IPOs: Baozun Seesaws, Huatai Flies, eHi Cruises

Bottom line: The strong reception for Huaitai Securities’ Hong Kong IPO reflects growing international investor appetite for Chinese stocks, which could help to lift shares of New York-traded Chinese companies like newly listed Baozun and eHi.

Baozun turns in choppy IPO

A flurry of IPO news is reflecting the growing attraction of listing closer to home for Chinese firms, whose New York-traded shares have languished these days due to lack of familiarity by local investors. Two new US-based listings have performed reasonably well but not spectacularly, led by modest gains for newly listed shares of web design services firm Baozun (Nasdaq: BZUN) in their trading debut. At the same time, recently listed rental car company eHi (NYSE: EHIC) raised a modest amount of money in a secondary offering, again reflecting tepid investor interest in its story.

While those 2 listings got so-so receptions, the response was far stronger for Huatai Securities, China’s fourth largest brokerage, whose shares priced at the top of their range as Hong Kong investors scrambled to buy into the mainland’s ongoing stock market boom. Continue reading

TRAVEL: Expedia Dumps eLong, Ctrip Takes Over

Bottom line: Ctrip’s purchase of a controlling but minority stake in eLong is the latest in a string of similar equity tie-ups by the company, none of which looks very exciting because these new partners aren’t interested in working closely with Ctrip.

Expedia sells eLong stake

A longtime but largely empty cross-border Internet partnership has finally come to an end, with word that US online travel agent Expedia (Nasdaq: EXPE) has dumped its stake in Chinese laggard eLong (Nasdaq: LONG). In an interesting twist to the story, the group buying eLong includes Chinese industry leader Ctrip (Nasdaq: CTRP), which seems to be buying small stakes in many of its rivals these days without buying anyone outright.

Personally speaking, I don’t see much reason to get excited about Ctrip’s latest buy, even though investors seemed to think differently. eLong is a perfect example of a company that had huge advantages due to its early arrival to the online travel market and longtime partnership with Expedia. And yet it failed to parlay any of that into a market leading position, and instead has become an afterthought as it got overtaken by younger, more innovative companies like Tuniu (Nasdaq: TOUR) and Qunar (Nasdaq: QUNR). Continue reading

MEDIA: Rupert Murdoch Tip-Toes Back To China With Theme Park, Retail Plans

Bottom line: Rupert Murdoch’s shift in China strategy towards less controversial retail and entertainment projects looks smart, but is likely to meet with lukewarm success due to lack of awareness of 20th Century Fox among Chinese consumers.

Rupert Murdoch eyes China theme park

Rupert Murdoch just can’t seem to ignore the China story for too long, with new reports saying his Twenty-First Century Fox (Nasdaq: FOX) is finalizing plans for a theme park in a country that has been quite elusive for the aging media mogul. The theme park approach certainly looks safer than Murdoch’s previous attempts to enter China with more traditional media like TV and movies, and mirrors what some of the world’s other top media companies have done. Of course that means Murdoch and Fox are coming a bit late to this particular show, and the fact that 20th Century Fox theme parks aren’t exactly a well-known brand means his media empire could face a steep uphill ride finding a Chinese audience. Continue reading

News Digest: May 23-25, 2015

The following press releases and media reports about Chinese companies were carried on May 23-25. To view a full article or story, click on the link next to the headline.

  • Expedia (Nasdaq: EXPE) Announces Sale Of eLong (Nasdaq: LONG) Stake (PRNewswire)
  • Alibaba-backed Baozun’s (Nasdaq: BZUN) Shares Seesaw in Choppy Debut (English article)
  • Didi Announces 1 Bln Yuan in Free Car Promotions in 12 Chinese Cities (Chinese article)
  • CCTV Sues LeTV (Shenzhen: 300104) for Copyright Violations, Seeks 3 Mln Yuan (Chinese article)
  • Huatai Securities Prices $4.5 Bln HK Share Sale at Top of Range (English article)
  • Latest calendar for Q1 earnings reports (Earnings calendar)

TELECOMS: HP Picks Beijing Group As China IT Partner

Bottom line: HP’s choice of a Beijing-based group with strong ties to a top science university as its China IT services partner looks like a smart move, which will help ease potential for conflict over national security concerns by Beijing.

HP choses Unigroup as China IT partner

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) has chosen a relatively dynamic, Beijing-based tech company as its future China partner over a stodgier state-run firm in Shanghai, as the US computer giant prepares to split itself into 2. The development is seeing HP get a bit less money than it had hoped for the 51 percent stake of its China-based H3C unit, which makes equipment for use in small telecoms networks. But the choice of Tsinghua Unigroup as the buyer looks quite prudent, and will bring in a new politically connected partner for HP as it prepares to split off its core PC unit from its more dynamic business that sells computing and networking services to enterprises.  Continue reading

BANKING: Bank Of China Creates SE Asia Play

Bottom line: Bank of China’s plan to create a Southeast Asian unit around its Hong Kong-based BOCHK looks like a smart move that will give investors a chance to buy shares of its more commercially-focused global operations.

Bank of China to create separate SE Asia unit

Chinese banks have always been a difficult investment option for westerners due to their heavy reliance on China, where they take orders from Beijing leaders that use them as an economic policy tool rather than letting them act like real commercial lenders. The banks’ international operations are more interesting from an investor’s perspective, as they tend to behave more commercially because they have to competite in markets where they don’t enjoy any special government-granted advantages.

The problem is that international operations are usually just a tiny business for most of the big Chinese banks, even as industry leaders ICBC (HKEx: 1398; Shanghai: 601398) and Bank of China (HKEx: 3988; Shanghai: 601988) spend billions of dollars on offshore acquisitions and other overseas expansion. That’s why a new plan by Bank of China looks particularly exciting, as it will finally give stock buyers an option to invest exclusively in the company’s offshore operations, in this case in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.  Continue reading

CELLPHONES: LeTV Sells Out, Lenovo Posts Loss, ZTE Eyes US

Bottom line: LeTV’s strong smartphone launch shows that stiff competition in China won’t ease soon, which could push Lenovo’s mobile operations further into the red and prompt ZTE to further lighten its efforts in the market.

LeTV smartphones make strong debut

A series of smartphone items are in the headlines as we close out the week, spotlighting the tough situation in a China market that is at once the world’s largest but also extremely competitive. That competition just got a bit louder, with the first headline that says new arrival LeTV (Shenzhen: 300104) debuted quite strongly with when its first smartphone models went on sale this week. Meantime, industry stalwarts Lenovo (HKEx: 992) and ZTE (HKEx: 763; Shenzhen: 000063) continue to reflect the stresses of selling in China, with the former posting a big loss for its mobile business last year while the latter continues to lighten its reliance on the market by looking for growth in the US. Continue reading

News Digest: May 22, 2015

The following press releases and media reports about Chinese companies were carried on May 22. To view a full article or story, click on the link next to the headline.

  • Tsinghua Unigroup To Buy 51 Pct of HP’s (NYSE: HPQ) H3C For $2.5 Bln or More (Chinese article)
  • Bank Of China (HKEx: 3988) Weighs Overhaul For BOCHK (HKEx: 2388) Unit (HKEx announcement)
  • Lenovo (HKEx: 992) Reports Results For Quarter Ended March 31 (HKEx announcement)
  • Online Long-term Apartment Rental Platform Mofang Wins $200 Mln Funding (English article)
  • ZTE (HKEx: 763) Seeks More NBA Partnerships To Boost US Smartphone Sales (English article)
  • Latest calendar for Q1 earnings reports (Earnings calendar)

INTERNET: Online Real Estate, Video Struggle For Profits

Bottom line: Online real estate stocks could resume their rebound if their latest forecasts are accurate, while Youku Tudou shares are holding steady despite widening losses on hopes for a merger deal with iQiyi.

Online real estate stocks drop on weak earnings

This week marks the height of earnings season for US-listed Chinese stocks, prompting me to look at a quartet of struggling companies in the real estate and online video spaces that have just reported results. The former category has seen the trio of SouFun (NYSE: SFUN), E-House (NYSE: EJ) and Leju (NYSE: LEJU) all release their earnings over the last 2 days, revealing gloomy results as an ongoing correction shows no signs of easing in China’s real estate market. Meantime, former online video leader Youku Tudou’s (NYSE: YOKU) latest results also look weak, showing the company’s losses ballooned as it continues to search for an elusive model for long-term profitability. Continue reading

NEW ENERGY: Yingli’s New Deadline, Hanergy’s Plunging Value

Bottom line: Yingli’s shares could rebound a bit as concerns ease about an imminent bankruptcy, while Hanergy’s shares are likely to continue sliding when trading resumes to correct from a massively speculative recent run-up.

Hanergy shares tumble

This week has been a volatile time for solar company stocks, which have taken a beating after Yingli (NYSE: YGE) warned about its ability to stay in business due to its heavy debt load. Now Yingli has put out a new statement saying its earlier warning was misinterpreted, helping to reverse a huge sell-off of its shares as it laid out the next big deadline in the struggle to repay its debt.

At the same time, Hong Kong-listed solar equipment maker Hanergy (HKEx: 566) has also been in global headlines, after its shares lost nearly half their value in just a matter of minutes in Wednesday trade. Media are focusing on the huge price swing, which no one seems able to explain. But this really looks like a story of stock manipulation by speculators rather than one of any significant change in the company’s prospects, which once again underscores the dangers of dealing in this kind of thinly-traded stock. Continue reading

CELLPHONES: Rapid Slowdown Pushes Xiaomi To US, Europe

Bottom line: Xiaomi’s rush into competitive western markets with beta testing of new online stores hints at internal concerns over the company’s rapidly slowing growth, and is likely to meet with a lukewarm reception.

Xiaomi eyes US, Germany, France, UK

The upwardly mobile Xiaomi is making its latest moves on the global stage, with word that it’s beta testing online stores in the US, France, Britain and Germany. The planned move into the US was previously disclosed earlier this year, with reports that Xiaomi would start by selling accessories like earphones. (previous post) But this addition of 3 major Western European markets hints that Xiaomi is moving ahead aggressively with its global expansion, and could even start selling its signature smartphones in some or all of those markets by year-end.

Xiaomi is accelerating its move into these lucrative but also highly competitive new western markets as it comes under growing pressure to maintain its breakneck growth that has given it a rich valuation of $45 billion just 5 years after its founding. That pressure is evident in a second headline, which says Xiaomi’s smartphone sales rose by just 50 percent in this year’s first quarter, far less than the triple-digit growth rates it has become used to in its relatively short life. Continue reading