Intra-asia mergers and acquisitions (M&A) have been on the rise, and Singapore-based companies are emerging as key players in this market.

And even as regional markets such as Indonesia and Myanmar beckon them, international players have also showed up to play, looking to use Singapore as a gateway to the region.

Andrew Martin, the head of corporate & securities at corporate and advisory firm Baker & McKenzie, noting the rise in the number of Singapore firms involved in intra-Asia takeover activity, told BT that it is in line with a wider trend within Asia.

Describing Singapore companies as key players in Asian M&A, he said they have also gone beyond Asia in pursuit of opportunities in developed markets as well.

That these companies have strong financials has enabled them to respond to the pull of these opportunities, he noted. "Singapore companies are well-cashed out and a number of them are in good positions. They not only have strong balance sheets, but have access to financing, so they have been able to do some of those international deals along with a number of other Asian MNCs."

Baker & McKenzie recently commissioned a report examining country-specific opportunities and the challenges of doing M&A transactions in a number of high-growth markets. Based on a survey of more than 350 senior executives done by the Economist Intelligence Unit on behalf of Baker & McKenzie, the report indicated that Asian businesses were more active in M&A deals than their Western counterparts in inter-regional trade.

Mr Martin said: "Our survey showed that the number of deals where Asia-backed companies (including Singapore companies) were the buyers outside our region exceeded those in which Asia-backed companies were the targets of multinational corporations from developed markets.

"So there is a shift there in terms of where the investors are coming from globally."

The Singapore-based companies involved in M&A are from a range of industries; these include financial services (banks and insurance), energy and resources and the food & beverage (F&B) sectors.

"There is still a lot of interest in the energy and resources sector, especially since we have Indonesia at our back door. Although there are some regulatory concerns in terms of resources in Indonesia, we're still seeing a lot of interest in oil and gas," noted Mr Martin.

He said the highly-publicised deal of Asia-Pacific Breweries and Fraser & Neave did much to raise the profile of the F&B sector as a whole; it also drew attention to the strength of Singapore's homegrown brands at home and regionally.

He named Indonesia and Myanmar as two areas that Singapore firms have been looking keenly into.

Although Indonesia presents good opportunities across several sectors, he acknowledged that regulatory uncertainty there is an issue, with many interested companies going in "even as the goalposts continue to shift".

With Myanmar, opportunities have been identified in resources, financial services and in the hospitality industry, especially since the country lacks hotels.

However, the trend of M&A activity is as strong inward into Singapore as it is outward. Mr Martin attributed this primarily to a strong takeover code and listing manual.

"The rules of the game, in terms of taking over public-listed companies, are strong. We have a regulator and a securities and industry council which has a good reputation.

"That gives a lot of people comfort if they want to come into Singapore and make public-listed company acquisitions. If you look at the past 12 months and the number of public-listed deals we have had, that sort of reflects the confidence people have in the takeover market here."