

'Unfortunately, we're not getting a lot of that these days.'

Yuen also said the government's 'enormous reserves' should be put to work to help small- and medium-size enterprises navigate a weak global economy, saying the coming year would be 'very challenging' for trade and financial markets.

Yuen urged businesses not to stretch their companies' resources too far during uncertain times.

Albert Chan, the commercial banking head of HSBC, who is also on the judging panel, said managing cash flow and accounts receivable would be critical to companies navigating fluctuating demand for their goods and services.

He advised a more 'prudent' approach in capital management and expansion, but also encouraged local businesses to explore opportunities on the mainland, and in Indonesia, Singapore and Central and South America.

For those eyeing new markets and new sectors, including strategic industries highlighted by Beijing's 12th five-year-plan, Chan advised them to remember that it would take several years for any new ventures to turn a profit.

Another judge, DHL Express Hong Kong managing director Ken Lee, also called on businesses to explore opportunities in new or emerging markets.

Other judges for this year's awards include Professor Richard Wong Yue-chim, deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post's editor-in-chief, Wang Xiangwei, and representatives from business organisations and winners from previous years.

The entry deadline for the nine award categories is August 10. Details and nominations are available at www.hkbusinessawards.com.

Winners will be announced at the end of November.