Four of Taiwan's best companies won spots on the `A' list, an annual ranking of the top 400 companies in the world by Forbes Magazine. To make the list, companies must have a minimum of US$5 billion in market capitalization and are judged by their ability to create shareholder value.
And the winners from Taiwan are: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) and United Microelectronics Corp (UMC, 聯電) -- the world's two top contract chipmakers -- and plastics maker Nanya Plastics Co (南亞塑膠) and Asustek Computer Inc (華碩電腦), a motherboard and notebook computer maker.
"We put out this list not only to highlight top companies, but also to point out companies that are creating shareholder value. Companies in Asia don't pay enough attention to shareholders, they tend to provide low returns on equity," said Russell Flannery, associate-editor, Asia-Pacific, for Forbes Global.
He said only 11 percent of the Forbes `A'-list companies generally turns out to be in the hands of Asian groups, despite the fact that Asia accounts for 24 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP). The US, by contrast, accounts for 33 percent of the world GDP, but US companies captured over half of the positions on the `A' list.
Companies in Asia tend to follow the Japanese model of doing business -- sacrificing profits for gains in market share -- Forbes noted in a news release dubbed "NO A FOR ASIA: Asian companies are woefully scant in our A-List."
As Forbes Global states, "In the last 15 years, Japanese return on equity has actually declined, from an already pathetic 5 percent to a risible 2 percent."
Flannery said Taiwan performed better than other countries in Asia. The nation's high-tech industry has avoided the Japanese way of doing business and has focused more on profits than on creating value for shareholders. Taiwan has also leveraged China's low costs and huge market to its own business advantage, another plus Forbes sees for Taiwan going forward.
TSMC was highlighted as a stand-out among Asian firms in the technology industry, due to its leadership in building a niche industry -- microchip manufacturing on contract -- and increasing its ability to beat all challengers to its dominance.
"In the big downturn last year in the chip industry, TSMC was the only major contract-chip producer to turn a profit, and its market share climbed to 59 percent at the end of 2001, from 47 percent a year earlier." Business and profits should increase this year as global economic recovery takes hold, Flannery said.