Sino Belgian Business Survey Results. Comparing Apples to Apples

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1 Sino Belgian Business Survey 2014 Results Comparing Apples to Apples PRECISE. PROVEN. PERFORMANCE.

2 Contents Page 1. Executive Summary 2 2. Survey Demographics 3 3. Growth and Margins 6 4. Capital Investment Finance and Regulation IT Maturity Free Trade Zone Challenges Ahead Individual Views About 24 1 Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

3 1. Executive Summary Revenue and Growth Growth was the rule, rather than the exception for Belgian Companies in China in While China s government was busy pushing for reforms and a rebalancing of the economy, Belgian owned companies established their niche and hit their stride, reporting the strongest growth in our survey s 3 years. Past years saw divergent results among Belgian owned companies. The majority of respondents were winning big or losing big, with little room in between. This year, we were excited to see only 14% of respondents reported a decrease in sales, with 4 of respondents achieving better than growth. This is equally impressive when we consider that 2013 was already a year that topped expectations. Profitability Profitability figures were also strong and again driven by growth. More than any other factor, companies realized better margins through increased economies of scale, allowing them to realize operating efficiencies and improve bargaining power with suppliers. For 3 years in a row, increased salary costs continues to be the biggest concern for maintaining margins. However things may be looking a bit brighter, in our Individual Views section, respondents were much more optimistic about productivity keeping pace with wage growth when compared to Companies also reported decreases in pricing power as a significant factor in maintaining margins. We see this as evidence that Chinese firms are more able than ever to compete with foreign firms, as they race to close the quality gap that has protected many foreign firms. View on China Most economists believe China s economy will continue to slow in 2014 and most of our respondents tend to share this same view. But this is not to say they are pessimistic about Quite the opposite, more than 5 of survey participants are looking forward to grow their top line by more than in the next year, with sentiment on improved margins decidedly positive. 2 Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

4 2. Survey Demographics We collected data from 42 companies in total. Out of these 42 companies, 13 have a non-belgian parent company or beneficial owner. We used these 13 as a test group, but did not include their data in the presentation of our survey results. More than 8 of these companies fall into the following 4 industry classifications; Industrial Goods (25%), Consumer Goods (24%), Industrial Services (18%) and Healthcare (15%). Compared to the respondents of our 2013 survey, we noticed an increased response from companies active in Consumer Services (12%). Consumer Services 12% Financials 3% Health Care 15% Business Classication 2014 Industrial Services 18% Basic Materials 3% Industrial Goods 25% Consumer Goods 24% Business Classification vs % 15% 1 5% Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

5 Our median respondent has been operational in China for 6 to 10 years, with an average period of 11 years. Compared to previous samples, we received a larger portion of responses from companies which have 0-5 years of formal operations in China. Years of Formal Operations in China 45% 4 35% 3 25% 15% 1 5% 0 to 5 years 6 to 10 years 11 to 15 years 16 to 20 years more than 20 years This coincides with a sample which is less skewed towards larger companies having greater than EUR 50 million in China revenue. Taken together, we see that this year s results are more reflective of younger consumer service companies, which are in the initial growth years of their China strategy. Much more than ever, Belgian companies seem to have moved past the cheap China for export model and are squarely targeting Chinese consumers. Company Size by Chinese Revenue > Start-up (Pre-revenue) 5% 1 15% 25% 3 35% Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

6 % of Revenue to China Customers 5 45% 4 35% 3 25% 15% 1 5% Three quarters of all Belgian investments into China reported using a Hong Kong vehicle in their corporate structure. It will be interesting to see if and how this changes as new policies such as the introduction of the China (Shanghai) Free Trade Zone, promises to free up the capital account, and the China-Belgium DTA coming into force, promise to ease the difficulties often encountered when making direct investment. Nationality of Parent Company Netherlands Japan United Kingdom Norway Hong Kong France China Unites States Germany Belgium Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

7 3. Growth and Margins 2013 ended the win-big or lose-big paradigm In this section of the survey, respondents were asked to report on their overall revenue growth and operating margins. Respondents were then asked to identify the top three factors which accounted for the biggest positive change and biggest negative change in operating margins. Finally, respondents were asked for their view on 2014 top-line growth, operating margins, and whether profitability would be affected more by cost savings or revenue growth. Revenue More than 85% of Belgian companies saw their revenues increase from 2012 to in 2013 in China. With an astounding 39% of respondents reporting revenue growth of or more, 2013 seems to be an even more exceptional year for Belgian companies in China. The revenue growth distribution has become less U-shaped than past years, ending the win-big or lose-big paradigm. This is somewhat more surprising given our sample included a greater number of young companies, which generally tend to experience larger swings in revenues when compared to mature companies. 2011, 2012 & 2013 Revenue Growth < to 5% 5% to 1 1 to > Looking at projected revenue growth figures for 2013, the vast majority of correspondents appear to bested their own budgeted growth figures. This is equally impressive when we looked back to last year s survey results and we see that expectations were already quite high. However, it would have been too ambitious to expect that no Belgian company would experience shrinking revenues in 2013; as 14% of the respondents did end up in this category. 6 Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

8 2013 Revenue Growth - Budget vs Actual < to 5% 5% to 1 1 to > Budgeted 2013 Actual 2013 Companies are growing and realizing efficiencies Operating Margins 46% Of the respondents were able to improve their operating margins in 2013, with a nearly the same number (43%) able to maintain similar margins and only 11% experiencing deteriorating margins in Compared with 2012, we notice that there is a shift from a negative change in operating margin to maintained margins in The typical respondent that was able to improve margins by more than 1 is a younger company generating most of its revenue on the Chinese market. This is explained by increases in revenue, allowing the business to scale costs. % Change in Operating Margins to -5% (decreased) -5% to Stayed the Same to 5% 5% to 1 > 1 (improved) 2011 vs vs vs 2012 We re continuing to invest in growth Drivers of Change in Operating Margin Belgian companies indicate increased turnover and economies of scale as the most important positive driver for their operating margin in China. Material costs, increased pricing power and increased process based technology share second place as an important driver for operating margin. This is a positive sign for younger companies which are demonstrating that their business model is scaleable in the Chinese market. 7 Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

9 Compared to last year s results, this year we included an additional category Increased Process Based Efficiency into the possible factors that positively affect operating margins. We observe Use of Technology has moved down the list significantly from last year s results. Companies seem to be pushing forward with optimizing processes and strengthening efficiency, but this may not be directly related to the introduction of new technology. Positive Drivers of Changes in Operating Margin Rent/Lease Expenses Other Logistics Costs Administration/Regulatory Costs Use of Technology Salary Costs Increased Process Based Efficiency Increased Pricing Power Materials Costs Increased Turnover/Economies of Scale Most Significant Second Most Significant Third Most Significant Regulatory Costs are stabilizing For the third year in a row, salary cost is identified as the most significant negative driver of operating margins. This was exceeded however in a number of cases by decreased pricing power, which appears to have become increasingly significant for some companies. This speaks to the increased competition in China for products in all segments of the market. Local companies are producing ever-higher quality products and services, challenging markets which were previously only occupied by foreign firms with advanced technology. Administration and regulatory costs have decreased in importance compared to last year Saw the introduction of many reforms, including the simplification of foreign exchange rules Promises additional reforms to streamline new business registration procedures and annual filings, developments which are no doubt welcomed by all. 1 Other factors identified include interbank liquidity, introducing a new commercial strategy and the currency impact. 8 Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

10 Negative Drivers of Changes in Operating Margin Logistics Costs Other Increased Provisions for Bad Debts (trade Decreased Turnover/Economies of Scale Administration/Regulatory Costs Costs of Implementing New Technology Rent/Lease Expenses Materials Costs Decreased Pricing Power Salary Costs 5% 1 15% 25% 3 Most Significant Second Most Significant Third Most Significant 2 Positive Drivers vs % 15% 1 5% Other factors identified include increased quality control, interbank liquidity and pricing regulations. 9 Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

11 Negative Drivers 2013 vs % 15% 1 5% Expectations for 2014 Looking to the future, Belgian companies continue to appear very optimistic on revenue growth targets for More than 55% of the respondents believe they will see top-line increases of over in A limited amount of Belgian companies (4%) expect to experience a decrease in revenue in Expected Revenue Growth < to 5% 5% to 1 1 to > Budgeted 2012 Budgeted 2013 Budgeted 2014 This is contrasted with a surprisingly less optimistic view about growth for the Chinese economy. 54% Of respondents view the economy as slowing and 18% expect growth to remain flat against This is in line with the consensus of many economists, who are also quick to note that even a slowing China is still growing faster than any of major world economies. 10 Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

12 I Expect Operating Margins to Improve (Disagree) (Agree) Three out of four Belgian companies expect to increase operating margins in the year to come. Respondents expect that profitability will be mostly affected by revenue growth and not by cost savings, indicating companies see strong opportunities to grow their business and market-share, even with lowered growth expectations for the Chinese economy as a whole. Profitability - Cost vs Growth (Revenue Growth) (Cost Savings) China will grow faster next year (Disagree) (Agree) 2012 vs vs vs Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

13 4. Capital Investment For the first time in 3 years, the respondents have indicated a higher ROI in the Belgian parent company compared to the Chinese company. More than 6 of the respondents plan to make additional investments, however this rate is decreasing compared to last year s results. More than 3 of the respondents indicated that China is their number 1 priority. Return on Investment was Greater in: Mainland China Country of Parent Company Expect to make Additional Capital Investements in China (Disagree) (Agree) China is #1 Priority (Disagree) (Agree) Not Applicable Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

14 5. Finance and Regulation The optimism that seems to be the theme of this year s survey is also visible as the respondents graded their expectation of the financial and regulatory environment for More than 7 of the companies believe financing arrangements will be available if needed in Financing will be Available if Needed (Disagree) (Agree) We re confident in our finances, less so in our customer s The financial health of customers remains a major concern for companies. Slightly less than 7 of the respondents cautiously believe the bad debt expense may improve. This is in line with results from 2013 s survey, signaling that liquidity concerns continue to linger. Receivable Collection Period and Bad Debt Expense will Improve (Disagree) (Agree) The tone towards the regulatory environment is less negative compared to last years, with almost half of the surveyed companies believing that the regulatory environment will improve. China s complicated maze of regulations are a common frustration in China. The new leaders have made some significant, if symbolic steps that show commitment to resolving this burden. 13 Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

15 Regulatory Environment will Improve (Disagree) (Agree) Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

16 6. IT Maturity We added an additional section to the survey this year to rate the respondents IT maturity. Companies continue to face rising HR costs, making productivity improvements a very hot topic in China. Investments in IT are one way to companies are looking to improve this. We measured IT maturity by asking our participants if they utilised a business management or business intelligence system, carried out a Bring Your Own Device-policy and used a cloud-based IT infrastructure. Do you use a Business Management System We re not happy with the systems we have Parent Company China Company Yes No More than 75% of our respondents utilised a Business Management System in their parent company, and only 55% of the respondents utilised a Business Management System in China. The net promoter score 3 of the Business Management Systems used in China is only 19%, which would indicate that many surveyed respondents are not currently satisfied with their Business Management System. Likelihood to recommend this ERP system (China) 15% 1 5% 3 Respondents rating their likelihood to recommend 9 or 10 are identified as promoters. 15 Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

17 The main reason (47%) for implementing a said Business Management System is because it is the system used by their Parent company. Price is also an influencing factor, being listed by 27% of the respondents as main reason. Main Reason for Choosing ERP System 5 45% 4 35% 3 25% 15% 1 5% With almost 3, the Business Management System has had the biggest impact on financial planning and reporting. Other positive impacts are improved administrative efficiency, increased inventory efficiency and improved control environment. The ERP system has had the biggest positive impact on: Other Strategic Decision Making Sourcing and Procurement Savings Improving the Control Environment Inventory Efficiency Administrative Efficiency Financial Planning and Reporting 5% 1 15% 25% 3 Most Positive Impact Second Most Positive Impact Third Most Positive Impact Our question about the challenges of the current Business Management System did not seem to generate one unanimous answer. One fifth of the respondents indicated lack of staff education as an important challenge when using the Business Management Software. The same amount of respondents pointed at a limited integration with other software as being an important challenge. Other important challenges are limited benefits visibility, cost to maintain the system, limited buy-in from local management and poor implementation. 16 Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

18 What are the challenges of using an ERP system? Other System Weaknesses and Bugs Poor Implementation Limited Buy-In from Local Management Cost to Update/Maintain Limited Benefits Visibility Limited Integration with Other Software Staff's Lack of Education 5% 1 15% Most Important Second Most Important Third Most Important The respondents that did not utilize a Business Management System indicated that currently such a system is not useful given its size (46%) or not useful at this point in China (38%). Surprisingly, price is not a determining factor in the decision whether or not to use a Business Management System. Less than half of the respondents without Business Management System indicated that they plan to install a Business Management System in the near future. What is the main reason for not getting a ERP system in China Not useful given size company Not suitable for China at this point Unfamiliar with it Other Price Software not reliable Do you have the intention to implement one over the next few years? 55% 5 45% 4 Yes No 17 Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

19 A Bring Your Own Device policy refers to a policy permitting employees to use their personally owned devices to access privileged company information and applications. Our respondents indicated that in their parent company and China company, 45% and 41% respectively carried out this policy. Do you carry out a "Bring your own device" policy? 6 4 Yes No Plan to allow Not applicable Parent Company China Company A cloud-based IT infrastructure was used by 52% of the Parent companies, and only in 31% of the China companies. Currently more Chinese companies used a partly cloud-based IT infrastructure than Parent companies and little under 1 of the Chinese companies is planning to set up a cloud-based IT infrastructure. It seems that more that 5 of the respondents are currently not using a Business Intelligence software in their Chinese entity, whereas almost 6 is using this type of software in the Parent company. One third of the Chinese entities are looking into setting up such software. Do you utilize a cloud-based IT infrastructure? Yes Partly No Plan to setup Not applicable Parent Company China Company 18 Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

20 Do you utilize a Business Intelligence / Business Analytics software? 6 4 Yes No Plan to set-up Not applicable Parent Company China Company 19 Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

21 7. Free Trade Zone In this section, respondents graded their expectations towards the newly established China (Shanghai) Free Trade Zone. Most companies appear to be moderately positive towards the Free Trade Zone, with the majority indicating it being a positive development for international business. However most respondents are less positive when it comes to seeing the benefits of the Free Trade Zone for their own business. This would explain the limited amount of respondents that are actively looking into opportunities in the Free Trade Zone. Free Trade Zone is a positive development for international business (Disagree) (Agree) Free Trade Zone is a positive development for my business (Disagree) (Agree) Our company is looking at the opportunities in the China (Shanghai) Free Trade Zone (Disagree) (Agree) 20 Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

22 The Potential positive effects for my company of the China (Shanghai) Free Trade zone are clear to me (Disagree) (Agree) 21 Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

23 8. Challenges Ahead In the final portion of the survey, respondents were asked to rate (from greatest to least), which of six external market factors required the most attention in Respondents indicated managing sales volume as the most important concern in Last year s top concerns managing labor costs and managing 3 rd parties have both decreased in importance. A newly added factor managing data security is currently least on the minds of our respondents. Biggest Concerns for % 15% 1 5% The hunger for growth continues to out shadow concerns around costs Managing Sales Volume / Meeting Sales Targets Managing Labor Costs Managing 3rd Parties (Distributors and Suppliers) Managing Regulatory Compliance Managing Managing Data Material Costs Security 1 (Biggest Challenge) (Least Challenging) Biggest Concerns 2013 vs % 15% 1 5% Managing Sales Volume / Meeting Sales Targets Managing Labor Costs Managing 3rd Parties (Distributors and Suppliers) Managing Material Costs Managing Regulatory Compliance Managing Data Security Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

24 9. Individual Views With the growing problems of the Chinese polluted air and other environmental issues, it should not come as a surprise that the negative quality of life influencing investment decisions is gaining in importance compared to last year. This would also explain the increase in respondents considering opportunities outside of China. We notice that many of the reform measures launched by the Chinese government did not yet positively affect our respondents. Individual Views Our (global) CEO will be Chinese sometime within the next 20 years I prefer to invest in lesser developed cities, than in Tier 1 cities, such as Shanghai or Beijing We should be looking at opportunities to relocate operations outside of China In the past year, I have been faced with managing corruption New reform policies have positively affected our industry Increases in productivity are keeping pace with wage increases Strikes and employee social unrest will continue to increase in the future Negative quality of life factors such as pollution is a factor that affects my investment decisions I am negatively affected by regulations which are not practiced as they are written Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

25 10. About Moore Stephens Verschelden provides integrated solutions in accounting and finance in Belgium, the US and China. Established in 1967, we have grown into an industry leader and are Belgium s largest independent accounting firm. Over this period we have built up a very strong reputation in the fields of audit, accounting, tax and business advisory. We assist our international clients across a variety of services: - Consulting: ERP-integrated and outsourced solutions in accounting and finance in China. - Assurance: Statutory audits, internal control reviews, investor due diligence and fraud investigation. - Tax: Local, national and international tax planning and filling, Hong Kong structures and transfer pricing. - Corporate Finance: Valuation, financial due diligence and forecasting, portfolio company support. Today s most promising markets can also be the most challenging, and so we have built up a strong China-focus. Our Global China Desk (GCD) consists of a team of Chinese and Belgian chartered accountants and tax advisors. has been serving Chinese companies operating in Europe and European companies operating in China for over 15 years. provides you the tools to execute your solution locally. That s how we do mo(o)re Sino-Belgian Business Survey Results

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