TELECOMS: Cybersecurity Trade Wars Take Pause

Bottom line: Beijing’s delay of new rules for foreign tech firms selling to Chinese banks could mark a turning point in a looming trade war centered on cybersecurity, and Washington should move to take reciprocal action.

Beijing slows down on new cybersecurity rules

After months of heating tensions, we’re seeing a sudden pause in the growing friction between China and the west that looked set to erupt into a new trade war centered on the sensitive issue of cybersecurity. That’s my assessment on reading that China is delaying implementation of draconian new requirements that would have forced all foreign tech firms to hand over sensitive and highly confidential product information when selling to Chinese banks.

I’m certainly not being naive in believing that China’s delay in this instance is the result of its realization that there’s no security risk posed by products supplied by foreign tech giants like IBM (NYSE: IBM), Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL). Instead, this delay is almost certainly the result of repeated protests from the companies themselves and also from Washington and Europe, which all argue the new requirements are overly and unnecessarily intrusive. Continue reading

INTERNET: Dangdang Fears Unfounded As Profit Jumps

Bottom line: Dangdang’s growth is likely to slow rapidly over the next 2 years as it gets marginalized by larger rivals, putting pressure on its owners to sell the company before it sinks back into the red.

Dangdang posts strong profit growth

Investors were breathing a big sigh of relief after reading the latest quarterly results from Dangdang (NYSE: DANG), as an ongoing turnaround at the former e-commerce leader boosted both its top and bottom lines. The news erased concerns that sparked a sell-off just a couple of weeks earlier, after the company unexpectedly announced a last-minute delay in the release of earnings report for unspecified scheduling reasons.

While the Dangdang fears were ultimately unfounded, the same hasn’t been true for former online video high-flyer Youku Tudou (NYSE: YOKU). In that instance, Youku Tudou played a similar scheduling trick for the release of its earnings report around the same time, and ultimately served up gloomy results. It also disclosed it was being probed by the US securities regulator for aggressive accounting that may have been illegal. (previous post) Continue reading

NEW ENERGY: Tesla Bows To China Challenge With Market Reboot

Bottom line: Tesla’s China reboot appears to be complete, paving the way for it to gain some traction in the market by year end if it can effectively target the nation’s wealthy, image-conscious trend setters.

Tesla finishes China reboot

Nearly a year after driving into China on a wave of fanfare and big hopes, electric vehicle (EV) superstar Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA) is pressing the reset button on a market that has huge potential but also some major obstacles. This particular reset has been in the works for the last few months, but appears to be near completion with indications that the company has discarded its previous short-term aggressive sales targets for the market.

The reboot to Tesla’s China business is discussed in a series of interviews by Zhao Kuiming, its head of China sales, who was on a PR offensive following the recent overhaul. (Chinese article) It’s unclear from the reports if Zhao is new to Tesla, but he appears to be the company’s new public face after previous China President Veronica Wu resigned in December after just 9 months on the job. (previous post) Continue reading

News Digest: April 1, 2015

The following press releases and media reports about Chinese companies were carried on April 1. To view a full article or story, click on the link next to the headline.
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  • China To Delay Bank Tech Restrictions, US Treasury Official Says (English article)
  • Merged Didi, Kuadi Taxi App Value Could Reach $8.75 Bln After New Stake Sale (Chinese article)
  • JD.com (Nasdaq: JD) Launches Equity Crowdfunding Platform (Globe Newswire)
  • Dangdang (NYSE: DANG) Announces Q4 and Fiscal Year 2014 Results (PRNewswire)
  • Huawei Net Profit Rises 32 Pct In Full Year 2014 (Chinese article)

NEW ENERGY: Beijing Puts Brakes On New Solar Panel Capacity

Bottom line: New signals indicate Beijing plans to move aggressively to prevent solar panel makers from adding unneeded new capacity to help their local governments meet economic growth targets.

MIIT limits solar panel expansion

A new low-key announcement from Beijing is hinting at a quiet struggle taking place behind the scenes in China’s promising but embattled solar panel sector, with the regulator saying it will stop the building of most new manufacturing capacity. On one side of this struggle are local government officials, who may be encouraging solar panel makers in their areas to add capacity that will benefit their local economy but is the last thing the industry needs. On the other side of the battle is Beijing, which is trying to show the world it doesn’t unfairly subsidize its solar panel sector as it also tries to rationalize a bloated domestic industry that is stifling global development. Continue reading

IPOs: Clock Ticks Down On 55Tuan, Jiayuan

Bottom line: 55Tuan’s IPO plan has a less than 50 percent chance of succeeding as a deadline looms, while Jiayuan.com is likely to de-list later this year after its investors accept a so-so buyout offer.

Clock ticks down on 55Tuan IPO plan

Time is quickly running out for a planned IPO by group buying site 55Tuan, as a deadline approaches that will nullify the company’s application earlier this year for a New York listing. Meantime, time is also running out for another Chinese Internet company, Jiayuan.com (Nasdaq: DATE), as a private equity firm launches a bid to privatize the neglected online dating site.

Both 55Tuan and Jiayuan represent a group of decidedly second-tier Chinese Internet companies that probably would have been acquired long ago in a more mature western market. But in the less developed Chinese market, the pair have managed to stay independent. The second-tier status of such firms often leads investors to question their longer term viability, dampening enthusiasm for their stocks when they list overseas. Continue reading

FINANCE: Alibaba, SMG Try Crowd-Funded Film Finance

Bottom line: China’s regulators should work closely with innovators like Alibaba and SMG to minimize the risk from their new financial products that bring small lenders and borrowers together.

Alibaba, SMG partner on film finance

E-commerce giant Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) made its latest advance in the financial realm last week, announcing a major tie-up with Shanghai’s leading broadcaster to promote film finance over its online platform based on the crowd-funding concept. The move extends Alibaba’s recent forays into both entertainment and finance, and could provide a major boost for smaller Chinese movie makers who often lack access to project funding.

But the reality is that movie making is a highly risky business for even the most experienced companies, and smaller productions are famous for losing money. That means many of the projects that get financed through the new Alibaba tie-up with Shanghai Media Group (SMG) may ultimately see investors lose some or all their money if and when poorly conceived projects fail to find an audience. Continue reading

News Digest: March 31, 2015

The following press releases and media reports about Chinese companies were carried on March 31. To view a full article or story, click on the link next to the headline.
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  • Tencent (HKEx: 700) Dismisses New WeChat Membership System As Rumors (Chinese article)
  • Xinhua, AP presidents Discuss Cooperation In New Media Era (English article)
  • Jiayuan.com (Nasdaq: DATE) Engages Financial Adviser For Privatization Bid (PRNewswire)
  • Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) In Digital Distribution Deal With Music Rights Group BMG (English article)
  • Minsheng Bank (HKEx: 1988) Announces Annual 2014 Results (HKEx announcement)

TELECOMS: HP Joins Intel As Tsinghua Unigroup Partner

Bottom line: Tsinghua Unigroup’s pending purchase of a controlling stake in H3C could mark the start of a new partnership with HP in routers, but is unlikely to affect its older partnership with Intel in the telecoms chips.

HP eyes router stake sale to Unigroup

Semiconductor company Tsinghua Unigroup was already a name to watch after a string of major deals last year including a tie-up with Intel (Nasdaq: INTC), and now it’s adding to its allure with word of a major new alliance with Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ). This latest deal would trump the earlier one from Intel in size, and would see Unigroup buy a controlling 51 percent stake of HP’s China-based H3C unit, which makes routers and switches that compete with US giant Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO).

It’s not completely clear how much Unigroup would pay for the stake, though the amount would almost certainly be more than the $1.5 billion that Intel paid last year for 20 percent of a new company that Unigroup created through its merger of 2 of China’s leading telecoms chip designers. I’m no telecoms expert, but I’ll admit this latest deal is leaving me just a bit puzzled due to the very different natures of the businesses of H3C and the earlier tie-up involving Intel, which revolved around telecoms microchips. Continue reading

IPOs: ChemChina Weighs IPO For Italy’s Pirelli

Bottom line: ChemChina might be advised to maintain Pirelli as an independent unit and limit the size of an IPO if succeeds in buying the Italian tire maker and decides to re-list the business.

WH Group, AMC IPOs offer lessons for ChemChina

The headlines are buzzing today with word that state-run behemoth ChemChina may try to re-list Pirelli (Milan: PC) after it purchases the Italian tire maker, which got me to thinking about how the China factor might affect such an IPO. In theory at least, investors might get quite excited about a company they once disdained after its purchase  by a Chinese buyer, due to hopes for lower costs and greater profits. But a look at 2 recent cases of major US firms that were acquired by Chinese buyers, then re-listed, shows the reality can vary widely and that a Chinese owner isn’t necessarily a panacea for an ailing overseas company. Continue reading

Shanghai Street View: Color Coding

Shanghai rolls out traffic color scheme

I’ve always thought Shanghai was quite a colorful place, and now it seems our city is determined to drive home that point with yet another color schemes in a growing series designed to keep us informed on everything from the quality of the air we breathe to the storms that keep our waterways full. This latest scheme will apply to traffic conditions on our congested roads, allowing us to quickly tell when to expect long delays and consider possible alternate routes.

This kind of color coding certainly isn’t unique to Shanghai, as other countries and cities around the world have similar ways for keeping ordinary citizens informed using symbols that are quick and easy to understand. But that said, our city seems to be embarking on a particularly aggressive color feast that could ultimately end up creating more confusion than clarity as everyone tries to figure out if the latest red alert applies to weather, air quality, traffic or perhaps something else. Continue reading