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Breaking into Central, Eastern Europe through Hungary

Singapore companies are excited about the business opportunities in Budapest, said businessmen who accompanied Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on his visit to Hungary.

The 30 businessmen from the Singapore Business Federation also said they hope to use Hungary to break into the largely unfamiliar Central and Eastern European market. Budapest is a relatively new market for many Singapore companies, but there are potential areas of collaboration in sectors such as hospitality, logistics and infocomm technology.

However, doing business in Hungary would still take some getting used to. Singapore Business Federation chairman Stephen Lee said that the distance and the language barrier are not the serious issues, „but I think our business people, especially our SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises), with limited resources, tend to concentrate in areas where they’re familiar with and they don’t have unlimited bullets.”

He also encouraged Hungarian companies to use Singapore as a launch pad into Asia. „The sense I get from the Hungarian companies... (is that) they’re looking to go to Asia. Many of them mentioned China. So Hungarian companies partnering Singapore companies to go to China is also one formula,” he added. After the three-day visit, the Singapore businessmen now have a better understanding of the market. They were also able to establish good contacts with Hungarian corporations.

Prime Minister Lee encouraged Singapore firms to explore new markets in Hungary, and Frazers Hospitality is already planning to launch its luxury serviced apartments in Budapest by 2009. Another firm, Apex-Pal International, which operates Sakae Sushi, also aims to have a presence in Hungary. Douglas Foo, Apex-Pal International’s CEO, said: „I think the return on investments... would be quite similar to most markets that we have embarked upon out of Singapore. I think out of Singapore, the expenses are a lot higher, the investments are different.”

„But having started this learning curve at this stage, we hope to shortcut and lighten that initial cost, and to be able to get our returns in a much shorter time, as compared to a lot other markets.” This is the second time the Singapore Business Federation has organized an investment mission to Hungary, and it is by far the largest business delegation during an official trip. The group is off to study other markets such as Poland. (channelnewsasia)