Taiwan's Top 50 Performers
Niche Markets, Little Giants
Source：Top Photo Group / Reuters
Taiwan's top-performing enterprises of 2013 came from a wide spectrum of industries. What sets these hidden champions apart from the pack is unique key technologies and niche dominance.
Niche Markets, Little GiantsBy Jin Chen
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 547 )
To pinpoint Taiwan's "Top 50 Performers," CommonWealth Magazine assessed companies' overall financial performance, both short-term and long-term, in combination with their levels of stability and growth, based on several indicators over the past three years: revenue growth, after-tax net income, net income growth rate, and return on equity.
Due to changes in accounting standards this year, Ruentex Industries Ltd. was able to put investment gains from its controlling stake in Sun Art Retail Group Limited, which owns RT-Mart and Auchan hypermarkets in China, on its books. As a result, the conglomerate became the top performing enterprise in 2014 with a dizzying after-tax net income growth of 1,212 percent, although its revenue situation had not changed substantially.
Leaving aside top performance owing to altered accounting standards, the Top 50 include a host of little giants who have developed a dominant position in a niche market. Even large business groups have been busy incubating their own hidden champions. The top performers are no longer concentrated in certain star industries. Today, any company that achieves something unique can be a winner.
Large Business Groups Incubate Hidden Champions
Taiwan's leading private sector company Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd., also known as Foxconn Technology Group, has two such top performers under its wings. One is industrial computer maker Ennoconn Corporation. Ennoconn serves as contract manufacturer for U.S.-based NCR Corporation, a global leader in ATM and point-of-sale terminals and software. The other is flexible printed circuit maker Zhen Ding Technology Holding Limited (ZDT), which has made it into the Top 50 again. While ZDT thrived on orders from major customer Apple Inc. for the iPad in the past, the company looks forward to continued growth this year after securing orders for rival products from Chinese phone manufacturer Xiaomi and American e-commerce giant Amazon.
Metal shell manufacturer Casetek Holdings Limited, the cash-cow subsidiary of Pegatron Corp., posted a gross profit margin of 30 percent last year. Given the trend toward lighter, thinner wearable devices and phablets, Casetek is anticipating a promising future. Thanks to its aggressive transformation, parent company Pegatron also made it into the Top 50 despite the general decline of the notebook segment.
China's Rise Propels Taiwanese Suppliers to the Top
On the back of Apple's magical success, many "Apple concept" electronics companies secured a spot among the Top 50 for several years. However, with Apple losing its luster and a "red supply chain" emerging in China, edging out Taiwanese companies in favor of local Chinese suppliers, only Largan Precision Co. Ltd. – which provides smartphone camera lenses to Apple Inc. and recently broke the share price record – and flexible printed circuit maker Flexium Interconnect Inc. remain among the top performers.
Also affected by the rise of Chinese competitors is the machine tool industry. Just a few years ago, this sector was performing brilliantly. However, this year not a single machine tool manufacturer won a place among the Top 50.
This year's list stands out for its vast diversity in terms of industries and products represented. Clearly, hot enterprises exist even in lackluster industries.
KMC Chain Industrial Co. Ltd., for instance, counts leading bicycle brands Giant and Merida among its main customers. KMC has been aggressively consolidating its business in recent years. Following the planned acquisition of its manufacturing plant in Tianjin, China, in July this year, KMC will become the world's largest manufacturer of bicycle chains. Kingcan Holdings Limited, the largest manufacturer of metal cans in China, makes 70 percent of the cans used for Wanglaoji herbal tea, China's most popular canned beverage.
OK Biotech Co. Ltd., which makes glucose monitors for diabetes, last year secured stable orders by closing a cross-shareholding deal with its largest customer. On top of that, the company developed an "invisible respirator mask" – nasal filters that slip into the nostrils – a product that is expected to sell well in China where smog is a severe environmental and health problem.
The exclusive club of top performers also includes Macauto Group, the third largest maker of automotive sunshades in the world. Then there is Nan Liu Enterprise Co. Ltd., which started out as a maker of kitchen sponges, then branched out into facial sheet masks and has now become Taiwan's largest manufacturer of nonwoven fabrics.
These companies all stand out for their unique products and market leadership, which shows that even niche markets have great potential.
Leaping from the Shoulders of Giants
Eclat Textile Co. Ltd., a developer of functional woven fabrics, produces clothing for international sports brands such as Adidas, Nike and Lululemon, the world's leading yoga apparel vendor. Snatching third place in the Top 50, the company demonstrates that apparel is not a sunset industry.
As a researcher and developer of advanced e-beam wafer inspection systems, which are crucial for boosting yield in the semiconductor industry, Hermes Microvision Inc. (HMI) has become an indispensable partner for such giants as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), Intel, and Samsung Semiconductor.
Interconnect solution provider BizLink Holding Inc. began to work with electric carmaker Tesla in 2006. Riding the wave of the Californian carmaker's success, BizLink's share price has soared as foreign investors continue to favor the stock.
While these companies do not command empires of their own, they have left their competitors in the dust as they leap from the shoulders of industry giants.
Over the past two years, two industries have experienced a sustainable boom – cloud computing and contact lenses.
Networking equipment maker Zero One Technology Co. Ltd., video surveillance product maker Dynacolor Inc., and server maker Inventec Appliances Corp. have all leveraged cloud concepts to join the top performers' club. Leading contact lens makers St. Shine Optical Co. Ltd. and Ginko International Group are both in the Top 50 again.
As a series of food safety scandals hit Taiwan last year, the food and beverage industry took a beating, which reflects in a worse-than-usual showing, with just two food and beverage companies making the cut.
Sunjuice Holdings Co. Ltd. – a trusted supplier of large Taiwanese restaurant and coffeehouse chain operators such as Gourmet Master (85 Degree Bakery Café) and Wowprime Group in China – has become the No. 1 in the Chinese market for fruit beverage raw materials. Beverage and dessert chain group La Kaffa International Co. Ltd. has successfully taken its Chatime brand overseas. At the same time, the company tested new waters in the creative and cultural industries with the renovation of the Japanese-era Miyahara Eye Hospital in Taichung into a crowd-drawing tourist attraction.
Against the backdrop of a stormy, tempestuous business environment and rapidly changing markets, there are no shortcuts to success. What it takes to become a top performer is the persistence and ambition to raise professionalism to the heights of excellence.
Translated from the Chinese by Susanne Ganz