China Business Briefs 4/2/14

Economy   Finance   Auto   Infrastructure   Energy   Telecoms   Property   Travel   Tech   Agriculture

Economy

Chinese factories act to keep staff in saddle in Year of the Horse – FT.com Many factories across the Pearl River Delta, the manufacturing workshop of the world in Guangdong, are trying to find ways to keep workers. This has become more important as demographic changes – particularly the one-child policy and a government push to create jobs inland – have made staffing harder.

But the world’s factories cannot simply rely on outings, returning bonuses and lucky draws. What workers really want is better pay and benefits, says Geoff Crothall of China Labour Bulletin. While wages in Guangdong have posted double-digit rises in recent years, the minimum wage in Shenzhen – the highest in China – is still only about $300.

Why Did One Of The World’s Largest Generic Drug Makers Exit China? – Forbes The broader questions that Actavis’ CEO pointed towards as a rationale for the company’s exit from China are not wrong.  Surveys conducted by various American and European business groups in China all point towards worrying trends which suggest China is becoming fundamentally less hospitable to foreigners than in years past.  Favoritism towards domestic companies by government purchasing is nothing unique to China, unless you consider that China’s 144,500 State Owned Enterprises (SOE) represent 35% of the country’s industrial revenue (a percentage many economists believe greatly under-represents the economic impact of SOEs). Add to the SOE’s position the role of the Chinese government as purchaser of great amounts of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, and you can see what the comments of Actavis’ CEO ring true to many.

Bilateral China / US Investment ‐ Is 2014 the Year? | The National Law Review Times are changing, however. There has been a rapid increase in the amount and rate of investment by Chinese companies in the United States in the last three years. At the end of the second quarter of 2013, the United States with cumulative investment from China of $57.8 billion ranked only behind Australia with $59.2 billion.2 With the September 2013 closing of the Shuanghui International acquisition of pork producer, Smithfield, for $7.1 billion and several large real estate investments, the United States took the lead as the preferred destination for China investment.3 Included within the United States numbers during the first nine months of the year is $12.2 billion invested in 55 Greenfield projects and acquisitions in the United States.4

The Great Debtscape In short, over the past five years China has rectified one of its famous “imbalances” — excessive reliance on external demand — and made a good start on fixing the other (excessive reliance on investment spending). But a growing chorus of observers views China’s economic future with trepidation. In mid-January, Ray Dalio, who runs Bridgewater Associates, the world’s biggest hedge fund, declared that China was a bubble. And earlier that month, Patrick Chovanec, a well-known China bear, warned that “China’s leaders are riding a runaway train that they don’t quite know how to stop.”

China Demand Still Buoys Global Producers – WSJ.com From southern Africa to southern Asia, investors have soured on many commodity-rich emerging markets boosted in the past by China’s ravenous appetite for what is grown from the soil or extracted from the mines. But so far, a slowing China hasn’t hurt its suppliers much.

That is because massive Chinese demand hasn’t significantly weakened and many emerging economies now have their own consumers to help pick up any slack. The global market jitters, economists and executives say, reflect less an actual falloff in China’s appetite and more a bet that China’s growth will continue to taper off.

Finance

Judge’s Ruling On Accounting Firms In China Touches on Hong Kong Units – WSJ.com But in a potential broadening of the issue at hand, the ruling by SEC Administrative Law Judge Cameron Elliot also spotlighted another practice of note in the auditing of Chinese companies that trade on U.S. markets. In some instances, a Hong Kong unit of a Big Four auditor acts as the company’s official auditor, but the bulk of the audit work is outsourced to the same firm’s affiliate in mainland China.

That could raise issues under U.S. auditing rules, which suggest that an audit firm should do a “material” amount of the work to be entitled to serve as a company’s principal auditor and sign the audit opinion.

Guess which bank has the most valuable brand While the value of bank brands in Russia, India and Brazil fell, China continued to perform strongly. The value of the lenders’ brands there rose by $19 billion during the year, and there are now three Chinese banks ranked in the top 10 — Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), China Construction Bank and the Agricultural Bank of China.

Asia Markets live blog: Shares falling on U.S. cue – The Tell – MarketWatch China might soon loosen its tight grip on its banking sector. The official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday that it’s an inevitable choice for China’s financial reform to allow banks to fail.

It quoted Yan Qingmin, vice chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, as saying that the government would let market force play a larger role in the banking system and allow commercial banks to “go out of market” if they turn insolvent.

This Chinese online retailer’s IPO documents could be a bit too candid – Quartz The prospectus for Chinese online retailer JD.com’s planned $1.5 billion US public offering, filed recently with the Securities and Exchange Commission, offers up a warts-and-all look at the risks of investing in a Chinese internet company. And there are a lot of warts—over 40 pages worth—listed in the “risk factors” section, including:

We don’t really know what we’re doing in some businesses. The company recently expanded into internet finance, providing supply-chain financing to supplier and loans to customers. “We have limited experience in operating an internet finance business,” the prospectus admits.

SEC Ruling May Be a Death Knell for Chinese Stocks Woes for Chinese tech stocks are significant. The argument goes that as long as Chinese authorities outright ban Chinese companies from submitting required information to the SEC, such audits are not acceptable. So far Chinese companies have circumvented such requirement by submitting audits conducted by the big four auditor firms’ Chinese affiliates. But again, the SEC said those audits done in China, even by the big four auditors’ affiliates, are not good.

And this raises an interesting issue. Major Chinese companies, as well as smaller ones, are in jeopardy meeting the deadline to submit quarterly and annual reports on time.

SEC, Deloitte, Longtop case resolution raises hopes for solving US audit ban – Governance – The Corporate Treasurer The SEC has dropped its case against Deloitte’s China arm and Longtop Financial Technologies, pointing the way through a broader audit ban crisis.

US houses to boost funds on offer in Hong Kong to tap opportunities in China | South China Morning Post Two US fund houses, Principal Global Investors and Franklin Templeton, have unveiled plans to add to their Hong Kong-domiciled offerings in order to tap into mainland China opportunities under a soon-to-be signed mutual recognition scheme.

Bitcoin Exchange BTC China Resumes RMB-Based Deposits | China Briefing News Bobby Lee, CEO of the Bitcoin exchange BTC China, has announced that customers are once again able to purchase Bitcoin by depositing RMB directly into the company’s corporate bank account.

The decision by BTC China comes after the exchange stopped accepting RMB deposits in response to a Dec. 5 memo from the People’s Bank of China warning national financial institutions not to trade in Bitcoin.

Auto

China’s carmakers have yet to make their marque – FT.com Dongfeng, one of China’s “Big Three” car groups alongside Shanghai Auto and First Auto Works, has more joint ventures with international car groups than any of its domestic peers. Including Korean partner Hyundai, it currently operates four joint ventures and signed a fifth partnership agreement in December with Renault. The Wuhan-based company is also poised to take a 14 per cent stake in Peugeot as part of €3bn capital raising.

Dongfeng’s four joint ventures account for more than 90 per cent of the group’s annual passenger car sales, dwarfing those of its own Aeolus brand. It is an imbalance shared by all of China’s state-owned car companies and helps explain why the country that boasts the world’s biggest car market has, unlike Japan and Korea before it, thus far failed to produce a national champion of its own that can compete globally.

Beijing licence plates fetch twice the price of the car on black market | South China Morning Post Beijing’s clampdown on new car registrations is creating a scramble for licence plates and fuelling a boom on the black market, where prices have soared as high as US$33,000, almost double the price of China’s best-selling car, the Ford Focus.

This year, Beijing will cut the allocation of new number plates by 40 per cent to 150,000, meaning only one in 150 will get a plate.

As China’s Auto Sales Surge, Lunar New Year Travelers Opt for Road Trips – WSJ.com A long car ride home can sound appealing to the alternative. China’s top economic planning body estimates that during the 40-day period around the holiday Chinese will take 3.62 billion rides on trains, planes, buses and ships. China’s rails are carrying an average of 6.8 million passengers each day, according to transport ministry officials.

Many hitting the road are carpoolers. According to 58.com Inc., a U.S.-listed Chinese online marketplace, the number of posters looking for or offering Lunar New Year rides is four times the amount a year ago.

Infrastructure

Giant pipeline brings unaffordable water to China’s north|Policy|Business|WantChinaTimes.com The eastern route of China’s South-North Water Diversion project officially began drawing and diverting water last November and December from the Yangtze River to 71 counties, cities and areas in Jiangsu, Shandong and Anhui provinces. The much-needed water comes, however, at a price many local officials find difficult to swallow.

Even though water prices have yet to be finalized, the preliminary estimate for the high fees has drawn negative comments from officials in Jiangsu and Shandong.

Energy

China imports more natural gas in 2013 – BUSINESS – Globaltimes.cn China saw its aggregate volume of natural gas imported from overseas jump 25 percent year on year in 2013, approaching one-third of its apparent consumption, a new report has showed.

The country imported 53 billion cubic meters of natural gas last year, 31.6 percent of its domestic gas output plus imported volume, according to a report released by an economic and technological academy under China National Petroleum Corporation, the country’s state-owned oil giant.

China’s Xinjiang sizzles with green energy – Xinhua | English.news.cn Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, a major power supplier in China, has accelerated the development of green energy as it recorded higher installed capacity in 2013.

Statistics with the Xinjiang branch of the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) showed that by 2013, the combined installed capacity of wind power, hydropower and solar power stations exceeded 1,368 million KW, accounting for about one third of all installed capacity in Xinjiang.

Singapore Refining Co to invest over $500 mln in gasoline, power units – Yahoo Finance Singapore Refining Co (SRC) said on Tuesday it will invest more than $500 million to build gasoline and power generation units at its refinery on Jurong Island.

SRC operates a 290,000 barrels per day refinery and it is a 50:50 joint venture between Chevron Corp and Singapore Petroleum Co, a wholly owned subsidiary of PetroChina International Co.

Why Is China Buying So Much Methanol? In March 2013, IHS Chemical found that the demand for methanol was growing faster in China than any other part of the world — the country increased consumption 23% from 2010 to 2012 and is expected to consume half the world’s production of methanol this year, which is about 32 million tons. By contrast, the United States currently consumes about 6.5 million tons. IHS Chemical expects the demand for methanol in China alone to triple by 2022.

So, what’s fueling China’s interest in methanol?

Telecoms

4.8 million WeChat Users Participated in the Lucky Money Game on Chinese New Year Eve 4.82 million WeChat users took part in the Lucky Money game on 2014 Chinese New Year eve, as disclosed by WeChat’s parent company Tencent. Launched several days before, the feature that adds gamification elements to giving and receiving digital Lucky Money became an immediate hit among WeChat users. Kingsoft even developed a plugin that automatically harvests lucky money for WeChat users.

Property

Tight availability of funds drives Chinese developers abroad to raise cash | South China Morning Post Driven by concern about the availability of funds, more than a dozen mainland developers, including China Overseas Land & Investment, Dalian Wanda, Guangzhou R&F and Greenland, raised more than 50 billion yuan (HK$63.5 billion) offshore in the first month of the year.

Home-buy hopefuls run into banks feeling the pinch – The Standard State-owned banks including Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (1398), China Construction Bank (0939), Agricultural Bank of China (1288), and Bank of China (3988) are reluctant to provide discounts to boost mortgage businesses.

China Guangfa Bank, Ping An Bank and China Minsheng Banking (1988) are tightening as well.

Travel

Ireland goes the extra mile for Chinese visitors | South China Morning Post UnionPay card machines aren’t the only reason mainland Chinese tourist flock to Dublin. Firstly, Ireland eased its visa restrictions last year, after the UK tightened theirs, chuckle, chuckle. The RMB has appreciated 40 per cent in recent years over the euro, which means China’s new travelling middle class gets far more bang for their buck in euroland. Ireland’s high sales taxes and VAT can be claimed back at the airport, reducing real prices even further. You also get the latest lines of European branded products, so they can stock up on their favourite Hermes, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Ireland’s own Waterford Crystal, also popular with Chinese customers.

Tech

Lenovo Slumps on Analyst Downgrades After Buying Spree – Bloomberg Lenovo Group Ltd. (992), which announced $5 billion of deals last month to bolster its server and smartphone businesses, plunged the most in five years in Hong Kong after the stock was downgraded by at least five brokerages.

Lenovo fell 16 percent to HK$8.41 at the close of trade, cutting $2.2 billion from its market value in the biggest decline since January 2009. The world’s biggest maker of personal computers was cut at UBS AG (UBSN), Morgan Stanley (MS), Jefferies Group LLC, JI-Asia Research Ltd. and Kim Eng Securities Ltd., according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Lenovo said to turn to security insiders for deal approval – DailyHerald.com Lenovo Group Ltd. has turned to national security insiders to win U.S. approval to buy Google Inc.’s Motorola Mobility phone unit, which is based in Libertyville, and International Business Machines Corp.’s low-end server business, people familiar with the two deals said.

The world’s largest personal-computer maker hired attorneys at Steptoe & Johnson LLP who held positions at the Central Intelligence Agency and the Homeland Security Department to guide its Motorola review through a key interagency panel, one of the people said. Covington & Burling LLP partners David Fagan and Mark Plotkin are representing Lenovo in the IBM server deal, according to another person familiar with the matter.

VyprVPN enters Great Firewall-evading VPN market Now a new contender has entered the fray, boasting greater security and privacy than all its competitors. VyprVPN uses a new proprietary protocol called Chameleon, developed by Switzerland-based Golden Frog. Chameleon “scrambles OpenVPN packet metadata to ensure it’s not recognizable via deep packet inspection” and is specifically “designed to mask Internet traffic to defeat VPN blocking in restrictive environments like China.”

Agriculture

China cancels deal to buy Thai rice due to graft probe: Thai minister | Reuters China has canceled a deal to buy 1.2 million tonnes of Thai rice after Thailand’s anti-corruption agency launched investigations into a state rice-buying scheme, the Thai commerce minister said on Tuesday.

“China lacks confidence to do business with us after the National Anti-Corruption Commission started investigations into the transparency of rice deals between Thailand and China,” Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan told reporters.

Posted from Diigo.

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