Photo - (From left) Robert Mark Burton, Global Business Process Lead, Wilmar International Limited; Dato Lee Kah Choon, Special Advisor to the Chief Minister of Penang and Director of InvestPenang; Sham Kai Leong, Senior Vice President and Head of Global Business Development, Commercial Banking, UOB Malaysia; and Ang Siak Keng, Partner, Zaid Ibrahim & Co (ZICOlaw).
Malaysian state Penang is seen as a global manufacturing and services hub by a growing number of regional corporate clients expanding into Southeast Asia, according to financial services institute UOB (United Overseas Bank) Malaysia.
Kevin Lam, deputy chief executive officer and head of Wholesale Banking at UOB Malaysia, said that the Bank's regional corporate clients perceive Penang as more than just a manufacturing base.
Lam said UOB expected to facilitate more foreign direct investment (FDI) into Penang as more of its corporate clients are attracted to the Malaysian state's conducive business environment and well-established status as a global manufacturing and services hub.
"Despite the muted global economic outlook, Penang remains an attractive expansion destination for our regional corporate clients," he said.
"They are tapping into its favourable business conditions and the rising consumption power of Southeast Asia's growing middle class population to seek long-term growth in the region," said Lam, adding that the number of UOB's overseas clients, especially those from the electronics and semiconductor industries, investing in Penang will increase by 30 per cent in the next 12 months.
He said these companies were mainly from China, Taiwan and Singapore, with plans to expand into Southeast Asia by using "Penang's cost-effective manufacturing and electronics infrastructure."
Penang, which is located at the northern tip of the Straits of Malacca, is already drawing foreign investment by offering an established business ecosystem with a skilled labour force, intellectual property protection laws, and a manufacturing supply chain supported by more than 300 multinational corporates.
According to the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA), Penang contributed nearly 20 per cent to Malaysia's overall FDI inflows in 2015, the highest among the Malaysian states. This is a 7 per cent increase from the previous year's inflows.
Lam said UOB Malaysia has partnered with government promotion agencies - MIDA and InvestPenang - to share insights on the state's investment potential during a half-day forum held in Singapore on 30 March 2016. About 100 participants attended the event, which is part of the UOB FDI ASEAN Series that aims to help companies appreciate the different business environments in Southeast Asia. UOB Malaysia will hold its second investment forum in Kuala Lumpur later this year.
He added that UOB Malaysia's FDI Advisory Unit has also collaborated with MIDA and other agencies such as the Iskandar Region Development Authority (IRDA), the East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) and the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) to position Malaysia as a key investment destination in Southeast Asia.
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