IPOs: China Tower, BeiGene IPOs Fail to Excite in HK

Bottom line: Lackluster debuts for two of this year’s largest China IPOs in Hong Kong points to a cresting of the current new listing wave, with sentiment starting to wane as investor appetite for new choices gets satisfied.

China Tower, BeiGene in lackluster debuts

Two of the year’s biggest China IPOs have formally launched in Hong Kong this week, each with a different story and accompanying moral to tell. The larger of those, and the world’s largest IPO in the last two years, has seen state-run cellular tower operator China Tower (HKEx: 0788) raise nearly $8 billion, while the second has seen biotech firm BeiGene (HKEx: 6160; Nasdaq: BGNE) raise a smaller but still significant sum of nearly $1 billion.

These two listings are about as different as you could possibly ask for, at least in terms of the companies’ backgrounds. On the one hand China Tower is a big state-owned behemoth that was formed by the telecoms regulator a few tears ago by pooling the cellular toward assets of China’s big three telcos. At the other end of the spectrum, BeiGene is a privately-backed hotshot that develops biologically-based cancer-fighting drugs. Read Full Post…

VIDEO: iQiyi Goes Down LeEco Road With Sports JV

Bottom line: iQiyi’s establishment of a new sports joint venture and the venture’s subsequent 500 million yuan in funding point to a measured expansion for its premium content business, which will be key to its future success. 

iQiyi in sports joint venture

I’m being just a bit coy with today’s headline by suggesting that a new sports programming joint venture by online video site iQiyi (Nasdaq: IQ) resembles a similar expansion by disgraced former rival LeEco (Shenzhen: 300104). But the fact of the matter is that these two particular moves do look somewhat similar, even though I have far more respect for iQiyi than LeEco, for reasons that I’ll detail shortly.

Let’s begin by jumping right in with the news, which has iQiyi, whose main backer is online search leader Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU), announcing the formation of a sports programming joint venture called Beijing Xin’ai Sport Media. (company announcement) iQiyi is partnering with Super Sports Media, a sports marketing company set up in 2010. As part of the deal, Super Sports Media will change its name to iQiyi Sports, implying this company is basically throwing its lot in with the larger iQiyi. Read Full Post…

INTERNET: Google Outed on China Search Plan

Bottom line: A new report on Google’s plan to launch a new China search engine within the next year looks credible, and underscores the company’s decision to put the market’s big potential ahead of the negative backlash such a move will bring.

Google prepares to enter eye of China storm

A story in a publication called the Intercept is making big waves in China, saying search giant Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is preparing a major about-face on its decision to leave the country’s large but highly controlled search market. (English article) While I’ve never heard of this particular publication, the level of detail it contains appears to show it’s credible, which is probably why most major western media are running reports based on the story.

In short, the story says Google has quietly been developing a China-specific version of its search engine that will adhere to Beijing’s strict rules for self-censorship, and has code-named the project Dragonfly. Google previously operated such a search engine in China, but famously pulled out of the market in 2010 after deciding it didn’t want to adhere to those self-policing policies that require removal of all links to sensitive subjects. Read Full Post…

SMARTPHONES: Huawei Rolls Past Apple

Bottom line: Huawei could challenge Samsung for the global smartphone crown in as little as a year, though a potential Achilles heel could be the “outing” of its surging Honor brand that most may not associate with the Chinese parent.

Huawei passes Apple in global smartphone ranks

Smartphone pioneer Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) has just reported its latest quarterly results, which means that all the data tracking firms can simultaneously release their own industry data showing the latest trends. Those trends show that Apple’s sales were basically flat for in the quarter on a unit basis, even as the bigger story was that the US giant lost its spot as the world’s No. 2 smartphone seller to a surging Huawei during the period.

The big picture is less that Apple is losing market share, and more that Huawei is surging in its march toward market dominance. Part of the reason behind the surge is booming popularity for Huawei’s sub-brand called Honor, which perhaps doesn’t carry the same stigma of the Huawei name. Read Full Post…

CHIPS: China Kills Qualcomm Mega-Merger With Silent Treatment

Bottom line: China used its traditional silent treatment approach to kill Qualcomm’s bid to buy NXP, quite possibly to show its displeasure with recent US trade tensions, but resulting global pressure could forced it to be more transparent in the future.

China kills Qualcomm-NXP deal with silent treatment

We’ll close out the week with my own quick-and-dirty post mortem of the collapsed deal that would have seen telecoms chip maker Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) purchase Dutch rival NXP (Nasdaq: NXPI) for $44 billion. Put simply, this deal appears to have been killed by China’s classic approach of “kill them with silence.”

But there’s a bit of a postscript this time around, as China’s regulator took the unusual step of actually breaking its silence once the deal was dead. This appears to show that China has learned a lesson from this particular battle, namely that it needs to take a stance on things and explain its decisions, even if people might disagree. That would be quite a break from its old approach of just sticking its head in the sand and pretending like nothing is happening when it makes unpopular decisions.  Read Full Post…

INTERNET: Facebook, Google in New China Steps

Bottom line: Facebook and Google’s latest micro-moves into China reflect their longer term efforts to get permission to launch major services in the market, though it’s unclear if they will get such a green-light anytime soon.

Facebook, Google take new baby steps in China

You have to give China-challenged Internet giants Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) an “e” for effort. Both companies have popped into the China headlines over the last two weeks for micro-moves into the world’s largest Internet market, including the latest news that Facebook plans to set up a company in Hangzhou that will become an “innovation hub”.

The Facebook news comes just about a week after Google confirmed that it has launched a new artificial intelligence (AI) game in China on a platform operated by local Internet giant Tencent (HKEx: 700). Both of these moves are miniscule in the big scheme of things, especially for companies of Google’s and Facebook’s size.  But they do reflect the kind of baby steps, some might also say groveling, that such corporate giants will need to take to get a hold in the world’s largest Internet market where they are now mostly denied permission to operate. Read Full Post…

INTERNET: Baidu Sambas Out of Brazil

Bottom line: Baidu’s withdrawal from Brazil reflects a broader inability of Chinese companies to succeed overseas due to their different practices and local wariness about their ability to protect user privacy.

Baidu says bye-bye to Brazil

In what is probably coming as a surprise to no one, media reports are saying that search leader Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU) is pulling out of Brazil. This would represent the company’s latest failure abroad, and is really part of a broader string of failures not only for the company but China’s internet sector in general. This particular group is quite good at milking the China market for all it’s worth, but then being unable to replicate its success in other markets.

There are lots of reasons for the inability of China’s Internet companies to succeed outside their home market. One is simply inexperience. But another is really the direct result of Beijing’s determination to set up what almost amounts to a parallel Internet in China that in some ways is identical to the global Internet but in others is very different. Read Full Post…

SMARTPHONES: Xiaomi Takes Big Step Into South Korea

Bottom line:  Xiaomi appears to be gaining confidence of investors through moves like its entry into South Korea, but it will take at least another year to prove it really has the savvy to thrive over the longer term.

Xiaomi calls on South Korea

Newly listed smartphone maker Xiaomi (HKEx: 1810) has kept the world guessing these past two weeks with its on-again-off-again performance both on the Hong Kong stock exchange and now in the real world. The former is a reference to its stock, which did quite poorly in the run-up to its trading debut last Monday but has done a U-turn since then and posted some impressive gains.

The latter is a reference to the company’s latest strategic move, which has it launching its low-end smartphones in South Korea. That may not sound like much, since the market is relatively small and Xiaomi already sells its products in more than 70 countries and regions globally. But the symbolic significance is quite large, since South Korea is home to leading global smartphone maker Samsung (Seoul: 005930). Read Full Post…

GAMES: Tencent Takes Gaming Act Abroad

Bottom line: Tencent’s WeGame could stand a 50-50 chance of success in moving abroad, since the company already has a proven track record in games and will face relatively low privacy protection concerns due to the less-sensitive nature of gaming.

Tencent takes its gaming global

Despite their huge success at home, none of China’s big Internet companies has ever scored a major victory outside its home market, despite a number of low-profile attempts. Social networking giant Tencent (HKEx: 700) is about to become the latest to take a stab at the market, with word that the company will soon launch an international edition of its gaming platform called WeGame.

There are a number of reasons why Chinese Internet companies have yet to really crack any major foreign markets, underscoring the uphill battle Tencent will face. The largest is probably well-established competition in most places, both from local players as well as global giants like Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG). The second biggest element is probably trust, since many foreigners are a bit suspicious of these Chinese companies and their ability to protect customer privacy. Read Full Post…

IPOs: Inke Pops in Trading Debut, Xiaomi Bounces Back

Bottom line: Live broadcasting specialists Inke and Huya should do well over the next year but could face difficulty after that as popularity of such services fades, while Xiaomi’s stock gains over the last two days look like a dead-cat bounce.

Inke goes live with strong trading debut

Following the unimpressive debut of smartphone maker Xiaomi (HKEx: 1810) earlier this week, live streaming site Inke (HKEx: 3700) is the latest high-tech listing in the headlines with a more impressive debut in Hong Kong. This latest deal follows the US listing for Huya (NYSE: HUYA), China’s first live streaming site to make an IPO, which has tripled since its New York IPO in May.

There are some mixed messages in here, perhaps indicating mixed investor sentiment towards many of these new-economy companies as investors try to separate the wheat from the chaff. If that’s the case, investors certainly seem to think that Huya and perhaps Yinke represent the wheat in the hot online streaming category. Meanwhile, they seem less certain about Xiaomi, which fizzled in its trading debut on Monday but has come bouncing back somewhat since then. Read Full Post…

IPOs: Xiaomi Fizzles in Debut, But What’s Next?

Bottom line: Xiaomi’s stock is likely to be volatile over the next year and could move broadly downward as investors wait to see if the company’s comeback has legs and it can move into higher-end products.

Xiaomi fizzles in trading debut

Smartphone maker Xiaomi (HKEx: 1810) seems to have become the proverbial lead zepplyn sinking further and further into the mire as it finally made its trading debut in Hong Kong. The company has been dogged by skepticism almost since the get-go of its blockbuster IPO, which ended this morning here in Asia with the stock’s official trading debut. The question from here now becomes: how far will the stock sink before it finds a bottom, and what are its real prospects over the mid- to longer-term?

Let’s jump right in with the news, which had Xiaomi shares dipping 2.3 percent when their long awaited trading began here in Hong Kong on Monday morning. The shares opened at HK$16.60, versus an IPO price of HK$17. Things didn’t get much better after that, and the stock was down to HK$16.36 the last time I checked midway through the morning session. Read Full Post…