When measuring the strength of listed companies, there is one universal yardstick -- market capitalization. So The Nikkei Asian Review applied this to find out which leaders of Asia300 companies have delivered the greatest gains in corporate value for their stakeholders. By focusing on long-term performance, we came up with Asia's 20 most prominent value creators. Our list features corporate heavyweights and rising stars from India to Indonesia, Singapore to South Korea, from internet services to food to finance.
- Tencent's Pony Ma Huateng lets figures speak for themselves
- Chairman Morris Chang keeps TSMC on the cutting edge of chipmaking
- Tata Consultancy Services' Natarajan Chandrasekaran takes the long view
- Jahja Setiaatmadja has turned BCA into a banking powerhouse
- JG Summit's Lance Gokongwei makes his mark on his father's empire
- Celltrion Chairman Seo Jung-jin has built a biosimilar titan by going all in
Tencent CEO Pony Ma Huateng, TSMC Chairman Morris Chang, Tata Consultancy Services CEO Natarajan Chandrasekaran, Bank Central Asia President Jahja Setiaatmadja, JG Summit President Lance Gokongwei and Celltrion Chairman Seo Jung-jin help us tell their stories on the following pages.
Tencent CEO Pony Ma Huateng (China)
GUANGZHOU -- China's leading internet service provider Tencent Holdings became Asia's No.1 company by market capitalization at the beginning of September, surpassing China Mobile. However, unlike Alibaba Group Holding's headline-hungry Chairman Jack Ma Yun, not much is known about Pony Ma Huateng, Tencent's reclusive chairman and CEO.
He is now worth more than $25 billion according to Forbes and shares many of the same traits as Hong Kong's Li Ka-shing, widely regarded as the most successful ethnic Chinese businessman ever. But very few are privy to what Ma Huateng is really like.
The tall, slim, steely-eyed 44-year-old remains largely emotionless at the few news conferences he attends. No matter what the question, his expression seldom changes as he calmly reels off his answers as though they were scripted in advance.
"He is a typical Teochew man," said a member of staff at Tencent's head office in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province. "He keeps his passion inside and does not show his feelings openly," he continued, referring to Ma's heritage in the eastern coastal areas of Guangdong Province.
Both Ma and Li come across as polar opposites to Jack Ma.
At first glance, Ma looks like an elite businessman from a privileged, urban background, but in reality is very much a self-made man. He majored in computer science at Shenzhen University before working for a company for several years. In 1998 he founded a company with his friends and became anIT entrepreneur just before the dot-com boom took off. That was the starting point for Tencent.
TSMC Chairman Morris Chang (Taiwan)
Foresight, an unwavering focus and tough-love leadership. These are the qualities that have helped Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) Chairman Morris Chang, 85, deliver stellar returns and make smartphones a ubiquitous part of daily life over the past decade.
"Chairman Chang is like an outstanding general in the military," said Rick Hsu, a veteran semiconductor analyst at Daiwa Capital Markets. "He is very demanding, strict and tough."
Hsu continued: "Because of Chang's strong leadership, TSMC is much more disciplined than any of its rivals, if any, across the industry and can achieve very high efficiency in manufacturing chips as well as in developing advanced technologies."
Daniel Heyler, the new chief executive of Hong Kong-based eFusion Capital, left TSMC only recently. According to him, Chang's belief in building solid relationships with corporate customers and treating them all equally regardless of the size of their company has paid off.
"TSMC has been a phenomenal performer year after year, and that's due to Morris Chang and his team," Heyler said. "The business model has remained pure and simple from day one, hence the now huge organization is [sharply] focused on technology and customer needs."
With a doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University and solid executive experience with U.S. chipmaker Texas Instruments, Chang was invited by the Taiwanese government to build a world-class chip industry on the island back in the 1980s.
Tata Consultancy Services CEO Natarajan Chandrasekaran (India)
MUMBAI -- Natarajan Chandrasekaran, the CEO and managing director of Mumbai-based Tata Consultancy Services, has a passion for long-distance running. His favorite pastime has taught him at least one valuable lesson that applies to his day job.
"One thing I've learned from running marathons is that everything is a long haul," Chandrasekaran said. "Nothing happens overnight."
Since he got into running in his mid-40s, Chandrasekaran, 53, has gradually improved his times and has traveled the world for marathons -- from New York to Tokyo. On his watch, the performance of India's largest information technology services company has also steadily improved despite global headwinds.
Chandrasekaran in 2009 succeeded Subramanian Ramadorai, who resigned after a 13-year term as CEO. The owner-managed company encourages leaders to serve for lengthy periods, allowing them to focus on long-term goals. Chandrasekaran is expected to remain at the helm at least until the end of October 2019.
TCS' market capitalization has surpassed $70 billion, making it India's most valuable company. This figure represents an approximately fourfold increase since the end of August 2008 -- just before the onset of the global financial crisis.
The company's consolidated net profit has largely continued to expand at a double-digit pace, barring a slip into the single digits in the year through March 2009. Consolidated revenue is up almost 300% from the fiscal year ended in March 2009; in the fiscal year ended this March, it topped 1 trillion rupees ($15 billion).
Bank Central Asia President Jahja Setiaatmadja (Indonesia)
Indonesia's Bank Central Asia is gaining the upper hand in its battle with Singapore's DBS Group Holdings to become Southeast Asia's largest bank by market capitalization. The key to its success, said BCA President Jahja Setiaatmadja, is "a focus on a growing market ... which is our country."
The feat highlights BCA's transformation. When Setiaatmadja became the bank's chief financial officer in 1999, it was still reeling from the Asian financial crisis, during which its ownership was transferred to the government. Today, BCA is fully privatized and the country's third-largest lender by assets. As rivals struggled with ballooning bad loans brought on by the recent economic slowdown, BCA logged a double-digit increase in net profit for the six months ended in June.
Born in 1955 -- the year BCA was founded -- Setiaatmadja began his career as a consultant and later moved to Kalbe Farma, the country's largest drugmaker, rising through the ranks to become finance director while still in his early 30s. He was then recruited by Indomobil, the automotive unit of Indonesian conglomerate Salim Group, where he served as financial director. In 1990, he joined BCA, which was also controlled by Salim.
During Setiaatmadja's early years at BCA, the bank aggressively expanded its ATM network, earning a reputation as a leader in electronic banking. This was important in an island nation where visiting a bank branch is an ordeal for people who live outside big cities. The investment was fueled by interest income from BCA's loans to industries dominated by Salim Group. The group, in turn, benefited from close ties between owner Sudono Salim and Indonesia's late President Suharto.
JG Summit President Lance Gokongwei (Philippines)
When Rodrigo Duterte was assembling his economic team in May, fresh off his victory in the Philippine presidential election, Lance Gokongwei's name was floated for the job of finance secretary. But the appointment apparently did not sit well with the 49-year-old businessman's family.
Gokongwei would later duck questions about why, and his relatives remain mum on the matter. Yet this much is clear: The future of the family empire rests on the shoulders of the only son of John Gokongwei, the 90-year-old founder of JG Summit Holdings.
"In my personal capacity, as the head of JG Summit, our group will continue to help the incoming president achieve his goals for the country," Lance said on June 10, on the sidelines of the company's shareholders meeting, as reporters pressed him to talk about Duterte's offer.
JG Summit is the Philippines' second-largest conglomerate by market value, after SM Investments. Lance has been president and chief operating officer since 2002. In line with his father's succession plan, he is expected to become chief executive once his uncle, 77-year-old CEO James Go, retires.
But the young Gokongwei is already making his mark as CEO of JG Summit's three major subsidiaries: snack producer Universal Robina, real estate company Robinsons Land and budget carrier Cebu Air. Together, these entities accounted for 75% of the conglomerate's EBITDA -- earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization -- in 2015.
Celltrion Chairman Seo Jung-jin (South Korea)
In the 14 years since he founded Celltrion in South Korea, Chairman Seo Jung-jin has bet just about everything he has on the biopharmaceutical company. This gutsy approach is now paying dividends.
The latest achievement for the 59-year-old entrepreneur came in April, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the manufacture of Inflectra, also known as Remsima, an anti-inflammatory medication used for immune-system diseases when other treatments have failed.
Remsima is a biosimilar drug, a close copy of an original medicine whose patent has expired. The FDA's approval of the drug gives Celltrion entry into the largest biosimilar market in the world, one with annual sales of $20 billion. Analysts expect Remsima to gain a 10% share of that market, generating about $2 billion in annual revenue from the U.S. alone, compared to its global total of 603.4 billion won ($547 million) last year.
But winning this permission took 10 years from when the company developed the drug.
To fund the research, Seo tried to raise money by listing Celltrion on the Kosdaq, the country's startup-heavy, tech-centric stock market. But the company was a relative unknown at the time, and investors gave it the cold shoulder.
Seo did not give up. He bought the company's shares by borrowing from private lenders who asked him to hand over various internal organs if he failed to pay them back.