Comment from Sandhy Widyasthana, chief operating officer, MDI Ventures

For years, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) around the world have undeservedly been branded as inefficient, with a variety of loss-making business units hampering core revenue drivers. But as the SOE landscape in China has shown, this has not been the case in recent years – not only have profits and revenues increased across the board, but China’s largest SOEs have become key dealmakers in the global acquisitions space.

In Southeast Asia, the outsized influence of SOEs has had varying effects on the aggregate productivity of the region’s 10 economies.

A 2019 paper found that while Singapore and Thailand’s SOEs are largely profitable and contribute to state revenues, SOEs in Indonesia, Myanmar and Malaysia serve more nationalistic, non-commercial agendas and play prominent roles in key industries like finance, energy and telecommunications.

With the influx of both private local wealth and foreign VC into ASEAN’s startup communities, the region’s SOEs have taken notice…

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