Sinopec Picks Partners, Dilutes Beijing Private Capital Plan

Sinopec picks 25 partners for retail JV

It seems that oil refining giant Sinopec (HKEx: 386) just can’t say “no” when it comes to choosing partners for its new retail joint venture, which is part of Beijing’s pilot program to inject more private money into big state-owned enterprises. That’s my quick assessment, following the company’s announcement that it has chosen a whopping 25 mostly domestic partners for the new venture, which will own and operate the company’s vast network of gas stations and convenience stores throughout China.

I’ve been covering the Chinese corporate scene for quite a while now, and can truthfully say that 3 or 4 partners in a single joint venture is already considered a lot. In short, I’ve never seen so many partners named for a single joint venture, and suspect Sinopec is taking this strange move to avoid having to give any of these numerous partners any actual voice in the running of its retail unit, Sinopec Sales. Continue reading

Xiaomi Eyes Finance, Phoenix Tries News Feeds

Xiaomi invests in Jimu Box

A couple of smaller deals are in the headlines today, with smartphone sensation Xiaomi dipping its toe into the financial services market and online news portal Phoenix New Media (NYSE: FENG) eying the news feed business. Both deals are relatively small in terms of size, but each provides some interesting insight on the thinking at these 2 different companies in the tech and new media space. The first deal has Xiaomi joining a group of investors betting on a peer-to-peer (P2P) online lending platform called Jimu Box. The second has Phoenix investing in Particle Inc, maker of an app that lets users design personalized feeds to receive news over their mobile phones. Continue reading

News Digest: September 13-15, 2014

The following press releases and media reports about Chinese companies were carried on September 13-15. To view a full article or story, click on the link next to the headline.

  • China’s Fosun (HKEx: 656) Fights Back With Counterbid For Club Med (Paris: CU) (English article)
  • Sinopec (HKEx: 386) Sells $17.5 Bln Retail Unit Stake to Investors (English article)
  • S&P Dow Jones Indices Says Alibaba Could Be Added To Global Benchmarks (English article)
  • Total Active Users On Weibo (Nasdaq: WB) App Down by 10.95 Pct in August 2014 (English article)
  • Suning (Shenzhen: 002024) Makes Low-Key Entry To Cross-Border E-Commerce (Chinese article)

Huawei In Bad PR Move With Anti-Corruption Campaign

Huawei internal anti-corruption drive nets 116 workers

If telecoms equipment giant Huawei was trying to convince the world it’s not closely linked to Beijing, then its new campaign to root out internal corruption certainly looks like a bad strategic move. Of course I’m being just slightly facetious, as any good corporation should always be vigilant against corruption within its workforce. But in terms of public perception, this new internal anti-corruption campaign seems strikingly similar to the much larger and high-profile campaign being waged throughout China by the 2-year-old administration of President Xi Jinping. Continue reading

Strikes Trip Up, Apple Supplier Wintek

Workers strike at JD warehouse in Shanghai

Two new strikes, one in Shanghai and another in Guangdong, are shining a spotlight once more on the constant challenge of labor unrest in China, following a similar wave of such strikes earlier this year. One of the latest strikes saw thousands of workers go off the job at Wintek (Taipei: 2384), a Taiwanese maker of touch screens and a supplier to gadget giant Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL). The other saw employees walk off the job at a warehouse owned by recently listed e-commerce (Nasdaq: JD) in Shanghai.  Continue reading

News Digest: September 12, 2014

The following press releases and media reports about Chinese companies were carried on September 12. To view a full article or story, click on the link next to the headline.

  • China Misses Out On First Wave Of New iPhone Releases (English article)
  • Tech Factory Workers Strike In China Over Mooncakes, Benefits (English article)
  • FAW, Volkswagen (Frankfurt: VOWG) Fined 248 Mln Yuan After Antitrust Probe Of Audi (Chinese article)
  • McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD) August Sales Metric Hurt By China Scandal (English article)
  • (Nasdaq: JD) Responds To Reports Of Strike, Says Has Made Necessary Preparations (Chinese article)

Ctrip, Qunar Go Their Separate Ways

Ctrip yanks listings from Qunar site

What nearly became a blockbuster marriage between China’s 2 leading online travel sites has instead ended in divorce, with word that industry leader Ctrip (Nasdaq: CTRP) has formally yanked its hotel listings from the site of the second largest player Qunar (Nasdaq: QUNR). My use of the divorce metaphor here isn’t completely appropriate, since the 2 companies came close but never formally consummated a marriage. Still, the final split in this tie-up is probably the best ending for everyone, since it would have been a rocky road even if the 2 companies had agreed to merge their operations. Continue reading

Weibo: Facebook’s New Shop, Baidu’s New Gadget, Xue Manzi’s Drivel

Facebook on Weibo: Real or a fake?

This week’s tech round-up from the microblogging realm is a flurry of interesting but unrelated news bits, as the world gets back to work following the end of the summer holidays. Leading the list is the latest effort by Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) to find a backdoor into China, which comes in the form of a new Weibo account that isn’t verified but has at least one tech executive spreading the word and encouraging people to follow the page.

Meantime, online search leader Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU) generated some microblogging buzz when it unveiled an unusual pair of high-tech chopsticks in Beijing. Last but not least there’s Xue Manzi, a tech investor also known as Charles Xue, who was busy hyping a tech start-up on his microblog. Xue is a man I came to dislike over the years for his largely empty talk, even as he built up a base of more than 10 million followers on Weibo (Nasdaq: WB). But then he got sent to prison for becoming too influential and political, making me more sympathetic, before his release in April and quick return to vacuous blogging. Continue reading

News Digest: September 11, 2014

The following press releases and media reports about Chinese companies were carried on September 11. To view a full article or story, click on the link next to the headline.

  • 3 Domestic Cement Firms Probed By NDRC For Antitrust Violations (Chinese article)
  • Ctrip (Nasdaq: CTRP) Removes Hotel Products From Qunar (Nasdaq: QUNR) (English article)
  • Xiaomi Invests In P2P Lending Platform Jimu Box (Chinese article)
  • Apple’s (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone 6 To Go On Sale In China On September 26 (Chinese article)
  • Phoenix New Media (NYSE: FENG) Makes Strategic Investment In News Feed App Yidian (PRNewswire)

Shanghai Street View: Park Play

Performers at Luxun Park
Performers at Luxun Park

This week I paid personal visits on 2 of our city’s biggest parks, which have been in the news due to different controversies. I’ve come to expect such colorful controversies from China’s parks, which seem to act as a major ground for socializing. By comparison, in the west such parks are quieter places where people often go to relax and escape from fast-paced city life.

In the north end of the city, I visited Lu Xun Park, named for one of China’s greatest novelists of the 20th century. But what should have been a moment for celebration during the park’s recent reopening after a year-long renovation instead turned ugly, as 2 groups of retirees clashed over territorial claims in a popular area for performers. Continue reading

Top Microsoft China Exec Leaves For Baidu

Microsoft Asia R&D head jumps ship for Baidu

A new report on the resignation of the head of Microsoft’s (Nasdaq: MSFT) huge Asia R&D labs to take a job at homegrown Internet giant Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU) is shining a spotlight on the growing challenges that multinationals may soon face in retaining some of their top Chinese employees. Just a decade ago, jobs at foreign companies were highly coveted by ambitious Chinese in the high-tech sector, mostly because China didn’t have any of its own big names in the space.

But the emergence of companies like Baidu, Tencent (HKEx: 700) and Lenovo (HKEx: 992) have created a whole new set of opportunities for these workers. What’s more, improving working conditions at Chinese-owned firms, combined with Beijing’s subtle anti-foreign bias against high-tech multinationals, could ultimately lead many of China’s brightest tech workers to abandon their jobs at the multinationals for domestic names. Continue reading