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Asia's 200 Best Under A Billion 2018


Kevin Ma, founder and CEO of Hypebeast, speaks during the Rise conference in Hong Kong on July 11, 2017. The company makes its debut on the list after a 77% jump in revenue last year, much from its e-commerce unit HbX carrying various brands such as Prada, adidas and streetwear label MM6. (Photo: Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg)

This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of Asia’s Best Under A Billion 2018 list, which highlights 200 Asia-Pacific public companies with less than $1 billion in revenue and consistent top- and bottom-line growth. See the full list, sorted alphabetically, here.

Our annual Best Under A Billion list honors 200 small- to medium-sized enterprises in the Asia Pacific region with sales under $1 billion and a track record of strong top- and bottom-line growth. This year’s roster saw an average 62% growth in annual sales to generate a combined $45 billion, and netted $9 billion in profit. The markets rewarded them too. Their combined market value rose 22% to $254 billion this year; on average the stock price of these candidates grew 27%.

Companies from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan account for over half of our list with 108 entries, up slightly from last year (100). Aier Eye Hospital is making its third consecutive appearance and is the largest of all 200 companies in terms of market value, worth $12.3 billion. It serves 4 million patients annually at more than 200 specialized eye hospitals in 30 provinces in mostly rural, under-served areas, and employs over 25,000. Last year it expanded to Hong Kong and acquired its first facility in the United States, Wang Eye Institute in Nashville, Tennessee, for $17 million. Revenue increased 46% last year to $880 million. It could grow off our list next year.


Taiwan’s Merry Electronics makes a comeback after a decade’s absence. The audio electronics maker’s computer speakers were top-choice for the likes of Hewlett-Packard and Dell in the early 2000s. After being hit hard by the 2008 global financial meltdown, founder Liao Lu Li shifted gears and steered the now 43-year old company towards headphones and speakers for smartphones. Last year the company experienced a 67% growth in sales, generating $877 million from customers Apple, Sony, Bose, Logitech, and Beats Electronics, among others.

Half of Taiwan’s entries reflect the region’s growing specialization in the semiconductor industry. Sales of Aspeed Technology, returning for a fifth consecutive appearance, grew 49% to $62 million last year, fueled by a demand for artificial intelligence backed by its data center-linking semiconductors.

The majority (84) of our Greater China companies are newcomers, a reflection of its dynamic economy, including the rising affluence of the middle class. The newcomers average age is 15 years old versus 21 years old for repeat contenders.

Jason Furniture is the largest among them, and our entire list, in terms of sales, having made $976 million last year. Because it is quickly approaching the $1 billion threshold, it figures as a one-and-done on our list. The Hangzhou-based home furnishings company employs more than 10,700 at its  four manufacturing facilities and 3,500 stores in mainland China. Riding the wave of the middle class housing boom in smaller cities, Holike Creative Home debuts with sales of $273 million. Closets made up nearly all its business, although it broadened its portfolio earlier this year with kitchen cabinets and doors. Renowned French architect Paul Andreu, designer of Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport, is its chief design consultant.

Another newcomer is Plover Bay Technologies, founded in 2006 by now 50-year old chairman Wing Hong Chan and run by 43-year-old Kit Wai Chau. Its Peplink and Pepwave branded internet connectivity products are primarily sold to customers in North America. Sales rose 31% last year to $37 million; North American sales account for 57% of that and grew 42% to $21 million.

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The Hong Kong-based company is the only Greater China candidate whose revenue is majority reliant on the United States. It is among 13 from the region with 20% or more of its revenue exposed to a rising concern of U.S. protectionism.

Three-time candidate Leyard Optoelectronic is another one of them. It generated 27% of its $953 million in revenue from North America last year. The Beijing-based company holds over 300 patents related to its video display screens, including an interactive LED touch-enabled video wall, used globally in broadcasting, airports, billboards and retailers.

For twenty years it has been conducting business in the United States, first entering in 1997 when it acquired Wisconsin-based Standish Industries, and most recently in 2015, acquiring Oregon-based Planar. Still it was hit with a lawsuit from 8-year old, U.S.-based Ultravision this past March. The Texas company filed suit against it and 10 other Chinese companies claiming an import tariff violation with the US International Trade Commission. The China Optics & Optoelectronics Manufacturers Association (COEMA) condemned it as an exploitation of trade tensions.

Debut candidate Unilumin, whose LED displays adorned four stadiums at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, was among those sued. The Shenzhen-based company generated 12% of its $445 million revenue in North America last year. But over 60% of revenue was earned in the Asia Pacific region; another 20% came from Europe. The legal matter brought on by Ultravision appears to pose no significant threat to either Unilumin’s or Leyard’s business .

Echoing a government call for less dependence on exports, the remaining candidates based in Greater China generated 90% or more of their revenue within the Asia Pacific region; 42 were solely regionally-dependent. Overall, more than half (107) of all Best Under A Billion listees generated all their revenue within the Asia Pacific region; 137 generated 90% or more of their business there.

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Japan has 38 entries on the list with more than half returning from last year or making a comeback after a brief hiatus. Their success stands in contrast to the growing concern of the aging population there. Fifteen come from the general technology sector comprising hardware and software, including mobile gaming company Akatsuki. It marks its return with sales growth averaging 75% the last three years, climbing to $198 million, and earnings per share growing 140% over the same period.

Among the 12 in the business services industry, half operate solely online, including returning job placement company, DIP Corporation. It is one of four capitalizing on the tight labor market through employment services along with newcomers Atrae and ZIGExN, and comeback En-Japan.

The latter first appeared on our list in 2008 but experienced a 50% drop in sales the next year. Acquisitions and expansion nipped at profits and earnings per share, keeping it out of contention the past decade. But sales over the last 3 years have averaged 28%. It now offers online job recruiting through outposts in Australia, China, India, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Overall sales grew 25% last year to $367 million buoyed by a 29% increase in overseas sales.

Pure technology companies make up 35% of the whole list. High-tech Xinjiang Sailing Information Technology’s security surveillance has been used for major public events like the G20 Summit. Sales grew 46% to $118 million last year.

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Another 10% of the list operates solely online, like Australia’s travel service Webjet which returns with $150 million in sales, one of five candidates from that continent. The stand-out theme is that Asia Pacific SMEs are embracing the digital economy and are a force for innovation.

Combined our Best Under A Billion companies employed over 245,000 people last year. Their average age is 19 years old. Shanghai-based Anxin Trust with $950 million in sales, is the longest tenured at 6 years, 5 consecutive. It has experienced 49% average growth in sales the last 3 years. Even with that slowing to 26% last year, the company is poised to grow off the list next year.

Its largest investor Gao Tianguo’s holdings of $992 million make up the majority of his $1.9 billion worth. He is one of the top 10 individual shareholders behind our candidates and one of four of them with stakes worth $1 billion or more at press time. Their combined fortune in these companies is worth $15.1 billion.

From left to right: Cao Longxiang, Jiang Weiping, Lou Jing and Jung-Hyun Ho.

NAMES BEHIND THE COMPANIES

THE BIGGEST SHARE POSITIONS AMONG THE BEST UNDER A BILLION.

RankShareholder NameCompany/CountryHoldings ($M)1Cao LongxiangJumpcan Pharmaceutical / China / Hong Kong4,3932Jiang WeipingTianqi Lithium Industries / China / Hong Kong2,9433Lou Jing3SBio / China / Hong Kong1,4804Geng DiangenBeijing Sinnet Technology / China / Hong Kong1,0995Gao TianguoAnxin Trust / China / Hong Kong 9926Zhang FamilyAutobio Diagnostics / China / Hong Kong8907Zhang Yong FamilyYihai International / China / Hong Kong8648Liang Shezeng Guangdong Shirongzhaoye / China / Hong Kong8589Liu XuebinWisdom Education International / China / Hong Kong818 10Jung Hyun-HoMedyTox / South Korea747

Holdings may vary from Forbes wealth estimations because of borrowings against shares, or stock held in others’ names. Source: FactSet.

METHODOLOGY

To compile our Forbes Asia’s Best Under A Billion list, we start with stock traded Asia-Pacific companies with annual revenue between $5 million and $1 billion. From a universe of 24,000 candidates, roughly 1,400 passed our criteria for profitability, growth, and modest indebtedness.

Our selection of 200 is un-ranked but comparatively produced the highest sales and earnings per share growth for both the most recent fiscal one- and three-year periods, and the strongest one- and five-year average return on equity. We excluded those with questionable accounting, management or major legal troubles.The final list of 200 is truly a select field—the top 1% in their sector.

Even the companies that survive this screening can have controversies. On Monday, July 23, 2018, news broke of a Chinese government investigation into its drug industry after a report showed that drug maker Changchun Changsheng had violated standards in making diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough vaccines. The news rattled the markets, already leery from a series of recent scandals involving tainted food and drugs in China. Within hours of the news, the stock price of list newcomer and hepatitis B and influenza vaccine maker, Kangtai Biological Products, dropped 10% and trading was halted. The company was not implicated in the Changsheng scandal, or singled out by the government.  The stock continued to fall for three consecutive days, closing today at a 3-month low, but still three-times more than a year ago. In defense of his company, chairman Du Weimin announced today that he is buying $8.8 million worth of shares in the next year, and the company released a statement reassuring the public that its products are safe and operations are stable.

79,977 views |Jul 12, 2018,9:30 am

The Fintech Playbook: What Financial Services Leaders Need To Know

Mitch SiegelBrand Contributor

KPMGBRANDVOICE

New technologies are rapidly reshaping financial services. That’s no longer the headline, it’s now the industry reality. Banks, insurers and asset managers are knee-deep in the potential of such technologies as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain to transform their businesses and stay on top of ever-changing consumer expectations.

Financial services leaders need to be aware of that tension and plan ahead of it, rather than simply embracing the status quo.ISTOCK

But what’s the right path? And what’s the best technology? That strategic view is where financial services executives need to focus, according to a comprehensive new report from KPMG, which surveyed more than 160 financial institutions from 36 countries and featured in-depth interviews with senior leaders. And while no magic “winning” plan emerged, it’s clear that a forward-thinking strategy that stays as agile as all of the new technology is the key to gaining a competitive edge.

To learn how institutions are adapting to the new world of fintech, access the full Forging the Future.

The fintech imperative

Strategic planning needs to start with the reckoning that nimble new financial technology (fintech) firms are here to stay. Indeed, emerging fintech was cited as the greatest source of disruption in the KPMG survey—ahead of even regulatory complexity.

Further, customer expectations are changing as quickly as the tech. Consumer’s best experiences quickly become their expectations and they are increasingly demanding financial services providers to respond quickly, and with products suited to their needs. But these consumer expectations can create competing priorities, leading to a cycle of constantly evolving goals that make it difficult to give fintech the focus and resources it requires. Financial services leaders need to be aware of that tension and plan ahead of it, rather than simply embracing the status quo.

Building the right foundation

Only about half of those organizations surveyed said their fintech strategy is well aligned with current challenges and disruptions. The good news is that most organizations are still early in their fintech journey. There’s time and opportunity to build a strategy that works. Keep in mind these guiding principles:

Know thyself: Start with a rapid assessment of current operations that identifies opportunities, challenges and roadblocks.Plan for change: Closely track technology trends so that you understand new opportunities, and when and how they will impact your operating model.Understand the long view: Define where you want to be in 3 and 5 years, and then map fintech to those big-picture goals.Pave the way: Establish buy-in from employees who will be affected by fintech, understand cultural barriers and tailor strategy accordingly.Align the goals: Ensure that your fintech strategy complements your overall business strategy—rather than distracting from it.Don’t get boxed in: Plan for both incremental change and big leaps forward—and evaluate them appropriately.Set priorities: Resist fintech’s call to try everything at once by establishing a clear process to evaluate and prioritize each new technology.Lead by example: A lack of C-suite guidance and leadership support is where fintech strategies go to die.

Integrating fintech

Whether the goal is to protect their turf or conquer new territory, success on fintech for financial services companies ultimately will mean integrating those new technologies into their operations. Here again, the KMPG survey found that there is no one true way to proceed, but four clear options are emerging:

Building tailor-made solutions in-house.Sourcing or white-labeling technologies from fintech developers.Acquiring or investing in a fintech startup.Partnering or collaborating with an innovator.

The road ahead

The financial services digital infrastructure will look amazingly different in a decade—and even markedly transformed in just the next few years. Big Data, AI, automation, cloud computing, IoT and even augmented reality will reshape the near future of financial services companies, the products they offer and the way they engage their customers.

Leaders of financial institutions must be the catalyst for change. Start by defining a clear fintech strategy that aligns with business model goals. Those who are ready to manage innovation as an ongoing process will be positioned to not just survive disruption—they will thrive.

Read Forging the Future to learn more about the future of fintech.

© 2018 KPMG LLP, a Delaware limited liability partnership and the U.S. member firm of the KPMG network of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”), a Swiss entity. The KPMG name and logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of KPMG International. The information contained herein is of a general nature and is not intended to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Some of the services or offerings provided by KPMG LLP are not permissible for its audit clients or affiliates.

Mitch SiegelBrand Contributor

Principal, National Financial Services Strategy and Transformation Leader, KPMG LLP Mitch provides c-suite and board-level guidance to financial services organizations on business and operating model strategies intended to drive revenue growth and cost efficiency. His…Read More

17,799 views |Jul 27, 2018,7:26 am

This Multimillion-Dollar Men's Athleisure Startup Is Coming After Lululemon's Market Share

Darren HeitnerContributor

In 2015, Vuori clothing brand was launched with $300,000 from friends and family.VUORI

Clothing company Vuori launched in 2015 with only $300,000 in capital raised. Today, the apparel brand that set its sights on becoming the Lululemon for men (acknowledging that Lululemon has come out with an extensive line of products for men) is on the path to becoming a giant in the space.

Funding has increased to $2.6 million, all from friends (including singer-songwriter Jason Mraz) and family through two separate rounds, but more importantly the company is growing in sales, revenues and infrastructure. It projects revenues for end of 2018 of between $30 million and $50 million after experiencing 125% growth in 2017 from 2016. Vuori also anticipates another 160% growth in 2018, with its number of employees going from the roughly 30 it currently has hired to over 40 by year’s end.

It is a business venture that first became profitable in 2017, has remained profitable since and has its sights set on eating into some of the major market share that Lululemon has built, which includes a projection that Lululemon’s men’s line will grow to an approximately $1 billion business by 2020.

CEO Joe Kudla really is not reinventing the wheel with his products. They are not necessarily flashy or edgy in any way; they are simply some of the most comfortable items on the market. He and his company are being rewarded for giving consumers athletic shorts, swimsuits and sweatpants that look good, but more importantly feel good, taking advantage of a trend toward consumers finding a lot of interest in purchasing “athleisure” items.

“I often get asked whether the bubble around leisure will burst anytime soon, and the answer is no,” Matt Powell, senior sports industry adviser at NPD, said in February. In 2017, activewear apparel sales increased 2% to $48 billion, representing roughly 22% of total apparel industry sales.

Another secret to Vuori’s success could be its selection of shorts as a focus instead of tops. Most active brands sell three tops to every one pair of shorts, per Vuori. Yet this company is doing the opposite, selling three pairs of shorts to every one shirt sold. Almost 60% of Vuori’s business comes from selling shorts.

Nike, Adidas and Under Armour are not competitors. Vuori has no interest in competing in the highly sought out sectors of basketball and football. Instead, it is marketing toward those who participate in slightly less mainstream sports like yoga, surfing and running. As someone who practiced yoga, Kudla created the brand because he felt as though there were very few labels offering good yoga gear for men, besides Lululemon.

“Lululemon makes great product. I used to wear it all the time for lack of other good options on the market,” admits Kudla. “There was just one problem — it always felt like my wife’s brand. Vuori was created by men, for men. Everything we make is built with versatility in mind. At its core, Vuori product delivers the same functional properties you might find at Lululemon (anti odor, moisture management, great stretch, quick drying, etc), but unlike others, our product is designed with a casual aesthetic that feels equally relevant in a bar or cafe as it does in a gym.”

Kudla adds that Vuori may look to raise capital towards the end of 2019, but the companny has no need to raise to meet near term growth objectives.

Darren Heitner is the Founder of South Florida-based HEITNER LEGAL, P.L.L.C. and Sports Agent Blog. He authored the book, How to Play the Game: What Every Sports Attorney Needs to Know.