The fact that FinanceAsia was born just before the Asian financial crisis made this task all the more interesting.
We enlisted the help of UBS Warburg to figure out who these companies are. We chose two methodologies. One was to examine which companies had added the most Economic Value, a measure known as EVA. This is reckoned to be one of the best ways to measure how companies have increased shareholder value and is a calculation based on net operating profit minus the cost of capital invested in an enterprise including equity. Positive EVA means that a company has added to shareholder value after paying for all its capital.
The second was to track the compound annual growth rate of a company's share prices in the last five years. Put simply, a company that has a five year CAGR of 100% has (on average) doubled its share price every year for the past five years.
The 20 companies that we have found epitomize some of the key trends in Asia over the past five years - namely, Chinese privatization, the growth of Taiwanese and Indian technology firms and the telecom boom.
Breaking down this list of 20 companies, it is interesting to note that the biggest number (30%) come from Taiwan. Possibly this reflects the fact that, in many ways, Taiwan was the place least affected by the Asian economic crisis.
More surprising is the fact that India comes a close second in the list. Regularly written off as an Asian laggard (remember "the Hindu rate of growth" ?) it produces a full quarter of the names. This suggests that wise stock-pickers can make big money in India.
Joint-third are Hong Kong and China, each with 18%. The Chinese companies are truly blue chips: PetroChina, China Mobile and Legend. Hong Kong's best performers, surprisingly, are two utilities and again, one of Asia's great names, Li & Fung.
Perhaps the most staggering thing is that there is not a single Korean company on the list. This is especially interesting when you consider that Korea is perceived by many to have made the greatest strides since the crisis.
Our congratulations to the managements and shareholders of the companies on the lists.