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Where to Find the Money in Asia

By Tom Dyson, publisher, The Palm Beach Letter
Monday, August 18, 2008

"Yum sing!" yelled everyone at my table.
"Yum sing" is a Malaysian toast. When people yell "yum sing," you have to drink your whole glass of whiskey. I didn't have a glass of whiskey, so I kept quiet and hoped no one would notice. But the government minister sitting next to me had a glass. So did Vinod Sekhar.
Vinod drank the whole glass. It was a full glass, too. Not just a shot. But the government minister couldn't finish his glass. Everyone heckled him when he tried to put it down half-full. So he lifted it back up and finished it off with a shudder...

Ten days ago, I flew to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to begin a 10-week tour of Asia. I'm visiting seven Asian countries – including China, Taiwan, and India – and I'll report back all the investment opportunities I find.

Vinod Sekhar owns the Petra Group, a conglomerate with interests in technology, movies, the Internet, financial software, and rubber. With a $350 million fortune, according to Forbes, Vinod is the 16th richest person in Malaysia. He's the youngest millionaire on Forbes' rich list.

Last weekend, I went to Vinod Sekhar's 40th birthday party. The party was at the old British High Commission building in Kuala Lumpur, in a huge marquee in the back garden. All Malaysia's most important businesspeople were there.

Then on Monday morning, I met Vinod at his office to ask him some questions about his fortune...

I had a few minutes to look around Vinod's seventh-floor, corner office before he arrived. The office had no outside walls... just floor-to-ceiling windows with a view of downtown Kuala Lumpur. Just as I expected, his office was full of expensive stuff... like art and collectibles and handmade furniture. He had cricket bats signed by the entire English cricket team hanging on the wall.
The goal of my trip around Asia is to find "the money" and tell my subscribers how to get it. Vinod isn't a trader or an investor. He's an entrepreneur. So I asked him, if he were a 22-year-old with $100,000 in his back pocket, and he could go anywhere in the world, where would he go to make his millions all over again.
"Well, I wouldn't go to India or China," he said. "I'd stay in Malaysia. Or go to Singapore maybe. They don't speak English in India and China. But everyone speaks English here. And we've got the same cost advantages they have...
"Then I'd sell stuff to the American market. I'd figure out what they needed and I'd make it here. That's one thing America has that no one else has... a consumer market."
"What would you sell?" I asked.

"The big companies are all here," he said. "They've figured this out already. You don't want to compete with them. But there's a huge gap in small- and medium-sized businesses. Very few American small businesses have relocated to Asia. It's too much risk for a small business... and too much upheaval. So I'd find products and services offered by small businesses and make them here. America has millions of small businesses. Small business represents 60% of America's economy."

As I was leaving, I told Vinod I had 10 weeks in Asia and I asked him where else he thought I should look for opportunity...

"Vietnam," he said. "And then go to Cambodia to compare it."

Good investing,


Market Notes

Amgen (AMGN)... biotech
Genentech (DNA)... biotech
Martek Bioscience (MATK)... biotech
Allos Therapeutics (ALTH)... biotech
NPS Pharmaceuticals (NPSP)... biotech
Auxilum Pharmaceuticals (AUXL)... biotech
S&P Biotech ETF (XBI)... biotech
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)... health care & drugs
Hillenbrand (HI)... caskets 
Zale Corp (ZLC)... jewelry
AutoZone (AZO)... auto parts
H&R Block (HRB)... tax preparations

Health Care REIT (HCN)... you guessed it


IAMGOLD (IAM)... gold mining
Lihir Gold (LIHR)... gold mining
Gold Fields (GFI)... gold mining
AngloGold (AU)... gold mining
Harmony Gold (HMY)... gold mining
Lundin Mining (LMC)... base-metal mining
Southern Peru Copper (PCU)... copper mining
Constellation Energy (CEG)... utilities
China Southern Airlines (ZNH)... airlines
China Fund (CHN)... Chinese stocks
Cresud (CRESY)... Argentine agriculture
iShares Spain (EWP)... Spanish stocks
iShares Germany (EWG)... German stocks
iShares Italy (EWI)... Italian stocks
iShares Malaysia (EWM)... Malaysian stocks
iShares Japan (EWJ)... Japanese stocks

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