Firms can choose not to enter corruption-ridden markets

I cannot agree with Mr Francis Cheng (Staying clean not a simple matter in some countries; Dec 30, 2017) that our Government should not penalise companies that play by industry rules in countries where corruption is rampant and no clean company can survive.

Many well-established multinationals have decent corporate cultures. Their top managements have been known to decide that if a country operates by practices that are not in keeping with the company ethos, they would not do business in that country.

I saw an example of this at Ho Bee, a company helmed by Mr Chua Thian Poh. When the property markets in certain Asian countries were booming, Mr Chua was asked at an annual general meeting why Ho Bee did not participate in those markets.

He replied that he preferred to do business only in countries where there were rule of law and transparency in transactions.

Since Ho Bee was listed more than a decade ago, the company's share price and net tangible asset value have increased sevenfold.

This is proof that it is possible to be profitable without sacrificing ethics for expediency.

Lee Chiu San

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2018, with the headline 'Firms can choose not to enter corruption-ridden markets'. Print Edition | Subscribe