The annual highest level of economic conference in China, Central Economic Working Conference, which will suggest the direction of the country’s next-year economic policy, is just around the corner and this year is just the first year of China’s twelfth five-year plans.
The Chinese October holiday is just wrapping up here in China with millions of people returning from their home towns to major cities and getting back into work. The world markets haven’t been on holiday though and the teetering economic situation in Europe seem to be reaching a head.
Trade Tech came through Shanghai this week. It's only in the third year that Trade Tech has come to China, but it's clear that interest is growing as evidenced by an increasing number of attendees and exhibitors. Although there are few conferences in China concerning electronic trading, Trade Tech has managed to become one of the top events for sell sides and financial technology providers in China largely based on the claim from the event organizers that it represents one of the largest gatherings of buy-sides in China.
China, for once, is relatively quiet – well in certain respects. Today, we’re nearly mid-way through the two week celebration of Chinese New Year as we move into the year of the rabbit. The streets for the past week have been somewhat quiet and offices were closed as millions of Chinese returned to their hometowns to celebrate the lunar calendar new year.
After over thirty years of opening up and economic reform, in 2010, China officially overtook Japan to become the world’s second largest economy, trailing only the United States. Undoubtedly, the global financial crisis that took hold in late 2008 has served as a turning point for China to rapidly transform itself into a global engine of growth.
Without a doubt when we look back at the year in review for 2010, one of the key industry issues of the year will be that of consumer data protection. With numerous breaches at some of the world’s largest banks and credit card institutions, it’s clear that data privacy and protection is still an issue – and one that is back on the front page this week.
With both the Olympics and Para-Olympics now over and the vestiges of Olympic advertising slowly being removed from billboards around China, it is getting back to business as usual in China, or as usual as it could be. For awhile, the feeling was that the Chinese economy would come out of the Olympics, weather the credit crunch and continue on the path of the fantastic growth that China has experienced over the past 10 years. As the situation in the United States worsens, both as a result of the credit crisis and the worsening economic situation, that feeling is changing.
The government of the new Taiwanese President Ma Yingjeou has, over the past few weeks, taken a number of key steps towards financial services liberalization between Taiwan and the mainland that are pointing towards a more integrated financial sector. The two players have always been closely economically intertwined, but there have been many barriers in place that have prevented a more complete integration. Those barriers are now starting to come down.
Taking a step away from financial services for a minute, I thought it fitting to give a view from China of what’s happening regarding China’s recent earthquake. In previous disasters like the SEA tsunami a few years ago or the recent typhoon in Myanmar, I've often found myself detached from the reality of the situation by geographical distance. Although once again I still am to a certain extent, as Shanghai is a distance from the epicenter of the quake, the quake and its aftermath have dominated life in China for the past week and a half.
2008 is turning out to be a another big year for the Shanghai stock market, not because of the bubble-like conditions or growth like what we saw in 2007, but for the changes in market regulations.
The Citic / Bear Stearns fall-out is one example of many where proposed or actual tie-ups in China have changed as of late. Another prominent one is Yahoo and their arrangement with Alibaba, the largest B2B website in China. In August 2005, Yahoo invested US$1B for a 39 percent stake in Alibaba, who then agreed to run the Chinese operations of Yahoo. Now with Microsoft on the hunt for Yahoo, Alibaba wants to buy out the Yahoo stake and is looking for financing to do so.
The collapse of Bear Sterns has not only changed the financial industry in the US, but it's also had a number of knock-on effects in Asia.
Amongst all of the events happening in China in 2008, without a doubt, the most important item on the Chinese agenda this year is the Beijing Olympics. Seen by both domestic and international observers as a key indication of China’s development, the Chinese government has spared no expense in preparing for the games.
A continued look at China in 2008.
Year 4706, the year of the rat, begins on February 7th in China this year. With the celebration just under a month away, it’s tempting to use the time to procrastinate on making predictions on what will happen in China is 2008 as it’s technically not the new year here yet, but unfortunately, China doesn’t wait.
The Shanghai stock market continues to defy expectations -- up nearly 100% in 2007. Most of the commentary on the Shanghai market depicts the average Chinese investor as unknowledgeable and following the herd. However, a recent study that we’ve (kapronasia) just completed with Amber (www.amberinsights.com) shows that individual Shanghai A-share investors are actually much more market savvy than commonly thought.
Two years ago in 2005, GE agreed to buy a 7% stake in Shenzhen Development Bank, which at the time was worth US$100M. However, the deal had been held up due due to disagreements amongst the shareholders, one of which was the private equity group TPG. Most of the disagreements centred around government requirements on share restructuring as the initial agreement would have significantly diluted TPG's stake in the bank. TPG eventually did agree to modified terms, but yesterday Shenzhen Bank terminated the agreement.
Not to miss the ‘invest in China’ boat, yesterday, Bear Stearns and Citic Securities announced a co-investment partnership agreement. If everything is approved by the regulators, which it likely will be, Bear, the darling of the CDO market, will invest US$1B in the Chinese brokerage, which will convert to a 2% stake over 6 years with the option to increase that to 7%. Conversely, Citic will invest the same in Bear, which will convert to 6% stake in Bear over 40 years, and will have the option to increase this stake to 9.9%. Most of the non-Chinese operations will likely be a co-branded operation and it’s yet unclear what the Chinese operation will look like.
For the past few weeks, most of the major news in China has centred on the Communist Party Congress. This is an pretty important event in China that happens once every 5 years and usually results in a number of far-reaching policy and people changes throughout the country and government.
With recall troubles dating back to 2005 when a toddler in the US ate a loose magnet and later died, the toy manufacture Mattel has been in the centre of a toy recall that has thousands of class-action lawyers around the world drooling. The company has gone through numerous recalls in the past few months, the largest being for 18 million playsets plagued by another loose magnet.
China, well known for its capital controls made some steps towards loosening those controls for individual investors last month with the announcement that individual mainland Chinese investors would be able to invest in the HK stock market. However, now it appears the implementation will be another few days or weeks off according to an announcement by the Bank of China (BOC).
Reading Bank of China’s ticker last week was a crash course in China’s stock markets. Towards the end of last week, the bank reported on its sub-prime exposure. On the next trading day, if you were given the two ticker symbols for Bank of China (BOC) and their positions, you’d be hard pressed to guess what BOC’s actual position was. In HK, BOC fell by as much as 5.4% over the course of the trading day*, while in Shanghai, the stock actually rose 1% on a day when the entire market rose 5% overall. What happened?
Earlier this week we looked at how the Shanghai market has remained relatively unscathed by the sub-prime meltdown, but what about individual banks' exposure?
Losses through the week in major indices around the world and indeed in emerging market countries in Asia, have chipped away yearly gains that most indices have chalked up this year. China's Shanghai index however is up nearly 78% on the year. How is it possible?