Bottom line: Tuniu is likely to quickly resolve a revolt by some of its third-party travel agents, and a sell-off of its shares looks overdone, while Rakuten’s third foray into China could finally succeed thanks to its choice of a more suitable partner.
We’ll close out this week with a couple of stories buzzing through the Internet realm, led by a travel agent rebellion against online travel site Tuniu (Nasdaq: TOUR). Meantime, Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten (Tokyo: 4755) is taking its third try at the China market through a new investment in an e-commerce company called Fanli.com, following failed previous forays with leading online travel agent Ctrip (Nasdaq: CTRP) and online search leader Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU).
These 2 stories are mostly linked by the fact that both involve Internet companies. But in a twist that looks purely coincidental, Rakuten was also one of the earlier investors in Tuniu before the latter made its New York IPO early last year. It’s not clear if Rakuten still holds that stake in Tuniu, but if it does its shares just lost nearly 5 percent after a Thursday sell-off on reports of the merchant revolt. But Tuniu’s shares are about 75 percent above their IPO price, meaning its early investors are still doing quite well. Continue reading →
Bottom line: Baidu’s new go-slow global expansion strategy focused on emerging markets like Brazil and Egypt looks smart, but will provide limited contributions due to the small size of those markets.
Chinese online search leader Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU) is making some major strategic adjustments in its global expansion, turning to developing markets and away from more lucrative but also extremely competitive western ones. That’s my main conclusion, following reports that Baidu has finally pulled the plug on its struggling Japan search service 8 years after choosing the market for its first foray abroad. At the same time, the company is making initial moves into Egypt with its first Arabic-language website, following earlier moves into Brazil and more recently into Thailand. Continue reading →
The following press releases and media reports about Chinese companies were carried on April 24. To view a full article or story, click on the link next to the headline.
17 Major Travel Agencies Unit To Oppose Tuniu (Nasdaq: TOUR) (Chinese article)
Hong Kong’s TVB (HKEx: 511) Sells Stake To China Media Capital-Backed Fund (Chinese article)
Bottom line: ZTE’s patent infringement allegations against Huawei are mostly noise that won’t result in any major legal action, and instead reflect the stiff competition that is plaguing China overheated smartphone market.
After several months without any major developments, China’s overheated smartphone market is showing new signs of stress with word that domestic heavyweight ZTE (HKEx: 763; Shenzhen: 000063) is accusing its larger rival Huawei of intellectual property theft. The complaint reflects the intense competition that has plagued China’s smartphone market for the last 2 years, and is likely to claim its first victim or two within the next 12 months.
This particular action also shows that Huawei and ZTE are becoming quite adept at playing the western game of filing lawsuits to protect their intellectual property and attack rivals. Both companies have been sued by their western peers in the past, and their domestic rival Xiaomi suffered a setback last year when it had to stop selling some of its models in India after Ericsson (Stockholm: ERICb) filed a patent complaint. Continue reading →
Bottom line: China’s “Big 3″ Internet tycoons are likely to see their fortunes continue to grow at rates far faster than the broader economy over the next year, and they could even overtake some wealthier real estate magnates.
Hong Kong’s Li Ka-shing may still lead the list of wealthiest men in China and Hong Kong, but his traditional formula for success is rapidly losing ground to China’s fast-rising Internet magnates. The heads of China’s “Big 3″ Internet firms were all among the top 10 people on this year’s just-published Forbes list of the wealthiest men in China and Hong Kong, spotlighting the huge role that the Internet is playing in China’s economy. Whereas Li’s fortune took decades to build, the founders of Alibaba (NYSE: BABA), Tencent (HKEx: 700) and Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU) made their fortunes much more quickly, mostly over the last decade. Continue reading →
Bottom line: The refusal of many banks to follow a Beijing directive to support the sagging property market looks encouraging, and could show these state-run lenders are finally beginning to behave more commercially.
It appears I owe an apology to big Chinese state-run banks, after years of calling them policy lackeys of Beijing with very little commercial instinct. Just a day after criticizing top lender ICBC (HKEx: 1398; Shanghai: 601398) for making a blatantly political $4.3 billion infrastructure loan to Pakistan (previous post), a new report is saying a growing number of banks are defying a recent Beijing order to boost their mortgage lending to support the sagging domestic real estate market.
This kind of action certainly won’t please economic planners in Beijing, but it marks a huge step forward for the banks in their drive to become more commercial and earn some real respect from investors. Continue reading →
The following press releases and media reports about Chinese companies were carried on April 23. To view a full article or story, click on the link next to the headline.
Visa (NYSE: V), MasterCard (NYSE: MA) Surge On China Move To End Card Monopoly (English article)
Bottom line: ICBC’s $4.3 billion lending program for Pakistani power projects is being driven by Beijing policy directives, while Bank of China’s US expansion is a commercially driven move to tap Chinese demand for US real estate.
New stories involving 2 of China’s “Big 4″ lenders are casting a spotlight on the love-hate relationship that many investors have with these mammoth banks that sometimes act commercially but more often make decisions based on directives from Beijing. The larger item has ICBC (HKEx: 1398; Shanghai: 601398), China’s biggest bank, committing to a massive new $4.3 billion lending program to help develop Pakistan’s energy sector. The other has Bank of China (HKEx: 3988; Shanghai: 601398) planning a modest expansion in the US, as it looks to tap a growing appetite for American real estate by Chinese investors. Continue reading →
Bottom line: A booming China stock market and IPO reforms could fuel a new wave of re-listings by Chinese tech and media firms that were formerly traded in New York, led by an upcoming backdoor listing by Focus Media.
A pair of stories in the headlines today are highlighting a nascent movement that could see a growing number of US-listed Chinese firms take down their shingle in New York to return to stock markets closer to home. No companies have made such a move yet, but advertising specialist Focus Media could soon become the first with word that it’s moving closer to making a backdoor listing in China after leaving New York in 2013.
Meantime in a related piece of news Xueda Education (NYSE: XUE) said it has received a buy-out offer from Chinese financial firm Insight Investment (Shenzhen: 000526). Such a move would continue a trend that has seen a growing number of neglected US-listed Chinese firms abandon New York, where their shares have stagnated over the last few years. Continue reading →
Bottom line: Apple’s new solar power initiative in China is a highly symbolic move to curry favor with local officials, and should win the company positive public relations points at very little cost.
I have to commend Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) for finally realizing it needs to improve its image in China, with word that the global tech giant is investing in 2 new solar farms to be built in interior Sichuan province. The move is actually quite masterful, as Apple is at once killing many birds with a single stone as it works to curry favor with Beijing.
The 2 new projects will contribute to China’s recent drive to produce more clean, renewable energy, which has been one of Beijing’s top priorities these last couple of years. The new farms are also being built in China’s interior, which has been a priority area for investment by Beijing leaders eager to reduce the wealth gap between interior regions and wealthier coastal areas. Last but not least, these new investments should be quite inexpensive for a company like Apple, and carry relatively small risks. Continue reading →
The following press releases and media reports about Chinese companies were carried on April 22. To view a full article or story, click on the link next to the headline.
Yum (NYSE: YUM) CEO Says China Business Mending, Sees Strong Year-End (English article)
ICBC (HKEx: 1398) To Provide $4.3 Bln In Financing For Pakistan Power Projects (English article)
Forbes Releases Wealthiest Chinese List, Internet “Big 3″ BAT Chiefs In Top 10 (Chinese article)