China Business Briefs 8/11/13

China is on the cusp of its 4G rollout, but handset maker Huawei doesn’t want smartphone owners getting complacent. The company just announced it will invest $600 million into 5G research and development.

The money will be spread out over four years. The end goal is a 10Gbps broadband connection by 2018. That’s 10 times faster than 4G and a whopping 5,000 times faster than 3G, which most of the Chinese smartphone-owning population is currently connected to. To give you an idea of how fast that is, Huawei CEO Eric Xu says, “5G mobile networks with the peak data rates of over 10Gbps will allow people to download high-definition movies in one second.”

Record-breaking milestones have become routine in the breathtaking development of high-speed railways in China, known as gaotie. In just five years, since the first one connected Beijing with the nearby port of Tianjin in 2008, high-speed track in service has reached 10,000 kilometres (6,200 miles), more than in all of Europe. The network has expanded to link more than 100 cities. In December the last section was opened on the world’s longest gaotie line, stretching 2,400km from Beijing to Shenzhen, on the border with Hong Kong (see map). The network has confounded some sceptics who believed there would not be enough demand. High-speed trains carry almost 2m people daily, which is about one-third of the total number of rail passengers.

China’s exporters had a good month in October, with shipments up 5.6% from a year earlier, far better than the 1.5% growth forecast by economists. That was enough to more than double China’s monthly trade surplus to $31.1 billion, despite strong imports. Matched with decent performance from other East Asian exporters, that suggests that an upturn in demand from the U.S. and Europe is helping support the Chinese economy, which has had a wobbly year. But it may not be out of the woods yet.

The Shanghai Composite Index fell 1.1 percent to 2,106.13 at the close, adding to a 2 percent loss this week. China’s exports rose 5.6 percent in October, compared with a median estimate for 1.7 percent growth in a Bloomberg News survey. The yuan was poised for a weekly advance as the central bank raised the reference rate on anticipation the Communist Party meeting will lead to further economic reforms.

According to Yahoo Finance, over the past 10-odd years since the start of 2003, the Straits Times Index (SGX: ^STI) has gained 8.4% per year

Blue chips like Jardine Matheson Holdings (SGX: J36), Singapore Exchange (SGX: S68), and United Overseas Bank (SGX: U11) have had average annualised returns (including dividends) of 23.5%, 20% and 8.8% respectively in the same period.

Standard Bank said in July it was exploring closer cooperation with its biggest shareholder Industrial & Commercial Bank of China on its global markets and commodities businesses.

Qunar, a travel search and service provider, went listed on the NYSE last week. Its shares soared 89% on the first day of trading. As Qunar became more than a search engine when it built a transaction system in 2012, it is believed it will eventually become direct competitors of existing online travel agencies such as Ctrip and eLong. With that concern, in early this year, a handful of online travel services, including Ctrip and eLong decided to stop working with Qunar. But later they resumed cooperation with Qunar. One the reasons is the traffic on the search service is too high to ignore.

Now Qunar’s market cap is a little less than half of that of Ctrip who is still the largest player in online travel in China. When asked about the potential competition with Qunar on the earnings call for Q3 2013, James Liang, chairman and CEO of Ctrip, said it’s more of competition on air ticket but more of partnership on hotel, for Qunar’s hotel inventory mostly depends on third-party suppliers.

But like what it has done on air ticket, Qunar also possibly can build partnership directly with hotels rather than travel agencies or other third parties. Mr. Liang thinks what can eventually differentiate Ctrip from Qunar is the quality of service — it sounds it doesn’t have any technological advantage.

China looks set to snap up over 350 million new smartphones this year. So what brands are Chinese people buying? How much do they spend on 3G? Who are these people exactly? What OSes do they prefer?

Alibaba’s foray into the world of fund management—through a money-market fund-like investment product called Yu’E Bao, or leftover treasure—has so far been a huge success. The lingering question, however, is how exactly it works.

One of Yu’E Bao’s appeals is that it gives customers the convenience of a demand deposit—they can withdraw their funds whenever they like—with returns similar to wealth-management products or other longer-term deposit options like CDs, which typically lock the funds for three to six months.

Posted from Diigo.

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