RANKFURT, May 9 – The Frankfurt Office of the Malaysia Industrial Development Authority (MIDA) was instrumental recently in nudging three Belgian companies to either invest in projects or further strengthen their existing presence by increasing their investment in Malaysia. Belgium and Netherlands, besides Germany, are part of the jurisdiction served by MIDA’s Frankfurt office.

“The three Belgian companies see Malaysia as an attractive investment site to tap the opportunities available not only in the Asean region but also in the Asia-Pacific Region on a long-term basis,” said MIDA Director S.Sivasuriyamoorthy in an interview with Bernama. Lhoist, which produces calcium carbonate and downstream calcium oxide and other specialty products, is also interested to establish a research and development (R&D) centre for applied research in Perak.

“Lhoist wants to establish an R & D hub in Southeast Asia. We are very keen to have Lhoist set up the R & D centre because it will considerably sharpen Malaysia’s technological profile and elevate its status as a well-developed site that provided all kinds of advantages for R & D related activities,” he said. The second Belgian Company is Knauf Insulation which produces insulation and is setting up operations in Johor.

“Knauf will produce mineral wool or stone wool which is used as insulation material for the construction of buildings,” Sivasuriyamoorthy added. The third Belgian Company Emulco, specialising in surface treatment and finishing products, is launching a major expansion in Malaysia. The company achieved a breakthrough in 2012 when it developed its water-based polyisobutene emulsion. The company’s “impressive credentials” would also help profile Malaysia as an attractive place to invest.

Sivasuriyamoorthy said that total investment projects worth a record RM216.5 billion in the manufacturing, services and primary sectors, had been approved in 2013. Of this total, manufacturing projects approved accounted for RM 52.1 billion (+27 per cent over RM41.1 billion approved projects in 2012). Some 58.5 per cent of the RM52.1 billion projects — or RM 30.5 billion — came from foreign direct investment (FDI); indeed, the FDI component in manufacturing sector increased from RM20.9 billion in 2012 to RM30.5 billion in 2013.

The top five FDI investing countries in Malaysia are USA (RM6.3 billion), South Korea (RM5.4 billion), European Union (RM5.1 billion), Singapore (RM4.5 billion) and Japan (RM3.6 billion). Sivasuriyamoorthy described 2013 as a “very exciting year” for Malaysia. His office in Frankfurt received project-specific investment promotion missions from Malaysia to attract FDI to sectors such as medical devices, building materials, oil and gas and specialty chemicals. The MIDA office in Frankfurt also assisted in 2013 a mission from the Selangor State Investment Corp.

“With Southeast Asia seen by the German industry as a dynamic growth region, Malaysia serves as a stable and solid stepping stone to tap the region’s business potential, he said. There is great interest here in the Asean region, particularly in the backdrop of the formation of the Asean Economic Community in 2015. Also, Germans are well aware of the fact that Malaysia has signed a total of 12 Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), six of which as part of regional agreements signed collectively by ASEAN states while the remaining six are bilateral.

These FTAs, according to Sivasuriyamoorthy, would be leveraged by German companies to gain greater market accessibility with the signatory states. MIDA’s Frankfurt office was also involved recently in coordinating the visit by an investment promotion mission from Penang which held an Investment Promotion Seminar in Frankfurt under the aegis of InvestPenang. “We are confident of bringing some strong players in the field of medical devices,” said Sivasuriyamoorthy who last week accompanied a MIDA machinery and equipment Mission to Hannover and called on companies in the state of Lower Saxony.

The MIDA Frankfurt office expects “positive synergies” emanating from the takeover by a Dutch Company called KMWE, which has a presence in Penang, of the Dutch Company Hiro. These synergies augur well for Malaysia, he said. “I am generally optimistic about 2014. We are also trying to project Malaysia as an important re-distribution hub in Southeast Asia,” he said.