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The East Asia crisis and corporate finances : the untold micro story


  • Pomerleano, Michael


Explanations of the causes of the Asian crisis have focused on macroeconomic factors leading to the crisis. This paper offers a complementary corporate distress perspective linking the crisis to corporate finances. Key ratios for companies in various countries are presented in the paper. The global benchmarking imposes a consistent cross-border analysis of financial risk and performance, and sheds light on the crisis. The study provides a statistical review of the financial practices and performance of corporates in Asia: Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand benchmarked against financials of corporates in other countries: Latin America, and industrialized countries: France, Germany, Japan and USA. A thematic point that comes across in all the results of the corporate financial analysis is unsustainable rapid (and probably excessive) investment in fixed assets financed by excessive borrowing in some Asian countries- e.g., Indonesia, Korea and Thailand. The East Asian investment-spending spree resulted in poor profitability, reflected in low, and declining return on equity, and return on capital employed. It leads to the conclusion that at the core of the corporate crisis were financial excesses that violated prudent financial practices, and eventually lead to the inevitable financial distress we are witnessing. Therefore, the empirical findings presented in the paper lend credence to the view advanced by Krugman that crony capitalism was at the core of the crisis. Crony capitalism was manifested in supportive bad policies-e.g., implicit government guarantees, and poor banking supervision- that lead to poor credit allocation decisions in the banking dominated financial system. Preliminary findings suggest as well vast differences in Economic Value Added between countries- developing and developed alike. The conclusions from an economic value added approach indicate that in an era of increasing capital mobility, corporates are not adhering to global standards in creating shareholder value. The analysis leads to policy conclusions.

Suggested Citation

  • Pomerleano, Michael, 1998. "The East Asia crisis and corporate finances : the untold micro story," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1990, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1990

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robert Lynn & Annette De Klein & Caroline Farah & Robert Keyfitz & Mick Riordan & Dominique Van Der Mensbrugghe & Bert Wolfe, 2000. ""Global Development Finance" Projects a Brighter Outlook for Developing Countries," World Bank Other Operational Studies 11436, The World Bank.
    2. Steven Radelet & Jeffrey Sachs, 1998. "The Onset of the East Asian Financial Crisis," NBER Working Papers 6680, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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