The number of Southeast Asia startups that will be acquired will rise to 250 a year by 2020 as global companies and funds seek to expand in the fast-growing region while tackling unfamiliar local regulations and practices.
Southeast Asia is a "difficult region to do business especially for outsiders who aren't too familiar with the different markets," the Straits Times quoted Alexis Horowitz-Burdick, who founded cosmetics company Luxola before selling it to French luxury goods giant LVMH in 2015, as saying. The newspaper was citing "The Bamboo Report" of Golden Gate Ventures, a Singapore-based venture capital firm. The report, however, didn't say how many acquisitions were there last year or previously.
While Singapore has consistently ranked No. 1 and Malaysia No. 16 in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business rankings, other countries in the region lag, with Thailand at 49, Vietnam 78, the Philippines 95, Indonesia 114 and Myanmar 177. The annual report covers 189 economies.
But, while the World Bank forecast global economic growth of 2.9 percent this year, it says Myanmar will grow 7.8 percent, Vietnam 6.9 percent, the Philippines 6.4 percent, Indonesia 5.3 percent and Malaysia 4.5 percent.
Global companies will also buy more Southeast Asian companies for their engineering talent, the report said, citing Google's acquisition of Pie, a business communication startup in Singapore, last month.
Meanwhile, tech company founders may prefer to sell to companies and funds that "get" their business — and may be willing to pay more for it — than go the IPO route, the Straits Times said. It said tech companies that go public are likely to do so in Singapore, where investors are more receptive, while Singapore is pitching its "Catalist" board to startups. Catalist is Singapore Exchange's board for companies making less than $10 million a year in pre-tax profit, with more than 170 listings at the end of last year.
Among the biggest recent acquisitions in the region were Malaysian online jobs portal JobStreet in 2014 for $586 million, Malaysian real estate classifieds iProperty for $534 million in 2015 and Singapore video streaming startup Viki by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten for $200 million in 2013, the Straits Times said.