TRAVEL: Hacker Attack Adds Sour End To Ctrip’s Banner Week

Bottom line: Thursday’s hacking attack on Ctrip brings a sour end to its week of major new tie-ups, but isn’t too unexpected for a company of its size and should have a relatively limited impact on its operations and reputation.

Ctrip shut down by hackers

I’ve been writing a lot about leading online travel agent Ctrip (Nasdaq: CTRP) these last few days after it signed a couple of major deals, so it seems fitting that we end the week with news of a major hacking attack that took the company offline for most of Thursday. I’m a longtime user of Ctrip and am generally a big fan of the company, whose good management and focus on its core travel business have allowed it to maintain its market-leading position for a decade despite numerous challenges.

Against that backdrop, this hacker attack seems like a relatively minor issue, though one that could be potentially worrisome as it exposes one of Ctrip’s biggest vulnerabilities. Then again, Ctrip is certainly not the only company to come under such attacks, and many much larger and more experienced western giants like US retailer Target (NYSE: TGT) and Hollywood studio Sony Pictures (Tokyo: 6753) came under much higher-profile and more damaging outside assaults last year. Continue reading

FINANCE: Alibaba Finance Advances At Private Bank, Stumbles At Alipay

Bottom line: Alibaba’s technical glitch at Alipay, the launch of its new bank and use of its Taobao platform to auction of bad loans reflect its growing clout in financial services, as it attempts to build up its Ant Financial unit for a future IPO.

Technical glitch interrupts Alipay

E-commerce leader Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) is in a trio of finance-related headlines, spotlighting its growing bet on financial services that could be a huge growth area as Beijing opens the sector to private investment. One headline has seen Alibaba get official permission from its home province to open a bank, after it became one of the first 3 entities to receive private banking licenses under a pilot program by Beijing.

The second headline has seen the company’s popular Alipay electronic payments service experience technical problems that cut off access for 2 hours earlier this week, prompting it to quickly say that no accounts were compromised. The final news bit comes in a larger story about China’s growing bad asset crisis, which will see the nation’s top bad asset management company use Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace to auction off some of those assets. Continue reading

COMPUTERS: Wintel CEOs Look For Relevance At Lenovo Beijing Bash

Bottom line: The presence of the CEOs of Microsoft and Intel at a Lenovo tech fest in Beijing represent the struggles that all 3 former PC giants are facing, and how each is looking to China in a bid to reverse its slide.

Lenovo, Microsoft, Intel CEOs share stage in Beijing

It’s not often that anyone uses the term Wintel anymore, which refers to the duopoly of Microsoft’s (Nasdaq: MSFT) Windows operating system (OS) and central microprocessing chips from Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) that dominated the computing world for decades. But Wintel was center stage this week in Beijing, in a rare case where the CEOs of both Microsoft and Intel shared the stage with the CEO of Lenovo (HKEx: 992), the world’s largest PC maker, which was holding a bash to launch a wide range of new products.

Lenovo has been steadily hyping this event that finally took place on Thursday, where it unveiled a wide range of new products like a dual-screen smart watch and laser projector smartphone, all of which looked interesting but not too exceptional. I wasn’t planning on writing about the event at all for that reason, until I spotted the photo featuring Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing taking a selfie of himself with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich at the Lenovo Tech World event in Beijing. Continue reading

News Digest: May 29, 2015

The following press releases and media reports about Chinese companies were carried on May 29. To view a full article or story, click on the link next to the headline.
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  • China’s Top Online Travel Agent Ctrip (Nasdaq: CTRP) Taken Offline By Hackers (English article)
  • BOC Hong Kong (HKEx: 2388) Said to Narrow Bids for $6.8 Bln Nanyang Bank (English article)
  • Alibaba’s (NYSE: BABA) Online Bank Secures Launch Approval (English article)
  • HK Securities Regulator Confirms Investigation of Hanergy (HKEx: 566) (Chinese article)
  • Dangdang (NYSE: DANG) Announces Unaudited Q1 Results (PRNewswire)

INTERNET: Twitter Eyes China Ads, Weibo Eyes Car Services

Bottom line: Twitter’s growing pursuit of business from Chinese advertisers shows it is watching the market for a potential future entry, while a new equity tie-up could see Didi Kuaidi’s hired car services launch on Weibo later this year.

Twitter chases China advertisers

Social networking (SNS) pioneer Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) and its Chinese clone Weibo Corp (Nasdaq: WB) are both in the China headlines today, each taking gambles on different parts of the market. After previously saying that China isn’t a market where it can do business, the original Twitter has quietly begun to court local advertisers, even as its actual service remains blocked in the country. Meantime, Weibo, which rose to prominence after Twitter was first blocked in China in 2009, has announced a relatively large new investment in local hired car services leader Didi Kuaidi. Continue reading

FUND RAISING: BYD Raises Cash, Warburg Cashes Out Of Car Inc

Bottom line: BYD’s latest fund raising will test investor patience as its EV business struggles, while Warburg Pincus will continue to cash out of Car Inc to take advantage of its soaring stock.

Warburg sells down Car Inc stake

A couple of cash-raising stores are in the headlines for 2 car-related companies, led by the news that Warren Buffett-backed new energy car maker BYD (HKEx: 1211; Shenzhen: 002594) is planning a new share sale as it gets weighed down by a big debt and slow sales for its electric vehicles (EVs). Meantime, Warburg Pincus is selling down its stake in car rental specialist Car Inc (HKEx: 0699), following the end of a lock-up period after its IPO last year.

The BYD saga is easily the more interesting of the 2 stories, showing the company’s dreams for making big profits from the emerging market for EVs are moving ahead far more slowly than it had originally hoped. That reality has forced BYD to look to various measures to raise billions of dollars in cash over the last year to keep its operations going. In the process, Warren Buffett’s stake has slowly crept down from an original 10 percent to a current 9 percent. Everyone is watching closely to see if the billionaire investor may ultimately dump his stake completely. Continue reading

IPOs: Didi Kuaidi Steers Towards IPO, But Where?

Bottom line: Didi Kuaidi’s IPO could come as early as the fourth quarter, with Hong Kong, China and New York standing equal chances of winning what could be the year’s biggest China Internet listing, worth up to $2 billion.

Didi Kuaidi to list in Q4

Just days after launching a massive promotion to attract new customers to its private hired car services, Didi Kuaidi is reportedly starting the process that could end with a major IPO for China’s largest taxi app operator by year end. Such a development wouldn’t come as a huge surprise, following the company’s formation earlier this year through the merger of 2 bitter rivals to create a Chinese market leader reportedly valued at up to $9 billion.

But equally interesting will be where this fast-driving company chooses to list. Just a year ago the answer would have almost certainly been New York, which is where most of China’s top Internet companies are traded. But a recent boom in China’s own stock markets and a new program that allows mainland investors to buy Hong Kong stocks have made Chinese Internet companies start to seriously consider both of these markets for IPOs as well. Continue reading

News Digest: May 28, 2015

The following press releases and media reports about Chinese companies were carried on May 28. To view a full article or story, click on the link next to the headline.
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  • Buffett-Backed Automaker BYD (HKEx: 1211) Plans Up To $1.9 Bln Placement (English article)
  • Blocked in China, Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) Still Courts Chinese Firms For Ads (English article)
  • Sina Weibo (Nasdaq: WB) to Invest $142 Mln in Taxi App Didi Kuaidi (English article)
  • Gucci China Discounts Prompt Lines as Bagmaker Clears Stock (English article)
  • Chinese Airline Juneyao IPO Surges by Limit 44 Pct on Shanghai Debut (English article)

CELLPHONES: Huawei’s Big Order, Coolpad’s Continuing Struggle

Bottom line: Huawei’s big deal with JD.com reflects growing momentum that will see it overtake Xiaomi in China’s smartphone market by year end, while Qihoo’s boosting of its stake in its Coolpad joint venture could be a prelude to an eventual buyout.

Huawei’s Honor scores big smartphone win

Two big smartphone stories are in the headlines today, led by a massive new order for Huawei that could help it move up the charts to unseat the stumbling Xiaomi as China’s second largest manufacturer. Another struggling player is in the second headline, with software security specialist Qihoo (NYSE: QIHU) announcing it will boost its stake in its joint venture with Coolpad (HKEx: 2369), another former superstar that is fast fading out of the China smartphone race.

After a period of brief quiet at the start of this year, these latest developments reflect some major shuffling happening in China’s smartphone market, which is at once the world’s largest but also extremely competitive. The latest trends show that global giant Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) has begun to resurge in the market, and that the stodgier Huawei is also rapidly moving up the food chain. Meantime, former high-flyers like Xiaomi and Coolpad seem to be moving in the other direction. Continue reading

MEDIA: LeTV Overvalued With CEO Sale, Cheap Share Placement

Bottom line: LeTV’s plans to raise new funds at a big discount and for its CEO to sell a big block of his shares reflect their belief that the company’s stock has become overvalued and could be due for a correction.

LeTV plans private placement

Online video superstar LeTV (Shenzhen: 300104) is in a couple of headlines that reflect the recent meteoric rise of its stock, with word that it’s planning a major new share placement as its CEO gets set to sell a big chunk of his shares in the company. Both news bits come amid a rally that has seen LeTV shares soar 5-fold since the start of this year, amid a broader huge rally for China’s stock markets. They also come as LeTV embarks on a major expansion that will take it beyond its core video products into a range of new areas including smartphones and smart cars. Continue reading

RETAIL: Shanghai Wins Big With Wanda Group Relocation

Wanda to relocate HQ to Shanghai

Shanghai may be famous for its entrepreneurial spirit, but its track record isn’t quite so stellar when it comes to nurturing top entrepreneurs. That could be starting to change, however, with word that Dalian Wanda Group, one of China’s most dynamic companies, plans to move its headquarters to Shanghai from its current location in Beijing.

As a longtime foreigner living in Shanghai, I’ve always been surprised by the relatively small number of major private companies for a city of our size. We should certainly be proud of some of our city’s most outstanding entrepreneurs, with names like Guo Guangchang of Fosun Group and Spring Airlines (Shenzhen: 601021) Chairman Wang Zhenghua as 2 outstanding examples. Continue reading