Asian bosses see Europe crisis as opportunity

By Eric Holmberg

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Asian business leaders see the euro zone debt crisis throwing up more opportunities for investment than their North American counterparts do, a poll showed this week.

Over three-quarters of Asian executives said they saw potential to invest in European businesses and 45 percent were making plans to do so in 2012, the survey of 800 business leaders in North America, Asia and the Middle East showed.

North American executives are less optimistic about Europe’s future and only 7 percent have made such plans. In the Middle East, 14 percent of executives had fixed investment plans for Europe.

“Our research highlights that Asian businesses have the right business fundamentals and, more important, the right mentality to take advantage of the changing landscape,” said Mark Malloch Brown, the chairman of FTI Consulting in Europe.

The global business advisory firm carried out the survey from Jan 9 to 16.

Over 70 percent of Asian executives believe their European competitors are struggling and said EU goods are now cheaper.

Despite increasing trade tensions, the volume of trade and investments between China and the 27 countries in the EU has risen steadily in recent years. Foreign direct investment by EU firms in China stood at 4.9 billion euros in 2010, while Chinese firms invested 900 million euros in the EU.

FTI said there were several areas where foreign companies could take advantage of “distressed assets at fire-sale prices” in Europe.

Banks and governments may be able to offer opportunities.

“Many banks have postponed action in the hope that an economic upturn would make it easier to sell assets,” the report said. “But their previous hesitation may now force banks to offload these assets into a buyer’s market.”

European governments are also looking for a way to close budget gaps and could sell assets as one option – giving brave foreign buyers an opportunity to gain a hold in a mature global market with 500 million consumers.

(Reporting By Eric Holmberg; editing by Luke Baker/Anna Willard)

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