Congratulations to FinanceAsia.com on its 10-year anniversary. It is one of the first places I go for a daily, in-depth view of Asian capital markets and business, and a first-read for anyone who wants to stay abreast of events in the region.
From my vantage point as a past CEO for Credit Suisse in Asia-Pacific and, now, CEO for Credit Suisse Investment Bank, there may never have been a period of more dramatic and transformative change than the first 10 years of FinanceAsia.com. Asia has gone from a region thirsting for Western capital to a provider of capital for economies all over the world.
The transformation from an acquirer to a source of capital did not happen overnight. The Asian financial crisis at the end of the previous decade devastated the region. The Sars outbreak in 2002-2003 shocked and tested Asian economies, but showed that important lessons had been learned from the crisis, and local companies held up relatively well.
I have had the privilege to witness several remarkable milestones in Asia's transformation first-hand. China Life awoke the market to the scale of opportunity, successfully raising $3.5 billion in the largest IPO of 2003. In a few short years, three of China's Big Four banks were listed, including Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which, at $21.9 billion, remains the largest IPO ever and cemented Asia's stature as a long term story. Last year Asian exchanges listed more than half of the world's IPOs by number and value, a trend that is on track again this year -- as of mid-April, Asia-listed IPOs accounted for $28 billion out of a total of $59 billion globally.
Some of these capital raisings occurred in a period of extraordinary global liquidity, but even in the past two years, while markets were rocked by severe illiquidity, the region has proven resilient. Asian capital has served as a source of stability to the world, as sovereign wealth funds from China to Singapore emerged as investors of last resort in stricken Western companies during the turmoil. Between July 2007 and July 2008, the four major Asian sovereign wealth funds injected more than $45 billion into Western financial institutions.
In the course of the decade, Asia has also come to own some of the world's premier brands: IBM's iconic PC business was bought by Lenovo of China, Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus became part of Tata Steel, and Tata Motors acquired Jaguar Land Rover.
Naturally, we've seen the occasional setback as the region grows in economic strength and size. Chinalco's thwarted attempt to invest $19.5 billion in Rio Tinto and unsuccessful efforts by India's Bharti and Reliance to acquire MTN of South Africa in the past few years illustrate that challenges remain in Asia's drive for a more expansive global footprint. These exceptions only highlight the fact that Asia today has the appetite, capital and resources to be a dominant player in global business and finance. Looking ahead, it will increasingly be to Asian companies and investors that the West turns for capital and innovation.
Business cycles are part of the fabric of our industry and, after a disruption, many expect a return to the old established order. Reverting to Western financial hegemony is not necessarily the likeliest outcome of the most recent global crisis. If Asia has provided more than half of world output in 18 of the last 20 centuries, as some have said, then we're likelier to see an economically dominant Asia rise again.
From 2000 on, as we've seen, Asia's progress has proceeded nearly unchecked. It has been our good fortune that FinanceAsia.com was here to chart its growth. I am confident that, 10 years hence, we will continue to turn to FinanceAsia as the first read on the region. One of the earliest headlines on FinanceAsia.com was one that read, "Things are looking up". To which, 10 years later, I would say, "so true".
Paul Calello is CEO for Credit Suisse Investment Bank.