Copyright Anek / GettyImages

The key to entering Asia

To gain a strong foothold in Asia, companies need a good network and specialist advice. These are key to a successful market entry.

Why you should read this article

Asian countries offer huge sales potential for medium-sized companies – but at a risk. These risks can, however, be minimized to a great extent.

The Asia-Pacific region is one of the biggest export regions for European companies. China, the engine driving Asia, may be spluttering at the moment, but in terms of cutting-edge technology, raw materials, and low-cost production, China’s neighbors – countries such as Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan – still have more than enough economic power to represent an interesting prospect for European companies.

It is a market that is also developing confidently. In 2015, the ten countries that make up ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, launched the AEC economic community. Its aim – inspired by the example of the EU – is to drive forward economic integration and to abolish trade tariff barriers in a market that has a population of more than 620 million. But the road to Asia is not an easy one to travel. Anyone hoping to enjoy success here must establish a local presence.. UniCredit has staff in a number of important Asian countries. Here, we discuss the opportunities and risks for importers and exporters in the Asia-Pacific region.


Extra-EU28 trade,
by main partners

2015 (EUR Billions)

Source: Eurostat
  • Export
  • Import
  • Trade Balance
Created with Highcharts 5.0.517017057573838303035354848China(exceptHongKong)China (except Hong Kong)JapanIndiaSingaporeHongKongHong KongSouthKoreaSouth Korea050100150200
Created with Highcharts 5.0.535035060603939191914144242China(exceptHongKong)China (except Hong Kong)JapanIndiaSingaporeHongKongHong KongSouthKoreaSouth Korea0100200300400
Created with Highcharts 5.0.5-180-180-3-3-1-11111212166China(exceptHongKong)China (except Hong Kong)JapanIndiaSingaporeHongKongHong KongSouthKoreaSouth Korea-200-150-100-50050

Business and consulting services

Living in Hong Kong and provide consulting services is a real challenge. Companies usually need a point of contact in the respective country. This is necessary just to open a simple bank account, which you almost always need. In China, in particular, there are significant differences to consider that are difficult to identify from back home. Clients really value the chance to meet face to face locally. It’s true that companies could turn to Chinese banks, but when they come to UniCredit , they have a partner who can discuss all the issues in their local language and who knows the processes from back home. They see UniCredit as an extension of their branches in their home markets.

"China is still growing more strongly than a number of European countries. As a result, - there are good import and export opportunities for medium-sized European companies, and a great need for investment in local branches and production sites."

Growth in China is showing signs of weakness. Imports have decreased by around 15% over the last year, and exports by 20%.

However China’s GDP in 2015 was still almost 7% higher than in the previous year and growth of 6% is expected for this year. This represents a growth rate that is still significantly higher than in many European countries, despite the slowdown in growth. As a result, - there are good import and export opportunities for medium-sized European companies, and a great need for investment in local branches and production sites.

ASEAN countries


Five southeast Asian countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand – came together on August 8, 1967 to form the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Since then, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia have joined them.



In March of this year, the Chinese government approved the thirteenth five-year plan, putting the focus on environmental issues. This presents excellent market opportunities for companies that offer innovative products and services in this field. Great emphasis is being put on energy efficiency in China at the moment. Demand for- medications and medical technology, for example, is also growing steadily. There are plans to further improve infrastructure. Such measures have been well received in highly developed countries such as Japan and South Korea, as well as in India and Bangladesh.


Apart from regulatory changes, which are difficult to mitigate, the main risk is currency fluctuation. Since 2015, the Renminbi has depreciated strongly against the US dollar for the first time, which unsettles companies. The result is that European companies see themselves as being exposed to a local (“onshore”) currency risk in China.

UniCredit recommend that companies move to increase hedging of their foreign business operations. This usually means employing a range of different instruments. To achieve this, UniCredit has developed customized strategies appropriate for individual clients. For example, currency futures, which hedge against currency losses, are a standard instrument, as is converting foreign currency loans to financing in the local currency.


The key to doing business in Asia

Risk minimization is extremely important for German companies doing business in Asia, as is engaging with the respective region and its special characteristics. A bank with extensive experience in Asia such as the HypoVereinsbank (which has its own branches and a network of more than 1,000 correspondent banks in Asia, of which more than 100 are in China) can provide support, but the company can also make an important contribution of its own.

Important aspects to consider before market entry
  • Patience: Don’t expect any sudden leaps in revenue in the beginning. Working in Asia is a strategic, long-term investment.
  • Reserve: A healthy foundation in the domestic market is a prerequisite for launching in Asia. It is not wise for ailing companies to move abroad as an emergency solution to their problems.
  • Holistic: Companies that work with a bank that is represented both locally and in the target country benefit from holistic consulting and advice. Finance can be secured more easily and quickly.
  • Specialists: A bank specializing in international business has the optimal solution for every issue affecting an importer or exporter. It has specialists who know and understand the characteristics of the Asia-Pacific region in great detail.
  • Local: It is also clearly a huge advantage if the bank offers European companies a contact person in the target country.

Companies should familiarize themselves with the cultural, political, and economic environment of the respective country. The UniCredit Group offers information, facts, and figures on various regions. We have three branches in China alone, with an additional 100 correspondent banks. We have an Asian network with a total of around 1,000 correspondent banks to support our corporate clients. We are also represented in all the major Asian countries. We offer our clients a service locally as well as in the respective local language.

Points of contact

Business partners want a contact person in their own country. Therefore, by having a local presence the company demonstrates that it is interested in establishing long-term business relationships in Asia. For this, they need qualified - staff who are prepared to go to Asia. The foreign chambers of commerce would be one of the first points of contact. They can help you establish a network. Contacts on the ground in these countries are absolutely vital for a successful market entry. The collaboration with an experienced local consultant and a strong banking partner as important factors for success. At -UniCredit, the respective corporate client advisor –in the local country is the initial contact person for the -company – no matter whether they are already a –UniCredit customer or not.


Business meets FC Bayern

The FC Bayern Business cooperation is going global.

Trade Finance

Trade Finance is more than risk hedging.
Get in shape for international trade.


Different countries,
different customs, the same bank.

Let’s talk about taking your business global.

How we do Trade Finance


Read more >


Demand for supply chain finance is growing, with banks providing increasingly digitalized solutions.


UniCredit trade finance solutions support clients of all sizes to solve the most complex trade problems more quickly and efficiently than before.


Trade finance has never been more relevant since the demand has risen in emerging markets in Asia and Africa.


To gain a strong foothold in Asia, companies need a good network and specialist advice. These are key to a successful market entry.


These tips will help you master the challenges of intercultural communication.


In times of geopolitical turmoil, safeguarding foreign trade transactions in Eastern Europe is more important than ever.


Inadequate cover, invalid contractual clauses: things to remember to help avoid mistakes when expanding abroad.


Supply chain finance helps to optimize the supply chain and improves the company’s working capital.