Asian business leaders see the Internet primarily as a forum for the sale of products and services and as a communications tool rather than as a means to transform their company's revenue streams, according to a survey. In fact, most chief executives do not even see the Net as a particularly useful communications tool. Two-thirds of the 334 respondents to the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) survey said the Internet had had little impact on their shareholder communications strategy, with one in four saying it had had no impact at all; 62 per cent said e-business had had only some or no effect at all on brand strategy. The survey, conducted on the eve of the World Economic Forum's East Asia Economic Summit in Singapore, found that CEOs failed to grasp concepts such as computer-assisted tools and processes to transform a company's value. They also did not utilise sophisticated data warehousing and business-linking networks. They used the Net mainly for news updates, reflecting a perception that the primary emphasis on the Net was as a communications tool. This was despite the phenomenal increase of Internet users. It is estimated that 200 million people are connected to the Internet. 'Within the last year, the business potential of the Internet has graduated from fascinating novelty to inescapable business reality,' PWC said. The banking industry was the most concerned about the inroads that new players would make using the Net, with 35 out of 40 banking respondents saying it was either 'extremely' or 'somewhat' likely new competitors would use e-business to carve into established markets. However, Asia has been slow to recognise the benefits to other sectors such as healthcare, manufacturing and education. This meant that new banking competitors would gain market share depending on their ability to understand that customers would judge them by price, choice, service and quality of decision-making. PWC observed that on-line banking and bill-paying were growing rapidly - especially in the United States - while other retail financial services were flocking to the Web. The survey found that Singapore ranked first in Internet usage in terms of business, educational and home users. It was also ahead in technology use and spending. As a percentage of population, Singapore was second, behind the US and ahead of Hong Kong.