Southeast Asian companies are scrambling to buy businesses in other markets as they emerge as global competitors.

A growing number of firms from Southeast Asia – once the target of acquisition deals – have expanded by acquiring firms in other countries, such as US and Europe, The Nikkei reports.

Thai Union Frozen Products Pcl., which started as a small factory in 1977, now owns factories around the world and controls 20% of the global canned tuna market.

Thai Union purchased bankrupt US firm Tri-Union Seafoods for 3.7 billion yen in 1997 at the height of the Asian currency crisis and acquired MW Brands, France’s largest seafood producer, from Trilantic Capital Partners for 86 billion yen in 2010.

Thiraphong Chansiri, president of Thai Union, says he wants to ramp up sales by roughly half a billion dollars per year and is considering new opportunities in emerging markets. The firm expects to record 3.5 billion dollars in sales for 2012.

Malaysia’s Sucomi Engineering Bhd has stepped out into the global market as a formidable competitor for multinationals such as Canada’s Bombardier Inc. and Hitachi Ltd.

Sucomi specializes in developing complete monorail systems through M&A deals and also has businesses in oil and gas exploration.

According to Thomson Reuters, Southeast Asian firms spent 33.9 billion dollars (about 3.15 trillion yen) on acquiring companies in other markets in 2012, representing an 80% increase on the decade.