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Indonesian companies venture abroad

IN Indonesia, about 200 companies have begun to make direct investments abroad, mostly in branch offices, including 27 in the US. Other countries that have succeeded in attracting Indonesia's capital are China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Panama, and even Liberia and Tunisia.

Economists see such foreign investments as a sign of increasing maturity for a developing nation's business community.

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``The investments abroad by Indonesian companies are mainly intended to strengthen their commercial network,'' says Sofyjan Wanandi, chief executive of the Gemala Group in Jakarta, which has investments in Australia and New Zealand.

Analysts Christianto Wibisono and Marie Pangestu say opening branch offices abroad should not be categorized as capital flight -

money fleeing a bad national situation. ``It has also its social impact, assisting the government's programs to boost the non-oil and non-gas exports,'' says Mr. Wibisono, director of the Indonesian Business Data Center in Jakarta, the capital.

At the same time, US investments in Indonesia will continue to grow, according to Louis Clinton, the newly elected chairman of the American Chamber of Commmerce Indonesia. Currently, US investments in Indonesia total $4.5 billion to $5 billion.

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