CONSUMER: Gree, Airdog Join War Of Piracy Accusations

Bottom line: The snowballing of a recent series of mudslinging remarks by major companies underscores the rampant lack of business ethics in China, and could prompt some much-needed public debate on the topic.

China business ethics in need of fixing

What started as a couple of stories highlighting the shady business practices that are all too common in China is starting to snowball, with home appliance giant Gree (Shenzhen: 000651) and a local start-up air purifier maker adding their voices to this entertaining year-end war of words. At the heart of this verbal mudslinging is a toxic Chinese business culture where practices like illegal copycatting, corporate espionage and violation of business contracts are quite common and even accepted to a certain degree. Continue reading

MULTINATIONALS: Complex Sino-US Ties Shine In Avon, Solar, Qualcomm Cases

Bottom line: China and the west will continue to find common interests in fighting corruption, while Beijing’s state support for certain industries will remain an area of contention for the foreseeable future.

Obama press Xi on Qualcomm case

Sino-US business ties are on display in 3 separate headlines today, reflecting the increasingly complex relationship between these 2 economic superpowers that sometimes agree but often clash on different issues. One of the few things they agree on is the need to fight corruption, which is the theme in one headline that has the US fining health care products maker Avon (NYSE: AVN) for bribery at its China operation.

But the areas of disagreement are a bit more numerous, including US disapproval of Beijing’s strong state support for industries it wants to develop. That disagreement was at the center of another headline that saw the US finalize anti-dumping tariffs against Chinese solar panels, capping a 3-year-old clash on the issue. Heavy western ownership of globally used technologies is another sore spot, which was in the headlines as the US pressured China on a probe it is conducting into the licensing practices of mobile technology giant Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM). Continue reading

SHANGHAI STREET VIEW: Shanghai-fying Canto Diners

Tsui Wah brings retro Canto to Shanghai

Cantonese cuisine has become a local favorite in Shanghai these past few years, reflecting the city’s growing taste for both regional and international foods. An interesting twist on that trend has seen China’s financial capital snub higher-end Cantonese food for more down-market chacanting-style restaurants, which are Hong Kong’s equivalent of the local greasy spoon diners in the west. But these Canto diners that have rapidly colonized Shanghai hardly look like their Hong Kong cousins, and have taken on a decidedly mid- to even high-end approach to the dining experience. Continue reading

News Digest: December 18, 2014

The following press releases and media reports about Chinese companies were carried on December 18. To view a full article or story, click on the link next to the headline.
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  • Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU) To Buy Uber Stake In Challenge To Alibaba In China (English article)
  • Dalian Wanda Sets IPO Price At HK$48, Near Upper End Of Range (Chinese article)
  • Avon (NYSE: AVN) Ends Bribery Probe Tied to China With Guilty Plea, Fine (English article)
  • US Confirms Duties On Solar Goods From China, Taiwan (English article)
  • Unicom (HKEx: 762), China Telecom (HKEx: 728) To Expand LTE Trial Networks (Chinese article)

CELLPHONES: Qihoo’s New Coolpad JV, Xiaomi Back In India

Bottom line: Qihoo’s new joint venture looks like a smart tie-up to promote its software and online services, while Xiaomi’s resumption of India sales looks like a hollow win in its patent battle with Ericsson.

Qihoo, Coolpad in JV

A trio of smartphone stories are in the news today, including updates on major news involving security software specialist Qihoo 360 (NYSE: QIHU) and the ultra-cool Xiaomi. The first headline has Qihoo moving into the overheated smartphone space through a major new joint venture with domestic giant Coolpad (HKEx: 2369). In the second headline, Xiaomi has been allowed to resume selling some of its smartphones in India, after a judge last week ordered it to stop sales amid an ongoing patent dispute with Swedish mobile technology giant Ericsson (Stockholm ERICb). Continue reading

COMPUTERS: Geely Slides In Russia; Lenovo, TCL At Risk

Bottom line: Lenovo and TCL Communications’ profits are likely to take a hit in the current quarter and into early 2015 due to currency loses related to economic turmoil in Russia.

Geely profits slip on Russia crisis

The economic crisis in Russia is capturing headlines around the world, but far less attention is going to non-Russian companies that are likely to take a hit as a direct result of the turmoil. Automaker Geely (HKEx: 175) has become one of the first to reveal the damage that some companies may face, citing the slide in the Russian ruble as one of the biggest causes for a halving of its profits for 2014. Continue reading

INTERNET: Xiaomi, Momo Bad Ethics Tarnish China Tech

Ericsson sues Xiaomi for infringement

A national anti-corruption campaign at major state-run firms has filled the headlines these last few months, but a spate of smaller scandals last week cast a spotlight on another lower-profile problem that is far too common in China’s private corporate sector. That problem is deficient business ethics, which created embarrassments twice for smartphone sensation Xiaomi, and also for social networking app developer Momo (Nasdaq: MOMO) and security software specialist NQ Mobile (NYSE: NQ). Continue reading

News Digest: December 17, 2014

The following press releases and media reports about Chinese companies were carried on December 17. To view a full article or story, click on the link next to the headline.
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  • Geely (HKEx: 175) 2014 Profit Drops 50 Pct On Forex Loss In Russia (HKEx announcement)
  • Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU) To Announce $600 Mln Investment In Uber – Source (Chinese article)
  • Insurer Delta Lloyd (Amsterdam: DLL) Sells Belgian Bank To China’s Anbang (English article)
  • Xiaomi Allowed To Resume Sales In India (Chinese article)
  • Qihoo 360 (NYSE: QIHU) Announces Strategic Partnership With Coolpad (HKEx: 2369) (PRNewswire)

CONSUMER: Jack Daniels Makes China Splash With Wuliangye

Bottom line: Wuliangye’s new tie-up with Brown-Forman continues its drive to diversify and create new products for younger consumers, which could help it emerge as a leader when liquor makers emerge from their current downturn.

Brown-Forman links with Wuliangye

It’s not often that I get to write about foreign company involvement in China’s traditional liquor industry, which is largely closed to overseas investment and is also quite fragmented and filled with pitfalls due to dominance by local interests. So I was quite excited to read a new report saying Brown-Forman (NYSE: BF-B), a major US liquor maker whose brands include Jack Daniels whiskey, has teamed up with leading Chinese spirits maker Wuliangye (Shenzhen: 000858) to develop new products for emerging markets. Continue reading

CELLPHONES: Xiaomi Courts Midea, Qihoo Eyes Shenzhen

Bottom line: The target of Qihoo’s rumored smartphone purchase could be Coolpad, while Xiaomi’s new tie-up with Midea could be followed by similar pairings in a broader drive to develop smart appliances.

Qihoo eying Coolpad?

A couple of big deals are bubbling around in the smartphone space today, led by yet another new tie-up involving smartphone sensation Xiaomi, this time with home appliance maker Midea (Shenzhen: 000333). But the hyperactive Xiaomi is having to share the spotlight with the edgier security software specialist Qihoo 360 (NYSE: QIHU), which is reportedly eying a deal for its own major smartphone acquisition worth up to $1 billion.

Each of these deals has slightly different motivating factors, but the central theme is that companies like Qihoo and Xiaomi increasingly see smartphones as a central element of larger suites of product and services rather than just a stand-alone product. In Xiaomi’s case, the company already counts smartphones as its core central product and is trying to build up an ecosystem of related products and services like smart TVs and air conditioners. Qihoo is eying smartphones as a vehicle for propagating its core software and Internet services. Continue reading

WEIBO TALK: Momo Fingers NetEase; Xiaomi’s Copycat Defense

Xiaomi dogged by copycat scandal

Two scandals in China’s tech world were hot topics in the microblogging realm this past week, drawing heated discussion on allegations of copycatting and other unethical business behavior at smartphone sensation Xiaomi and newly listed social networking app maker Momo (Nasdaq: MOMO). The debate reflected the wide range of views on the many dubious business practices like intellectual property theft and violation of business contracts that are a regular feature in China’s corporate business landscape.

In less controversial chatter, computing giant Lenovo (HKEx: 992) was also tooting its own horn loud and clear as it celebrated the 10th anniversary of its landmark purchase of IBM’s (NYSE: IBM) PC business. As a long-time China tech writer it was hard for me to believe that historic deal is already a decade in the past, and it certainly kicked off a drive that would propel Lenovo to become the world’s biggest PC brand. Continue reading