Forbes Asia September 2021

Forbes Asia chronicles entrepreneurs, executives and companies throughout Asia.

United States
Forbes Media LLC
13 Issues

in this issue

2 min

This issue’s cover story on Yasuo Takeuchi, the president and CEO of Japan’s Olympus, provides an instructive lesson in how to transform an iconic company. When one of your markets is being disrupted, sometimes the best thing to do is disrupt yourself. Thus, the company jettisoned its storied but money-losing camera division, despite having built a global brand on this business. In its stead, Takeuchi has led an effort to remake the multinational into a pure-play medical technology company, which leverages off its optical expertise to dominate the global endoscopy market. The move has resulted in improved financials, and investors gave their approval for these results with a sharp rise in the company’s market value. One can see a similar process under way in the Philippines, as shown in that country’s…

3 min
china’s chip hurdle

Last month this column—along with the world’s capital markets—wondered why Beijing would hurt its own tech stars, such as Ant Financial, Didi Chuxing and TAL, with a barrage of new regulations. My thought was that President Xi Jinping was waving a red flag at China’s tech talent: Turn your attention away from splashy consumer tech: online loans, ride shares, tutoring games and the like. Get busy on strategically core technologies, for example, semiconductors. Xi’s bid for national self-sufficiency of at least 70% in critical tech by 2025 is bogged down by China’s weakness in this most strategic of all technologies. A bit of history. Fifty years ago this November, America’s Intel laid the foundation of the digital era with the 4004, the world’s first microprocessor. The project had started in 1969…

5 min
rich suckers

Former Merrill Lynch broker Kurt Stein vividly remembers the day in the spring of 2011 when the doors to the exclusive world of private equity seemed to swing wide open. Inside an ornate ballroom at Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, Stein and hundreds of his Merrill colleagues were wined and dined by Blackstone, the world’s preeminent buyout firm. The pitch: Blackstone’s vaunted deal machine was invincible, producing net returns north of 15% per year with an uncanny ability to avoid losses. Here’s how Blackstone’s billionaire cofounder and CEO, Steven Schwarzman, explained his proposition to brokers in 2013: “We are a pair of safe hands…. Why would you invest in the products you normally do if you can make two to three times your money and have happier customers if you put them…

3 min
200 best under a billion

Despite the global spread of Covid-19, this year’s annual Best Under A Billion list highlights the resilience of 200 publicly listed small and midsized companies in the Asia-Pacific region with sales under $1 billion. Their sound financial figures reflect how well these companies coped in the midst of a global pandemic. No surprise: Healthcare and pharmaceutical-related companies were standouts while tech and logistics firms linked to the global e-commerce boom also benefited. As proof of BUB companies’ sustainable success, 42 were returnees from the previous year. This includes Taiwan’s Aspeed, now on the list for a notable eight years in a row. We’ve highlighted eight companies from the list with businesses that helped alleviate the pandemic’s effects. With reporting by John Kang, Danielle Keeton-Olsen, Zinnia Lee, Ramakrishnan Narayanan, Amit Prakash, James…

8 min
growth pivot

Japan’s Olympus Corp. is synonymous with cameras. From its earliest camera in 1936, Olympus built a reputation for quality and innovation, such as its 1971 model 35DC, the world’s first camera with an automatic flash. Yet that storied legacy came to an end in January, when Olympus finalized the sale of its camera and voice recorder businesses to Tokyo-based private equity firm Japan Industrial Partners for an undisclosed amount. “I have [had] a long-time ambition to really change this company,” says president and CEO Yasuo Takeuchi in an interview at the company’s Tokyo headquarters. It was a bold shedding of a signature business built up over eight decades. Without cameras, what’s next for Olympus? Takeuchi’s answer: “We have a very good business on the medical side.” Takeuchi is now overseeing Olympus’ most…

1 min
sharp focus

OCT 1919 Founded under name Takachiho Seisakusho. MAR 1920 Launch of first microscope, Asahi. MAY 1948 Launch of first 35mm camera, Olympus 35 I. JAN 1949 Company renamed Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. APR 1971 Launch of 35DC, world’s first camera with an automatic flash. MAY 1983 Launch of AH-2, world’s first microscope with autofocus lens. OCT 2003 Company renamed Olympus Corp. MAY 2018 ValueAct Capital takes stake in Olympus. JUN 2020 Sale of camera business initiated. JAN 2021 Sale of camera business completed. 1900s - 1930s 1940s - 1960s 1970s 1980s - 1990s 2000s 2010s - 2020s FEB 1921 Olympus name registered as a trademark. OCT 1936 Launch of first camera, Semi-Olympus I. NOV 1950 Development of the gastrocamera, precursor of modern endoscopes. JUN 1969 Launch of Zuiko Pearlcoder, world’s first microcassette tape recorder. JUL 1972 Launch of OM-1, world’s smallest and lightest 35mm single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. MAR 1977 Olympus Camera Corp. founded in the U.S. MAR 1991 Launch of Mju, world’s smallest and lightest compact camera. OCT 1996 Launch…