East Asia corporations: heroes or villains

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East Asian corporations differ from their counterparts in other countries in important ways. Before the recent financial crisis these differences were viewed as one of the reasons for the success of East Asian economies. The crisis altered that view, and many scholars now argue that the weak corporate governance and financing structures of East Asian corporations are partly to blame for the recent crisis. This paper reviews several features of East Asian corporations, showing that they have high leverage and concentrated ownership, are typically affiliated with business groups, and operate in multiple industries. These characteristics affected the performance of corporations prior to the crisis as well as their ability to deal with its aftermath. Each economy's level of development also affected how these characteristics interacted with firm performance and valuation. Finally, the concentration of ownership in the hands of a few large families may have influenced economies' institutional development.

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About the author (2000)

Stijn Claessens is the senior economist in the Debt and International Finance Division of the International Economics Department of the World Bank. Ronald C. Duncan is chief of the International Trade Division of the International Economics Department of the World Bank.