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Winds of change bring new business risks


April 30, 1999 -- AS WINDS of change blow across the world, traditional risks such as country and commercial risks have been augmented by new risk factors that exporters scrambling to find new markets to boost their earnings might not have paid enough attention to.

Speaking at a seminar yesterday on ''Managing Opportunity and Risk in an Era of Uncertainty and Crisis'', Joachim C Bartels, senior vice president of Global Business Development of Dun & Bradstreet, warned about additional risk factors that have emerged over the past 10 years that pose more challenges for businesses both in the domestic and international markets.

He said transition risk is one of the first new risk factors that have appeared in the late 1980s with the collapse of the Eastern European political and economic system. Transition risk also applies to countries moving from centrally-planned to market-oriented economies.

''Changes in government jurisdiction, rules and regulations, imperfect legal systems, and underdeveloped public information infrastructures are still the hallmark of such economies, and the source of significant risk,'' Bartels said.

He also pointed out the risks associated with the introduction of the euro as a single currency of the European Union.

''For many businesses within Europe, harmonisation of prices and credit terms are just a few of the more significant challenges impacting the competitiveness of industries, distribution channels, individual firms and their profitability,'' he said.

The risk also covers the domino effect from the Asian financial crisis, which has spread to Russia and Brazil and might have an impact on Hong Kong and China later on.

''The domino effect has highlighted the painful lesson that whatever happens in one country can have a severe impact on another country or an entire region. There is no longer shelter from risk,'' he said.

Despite market exuberance over the emerging potential of business through the Internet, called e-commerce, Bartels warned that transactions through electronic commerce are not without risk.

''Speed of trading, unsolicited vendors and buyers heretofore unknown, plus automated transaction systems are only some of the new characteristics of e-commerce transactions. Knowing a vendor's qualification and performance, a buyer's credibility, all in a fraction of a second at the inception of a business transaction will be the key to a successful and profitable business relationship,'' he said.

The millennium bug or the Year 2000 Factor has also emerged as a significant risk factor. It will have an impact on governments, country infrastructures, manufacturing, trading, services sectors, in particular financial services, individuals and economies as a whole.

For credit management, the Y2K risk factor will have serious consequences in terms of supply-chain failures, cash-flow and business failures.

The general state of readiness is still relatively poor, therefore mission-critical systems failures are a possibility in many sectors and many countries.




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