Technology Industry Risk in the BRIC – Where Should Your Firm Invest in 2013?

Without a doubt the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) – four of the world’s largest emerging economies, have massive economic and investment potential, especially within the technology industry. According to Euromonitor International if the BRIC countries are able to maintain their current growth rate, the combined economies of these four global powerhouses could be worth more in US dollar terms than the G6 (Germany, France, Italy, Japan, UK and the US) by 2041. Both the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the Personal Disposable Income (PDI) have developed exponentially among the BRIC nations over the last decade. This growth has fueled numerous Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) across each country making Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) a formidable business venture for any major corporations. PPP deals can often be complex, financially demanding and extremely time consuming with projects lasting several years. However, under the right economic conditions and proper business strategy, they can offer significant benefits to the private business sector, the consumer and national governments. Each country may pose a different risk and the success of these projects would largely depend on the country’s ability to handle such risks and minimize interruptions to the projects. Our paper examinees the comparative risk, opportunity, overall economic climate, comparative industry market potential and structure within each BRIC countries and ultimately making a recommendation on which country to invest within the technology sector.

Brazil

According to data compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Brazil is currently at a score of a “BBB” in its overall country risk assessment. This is otherwise known as an “investment grade status. Based on this assessment, Brazil is considered to be a low-moderate risk country to invest in depending on agency rating. Brazil is abundant in natural resources like quartz, diamonds, chromium, iron ore, phosphates, petroleum, mica, graphite, titanium, copper, gold, oil, bauxite, zinc, tin, and mercury. According to Bloomberg Media “Its natural riches have since propelled this nation of 200 million people to the top tiers of global markets. Brazil’s economy has ascended the ranks of the world’s largest, from 16th in 1980 to 6th today.” Brazil’s large government debt and economic deficits in the 1990’s facilitated private investment in various industries. The Brazilian Privatization Program from 1990-2002 led to privatization of 33 companies, an estimate 105 Billion in national revenue and increment in the investment opportunities, particularly within the technology driven telecommunications industries which represented 31% of this movement.

Reports regarding Brazil’s economic future have varied widely. Despite unstable performance results across Brazil’s five regions reported this year, the economic outlook for Brazil is fairly positive. The Wall Street Journal recently reported Standard & Poor’s downward revision in Brazil’s outlook to “negative” from “stable. ” According to the Economist Intelligence Unit “long-term growth forecast anticipates more rapid average annual GDP growth over the next 19 years (3.8%) than over the past 25 (2.8%). Improvements in infrastructure and education, trade expansion, a broader presence of multinational business, a reduction in the debt-service burden and the development of Brazil’s huge oil reserves will mitigate slower labor force growth and help to sustain labor productivity growth at 2.7%.”

The current political focus In Brazil is rapidly shifting to next year’s general election. President, Dilma Rousseff (of the leftist Partido dos Trabalhadores) who became the first female president in the nation’s history in 2010, announced her bid for another four-year term this past February. President Rousseff remains extremely popular despite corruption scandals, weak economic growth and a resurgence of inflation, particularly due to the fact that unemployment remained low at 5.8% when compared to historical trends. With respect to political risk Brazil is moderately stable in comparison to other BRIC nations. “Campaigning for the October 2014 elections in Brazil has already begun, President Dilma Rousseff’s popularity has helped reduce the scope for sensitive reforms and contaminating the policy environment”, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.6 Furthermore, President Rousseff was ranked by Forbes Magazine as the #2 most powerful woman in the world. Many International investors are attracted to Brazil because of its stable political and economic environment; however they do face very high levels of bureaucracy, taxes, crime and corruption that typically are far greater than in their home markets.

Brazil’s economy is slowly recuperating from the 2011-12 downturns, but Brazil’s potential growth rate is much lower than in 2004-10, when it grew by 4.5% annually. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit “The financial services sector will grow above the overall rate, but it will lose some dynamism as credit growth slows. Credit has more than doubled since 2003 in GDP terms, to 53% as of February 2013.”

“With respect to financial risk, the Brazilian financial system is exposed to the effects of volatile international markets, especially for commodities and capital. Over the past decade, Brazil’s financial sectors assets have doubled particularly due to expansion of the securities and derivatives markets, and heavy investments from home and abroad.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit “With an estimated population of 195m and GDP of US$2.3trn in 2012, Brazil has the largest financial services market in Latin America. However, income and wealth remain highly concentrated. A continued trend towards formalization of businesses and the labor force will support financial deepening. Rising incomes will lift demand for financial services, but Brazil’s labor-market dynamics are becoming less favorable than in the previous decade.”

Some economists have suggested that Brazil may become a victim of its own success. The gross public debt ratio remains high forcing the government’s borrowing requirement to also stay high. According to Dimitri Demekas assistant director in the IMF’s Monetary and Capital Markets department “Rapid credit expansion in recent years has supported domestic economic growth and broader financial inclusion, but could also create vulnerabilities.” Nevertheless a series of additional infrastructure improvements, it’s growing population, abundant natural resources and anticipated investments from the forthcoming 2014 world Cup and 2016 Olympics promise to keep Brazil at the top of global financial strategies for the years to come.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, using the average industry risk rating for the technology sector in 2013, Brazil scores a 43.5. In order to examine the risk vs. return, we pair this with the Economic Intelligence Units business environment score. Given on a scale of 1-10, we multiply this by 10 for purposes of comparison throughout this paper; we get 66.9 for Brazil, representing an excellent opportunity within the technology sector.

Russia

According to data compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Russia currently is scores a “C” value, (54 points) in its overall risk assessment. Based on this assessment, Russia is considered to be a moderately risky country to invest in. Some of those risks include the “opaque and corrupt administration, over-reliance on commodities production and the ill-functioning judiciary.”

With respect to political risk, Russia scored a “C” value (55 points) according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. President Vladimir Putin has seen various protests during his many terms, however; the country is not booming as it was in the decades immediately following the Cold War. It is evident that the government is intervening more in the economy now, causing more of a further disconnect for the working middle class. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, “there are signs that disillusionment is spreading among ordinary Russians”. With the country potentially lacking political stability, investors and other countries will not want to continue to do business with Russia.

With respect to financial risk, Russia scored a value of “C” (58 points), according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. Russia lacks heavy involvement from the government in the banking sector; therefore, it has been difficult to achieve any sort of reform for the baking industry. Furthermore, there is uncertainty in the position of the banking sector and its regulation and supervision by the government. When investors and business partners cannot trust the country’s central bank, it creates many issues for the country. Access to external financial and a weakened ruble, certainly do not attract companies to conduct business in Russia.

Just like the rest of the world, Russia suffered from the economic crisis that had a ripple effect on the entire global marketplace. GDP decreased by 7.8% during 2009, which affected the country in many ways. Russia saw a decline in the external demand for various commodities. While the economy and GDP fluctuated during the years following, Russia was still not seen as a favorable country to invest in partly because of the large uncertainty towards the political sector as well as the lack of confidence in the government nor financial stability.

Russia scored a 52.475 average risk on the Technology sector while the country scored a 58.6 on business environment. This combination of higher risk and lower opportunity makes Russia the least favorable country of the BRIC for technology investment based on the current economic and risk factors.

India

The Economist Business Intelligence unit “estimates that real GDP growth (on an expenditure basis) slowed to 3.4% in fiscal year 2012/13.” The Business Intelligence unit believes that India’s economy has bottomed out. The country is currently at a low point in their economic cycle with the slowest growth in ten years having taken place in the 12 months preceding March 2013. This however is good news for future investments in the country as recent economic reforms, lower interest rates and wholesale price inflation are expected to cause a real GDP growth of 6.2% in fiscal year ending 2014.

From this point on through 2030, India is predicted to be a hot bed for economic growth, making this an excellent target for global investment. India is forecasted to grow at an average of 6.4% from 2012-2030, making the country the fastest growing large economy in the world during this time. However with this growth, India will face some new challenges that could be a cause for concern.India is depending more on external investments as it continues to open its economy. This could be a risk factor for the country as it has previously been a closed economy and has enjoyed the protections from the economic downturn of 2008-2009 because of this. With the new global investments, this protection from outside influences will no longer be as strong. There is also some concern that foreign investments have recently slowed after a strong 2012 due to investors waiting to see how political uncertainty plays out.

India benefits from a relatively healthy debt to GDP ratio with the sovereign risk of the country falling between 45 and 48 for the 12 months preceding June 2013. The country has low non-performing loan (NPL) ratio’s and enjoys a Banking Sector risk of 49-51 during this same time. Though if the country adhered to international criteria for defining NPL’s, this number would be higher. The currency is trending upward from 44-47 in the last 12 months due to economic reforms following India’s fiscal and trade deficits as well as high inflation.

In addition to India’s new need for capital infusion, the country has suffered political scandals revolving around corruption in the last three years. The country has also lost several key western allies as speculation rises that Congress will call elections early before their term ends in 2014.1 This political risk makes investment in the short term unadvisable until the political fallout surrounding the election can be determined.

Though India as a country has a lower risk ranking and an excellent forecast for economic growth, the technology sector will have to navigate some new terrain in order to continue growth. India’s Technology sector risk averages 52.6, likely due to the saturation of India’s IT services within the US. As India’s service providers look for ways to add value and take advantage of cloud computing technology offerings, they must also look for customers outside of the US, which is not an easy task, especially considering that 9% of the 55 Asian companies in the list of the top 500 Global firms utilize outsourcing as a strategy. When weighted against the countries adjusted business environment rating of 60.4, India becomes the third rank in BRIC investment targets.

China

China’s economy is the second largest and an important source of revenue for most multinational firms. China’s growth has held up better than Brazil and India and the economy’s expansion is expected to be 7.8% in 2014. Tightening labor markets and supportive government policy are expected to sustain rapid income growth in the next two years.

Although major political reforms are not expected, significant fiscal changes may be unveiled in late 2013 and in the meantime, authorities have tightened monetary policy. While economic growth rates are trending downward, real GDP growth in 2013 is still expected to be 8.5%.

The degree of government interference in the economy remains a worrying factor although the private sector is increasingly important. China’s domestic demand of goods is expected to grow faster than its export markets. Although government has lowered man trade barriers in order to encourage more imports, still access to some sectors remains difficult.

China’s leaders want continuing sustainable economic growth as well as enduring political control. The past emphasis on economic development is now being altered in favor of social priorities. Another challenge facing the government is to rebalance the economy, which is dependent on high levels of investment spending. Income growth will gradually boost the contribution of domestic consumption to economic expansion, but difficult reforms (particularly in the financial sector) will be required if household spending is to be fully unleashed.

China’s business environment will become more favorable in the future, with its scores for most categories in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s business environment rankings model improving. The biggest improvements are in categories that will benefit from the government’s efforts to reform the financial sector and open the capital account but a number of other categories continue to score poorly by global and regional standards. Risks to China’s political stability, continue to drag down the political environment score. The only category for which the country’s score worsens is macroeconomic conditions. Its economy’s massive size and rapid growth means that China boasts one of world’s highest scores for market opportunities.

Although they are going through economic and social changes that threaten political stability, their security risk is fairly low and the overall risk of doing business in China is moderate to high. Popular discontent has been on a rise due to the rising costs of living, income disparity, urban unemployment, land seizures and corruption. Major reforms to address these issues look unlikely as the Chinese Communist Party will remain in power for the foreseeable future. They lack national standards and regulatory consistency is weak, enforcement is poor and political interference makes the legal and regulatory risks high. For this reason, foreign-invested enterprises avoid taking disputes to domestic courts if they can go to international arbitration instead.

Progress on the financial sector reform has begun to accelerate, China’s banking and capital markets are immature but foreign-invested enterprises have generally good access to loans.

Infrastructure is improving fast and reaching advanced standards in some parts of the country. Mobile telecommunications are widespread. Internet penetration is high for a developing nation. Air transport networks are well developed and the logistics industry is growing rapidly.

China has an excellent outlook when comparing risk and opportunities. By weighing average technology industry risk of 44.9 against the adjusted business environment rating of 64.4, China becomes an excellent option as shown on the bubble chart found by following the link at the end of this article. With large disposable incomes, China also has massive growth potential.

Conclusion

Based on the research relating to the economic opportunity in the BRIC countries as well as the political and economic risk of entering each country, Brazil shows the strongest potential currently for firms looking to invest in the technology industry. Though there is excellent growth projected in India, 6.2% average through 2030, the technology sector is saturated. U.S. companies are bringing Information outsourcing services back with on shoring, while Asian companies predominantly keep their information services in house. This combined with the near term political uncertainty makes India a higher risk investment. There are still opportunities in India no doubt; however this was not the most opportune BRIC country to target.Russia was the least favorable country based on business opportunity and risk factors; therefore we can also eliminate investment in Russia. China meanwhile has excellent opportunity and risk ratings as well as a large and growing economy. China does not, however, have excellent systems in place to protect patents. In fact, China has the worst policies and enforcement of any of the BRIC counties as it pertains to technology, making any investment in technology a difficult decision.

Though China has a large economy and favorable economic and risk indicators, based on China’s higher comparable risk to that of Brazil’s and the lower business environment rating as compared Brazil, there is a higher likelihood of success investing in Brazil in 2013. Brazil maintains the highest measure of business opportunity as weighed against risk of any of the BRIC countries as illustrated in the bubble chart found by following the Bubble Chart link at the end of this article. The growth projected in Brazil, low risk in comparison to other BRIC countries and the stabilizing political environment, we feel confident in recommending an investment in Brazil’s growing technology industry. There will be bureaucratic processes to navigate, however the potential for excellent growth in technology and with minimal risk related in comparison to other BRIC countries make this an excellent investment target.

Source by Matthew Marsh

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