Doing Business in Malaysia - Guide

Kuala Lumpur Skyline

Our guide to doing business in Malaysia

Malaysia is a mixture of bustling cities with breathtaking architecture, wild jungles, relaxing islands and granite peaks.

It's a multi-ethnic, multicultural and multilingual society, relatively open with a newly industrialised market economy which is ranked highly in the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ survey.

Malaysia is a member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) which is predicted to become the fourth largest single market by 2030. It’s also one of the world’s top locations for offshore manufacturing and service based operations. Multinational corporations from more than 40 countries have invested in over 5,000 Malaysian companies. Several large UK companies have a presence in Malaysia including Aberdeen Asset Management, Allied Pickfords, BAE Systems, BP, Debenhams, Dyson, Pinewood Studios, Shell, Tesco and Weir Group.

Benefits for UK businesses exporting to Malaysia include:

  • English speaking, educated workforce
  • current exchange rate makes UK products and services attractive
  • strong historical and cultural ties
  • similar business and legal practices
  • similar technical standards
  • close to major Asia Pacific economies

Strengths of the Malaysian market include:

  • excellent infrastructure and transport connectivity
  • well developed financial sector
  • cost-effective gateway into to Asian markets

Market Research

Malaysia is a multi-cultural society, the language spoken is Malay which is the language spoken across the region in other countries such as Signapore and the Phillippines by a total of 290 million people.

A few tips for business etiquette include:

  • Initial greetings should be formal and show appropriate respect.
  • If in a team, always introduce the most important member first.
  • Many Malays are uncomfortable shaking hands with a member of the opposite sex.
  • Foreign men should always wait for a Malaysian woman to extend her hand. Foreign women should also wait for a Malaysian man to extend his hand.
  • It's important that professional and honorific titles are used in business, Malays and Indians use titles with their first name.

Malaysia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 6.2% in the first quarter of 2014 compared to same quarter of the previous year. The annual growth rate has averaged 5% from 2000 until 2014. However, Malaysia’s economy is characterised by a reliance on finite oil revenues and a narrow tax base. Bank Negara forecasts GDP growth of 4.5 to 5.5% in 2015. This will result from strong domestic demand and resilient exports. Malaysia’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) focuses on the implementation of 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs) which will contribute to sustainable economic growth.

UK and Malaysia trade

Malaysia is the UK’s second largest trading partner in ASEAN. UK and Malaysia aim to double bilateral trade from £4 billion to £8 billion by 2016. UK goods exports increased by 8% in 2013.

The top 5 sectors for trade between UK to Malaysia are:

  • machinery and transport equipment
  • manufactured goods
  • chemical and related products
  • crude and fuel
  • food, beverages and tobacco

The UK is a major investor in Malaysia with direct investments of £2.12 billion in 2012.

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