All posts by newsdoug

TELECOMS: ZTE Slapped with US Sanctions — Again

Bottom line: Washington’s new ban on ZTE from buying US-made components is not as political as China is portraying it, and is likely to be resolved within a few weeks after ZTE takes remedial actions related to its violation of an earlier agreement.

Washington cuts off ZTE from US suppliers

An ongoing tiff between Washington and ZTE (HKEx: 763; Shenzhen: 000063) is in the headlines yet again, with word that the US has banned all American companies from selling to the Chinese smartphone and telecoms equipment maker for seven years. This particular story is filled with political overtones due to the anti-China stance of Donald Trump, who has accused Beijing of unfair trade practices. But it’s also a tale that stretches back for at least six years, which means this story began well before the current US administration.

The latest headlines are quite straightforward, and have Washington banning the sale of US-made telecoms equipment to ZTE for violating an earlier agreement reached last year. (English article) The source of this conflict dates back to 2012, when Washington first began probing ZTE for selling American-made equipment to Iran in violation of US sanctions that at that time were designed to punish the country for its nuclear program. Read Full Post…

SMARTPHONES: Foxconn Rises on Apple, Huawei and Xiaomi

Bottom line: Foxconn’s taking of the smartphone manufacturing crown from Samsung reflects the resurgence of Apple and rises of Huawei and Xiaomi, and could ultimately force other brands to use such third-party producers.

OEMs rise on smartphone manufacturing list

Today we’ll take a step back from the usual name-brand smartphone rankings to look at a new report that shows that Taiwan’s Foxconn (HKEx: 2038) is emerging as one of those “industry leaders you never heard of”, quietly supporting some of the fastest-growing names. That’s the big takeaway from the latest figures from data tracking firm IDC, which show that Foxconn officially passed global titan Samsung (Seoul: 005930) in last year’s final quarter to become the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer.

Most industry insiders already know Foxconn and its parent, Hon Hai, because of their longtime relationship as a key producer of iPhones for Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL). But the Taiwan company also counts Xiaomi as a major client, as that company experiences a resurgence in its fortunes after a couple of years in the dark. Foxconn also makes phones for Huawei, which is also doing quite well on the global smartphone scene at the moment. Read Full Post…

SMARTPHONES: Gionee Treads Water as China Smartphone Sales Plunge

Bottom line: Skidding sales in China’s oversaturated smartphone market are long overdue, and could claim Gionee as a first major victim by year-end.

China smartphone sales slide in Q1

The inevitable is finally happening, and China is showing signs of smartphone burnout. The latest government data is showing that first-quarter smartphone sales in China plunged 26 percent, which is one of the largest drops I can ever recall. In this case we can’t really blamed the usual seasonal effect, since this is a quarterly number that includes both January and February — the two months when Lunar New Year falls.

At the same time, separate reports are citing a top executive at second-tier smartphone maker Gionee shooting down rumors that his company may not pay some of its suppliers due to funding shortages. This comes just weeks after the company made mass layoffs at a major production facility in the southern city of Dongguan, and is one of the stronger signals of distress I’ve seen from China’s bumper crop of second-tier smartphone makers. Read Full Post…

INTERNET: Alibaba Devours Ele.me, Meituan Swallows Mobike

Bottom line: Alibaba’s purchase of Ele.me and Tencent-backed Meituan’s purchase of Mobike underscore the growing rivalry between Alibaba and Tencent, as each uses its deep pockets to try and dominate money-losing emerging sectors.

Alibaba swallows Ele.me

Trade wars are making all the big headlines these days in US-China news, forcing a couple of mega-mergers that would normally be front-page news into the back pages. Each of the latest deals is quite significant for China’s Internet, as both quietly underscore the increasingly intense rivalry between titans Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) and Tencent (HKEx: 700).

The larger of the deals has Alibaba forking out more than $5 billion to buy the remaining stake of Ele.me it doesn’t already own, adding important fire power to the leading takeout dining service whose chief rival is Meituan-Dianping. In a separate but also quite large deal, Meituan, which counts Tencent as one of its largest backers, has acquired leading shared bike operator Mobike in a deal that values the latter at about $2.7 billion. Read Full Post…

TELECOMS: Huawei Feasts on China Market

Bottom line: Huawei’s strong revenue and profit growth for 2017 are coming largely on the back of its home China market, which should continue to boost the company as Beijing aggressively pushes upcoming 5G services.

Huawei finds land of plenty in hometown market

Telecoms giant Huawei is in the headlines as the new week begins, with word that the company has rekindled its profit growth in its latest reporting year. Unlike other companies, Huawei isn’t publicly traded and thus isn’t required to release any financials, which always means we need to take their numbers with a slight grain of salt. But generally speaking the company does seem to be trying to report meaningful figures, at least based on past years when the results weren’t all that flattering.

This time around the results look good, at least the final ones for revenue and profit growth. But a closer look shows something that many of us know, namely that the company is heavily dependent on its home market for that relatively strong showing. Some of that is probably deserved, as Huawei has emerged as a maker of quality products for both its core networking equipment and also its newer smartphones, which count myself as one of their fans and owners. Read Full Post…

STOCKS: Lenovo, China Telecom Mull CDR Homecomings

Bottom line:  Hong Kong-listed “Red chip” stocks like Lenovo and China Telecom could eventually make secondary listings in China under a new CDR program, but will be forced to wait behind higher-profile Internet names like Alibaba.

‘Red chips’ eye China listings under CDR program

With all of the major IPOs for the week now in the history books, as most of the world takes a vacation for Good Friday, I thought I’d close out the week here in China with yet another angle on the China Depositary Receipt (CDR) program that is creating lots of buzz. Regular readers will know this is a reference to China’s planned take on the popular American Depositary Receipt (ADR) program that lets companies with a primary listing in one market make secondary listings in another one.

Lots has been written these last couple of weeks about how the CDR program could let U.S.- and Hong Kong-listed tech giants like Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) and Tencent (HKEx: 700) make new secondary listings in China, which they couldn’t do before. But today we’re getting the first few peeps about similar homecomings from top executives of a group of Hong Kong-listed companies known as “red chips”, which are major Chinese firms that are currently barred from listing at home. Read Full Post…

IPOs: Greentree Sags in Debut, as iQiyi and Bilibili Line Up

Bottom line: Bilibili and iQiyi are likely to price in the middle of their ranges and debut flat to up slightly when their IPO shares start trading this week in the US.

iQiyi, Bilibili set for weak debuts?

This week is shaping up as one of the busiest I can recall for New York IPOs by Chinese firms, with at least four major listings set to take place. The first of those sputtered out of the gate on Tuesday, with hotel operator Greentree (NYSE: GHG) dropping 7 percent in its trading debut after pricing weakly and slashing the size of its offering. That less-than-stellar showing comes just days after another non-tech offering fizzled with the new listing of education specialist Sunlands (NYSE: STG) late last week.

Those weak signals could bode poorly for the three more IPOs set to take place later this week, including a launch for online video sites Bilibili and iQiyi on Wednesday and Thursday, the latter of which could raise more than $2 billion. In between that pair will be another education firm, OneSmart, which is set to debut on Wednesday. Read Full Post…

SMARTPHONES: Apple CEO Caught in Hard Place in US-China Tensions

Bottom line: Apple’s Tim Cook and other big global CEOs active in China will need to walk a fine line to avoid being forced to take sides in ongoing US-China trade frictions.

Apple CEO Cook talks US-China tensions on latest China trip

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) CEO Tim Cook was in China once again this past weekend, in what seems to be becoming his second home. This time around Cook was one of the few corporate chiefs attending the China Development Forum, a major annual conference sponsored by China’s State Council. The event is mostly peopled by academics and government officials, and thus Cook’s attendance is both a feather in Beijing’s cap and also something of a nod to Cook’s own status as a global high-tech titan as he tries to stay in the nation’s good graces.

His major proclamations at the event weren’t all that earth-shattering. But he inevitably felt compelled to comment on the Donald Trump administration’s announcement last week of new punitive tariffs on China for unfair trade practices. He didn’t venture too far into the matter, and mostly urged both sides to stay calm in the face of rising trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies. Read Full Post…

IPOs: iQiyi, Bilibili Juice Up Fund-Raising Targets

Bottom line: iQiyi and Bilibili should price near the top of their higher IPO price ranges, as each benefits from strong investor sentiment fueled by their unique offerings and a potential new plan to concurrently list their shares in China. 

iQiyi, Bilibili capitlize on strong positions in video

Anyone who was worried that a regulatory crackdown on fintechs late last year might dampen broader enthusiasm for Chinese stocks can relax. That’s my key takeaway from the latest headlines, which show that two non-fintech Internet firms are experiencing stronger-than-expected demand for their upcoming listings in New York.

Leading that charge is Baidu-backed (Nasdaq: BIDU) online video site iQiyi, which has sharply jacked up the fund-raising target for its proposed New York listing by a massive 80 percent, in what could well be the biggest such listing by a Chinese firm this year. At the same time, the smaller but similarly high-profile Bilibili has jacked up its own fund-raising target by a hefty 50 percent. Read Full Post…

INTERNET: Baidu Rejigs Maps in Face of Competition

Bottom line: Baidu’s reorganization of its mapping unit reflects growing competition in the space, and could ultimately end in a shuttering of the service if its usage continues to decline. 

Baidu mapping service charts new direction

The wheels of restlessness at online search leader Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU) are grinding into motion once more, with word that the company has made a major shift in its popular mapping division. Company watchers will know the restlessness to which I refer is a direct reference to Baidu’s founder Robin Li, who is famous for getting into new businesses, only to tire of and ultimately jettison them after just a few years.

In this case it’s probably far too early to say if that’s the case for Baidu’s mapping unit, which has been one of its most popular products for quite some time, thanks in no small part to its dominance in online search. The problem is that Baidu has failed to keep pace with more nimble competition, most notably from the Alibaba-owned (NYSE: BABA) AutoNavi. What’s more, an equally large potential rival is looming in the form of global giant Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), which has recently begun updating its previously dormant China mapping service. Read Full Post…

STOCKS: China Eyes Quick Route Home for Offshore-Listed Firms

Bottom line: A new plan allowing offshore listed Chinese firms like Alibaba and Tencent to make secondary listings at home appears to have momentum and could stand a better than 50 percent chance of success.

China eyes new plan to bring home NY-, HK-listed firms

A mix of politics and business is in the air this week, as the annual National People’s Congress takes place in Beijing, including a concurrent gathering of business leaders who advise the nation’s legislature. Those leaders include most of the country’s leading high-tech CEOs, who are all getting peppered with questions about whether they would re-list at home if given the chance.

Most of those leaders are doing the politically correct thing and saying “of course,” including chiefs of Internet giants Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU), Tencent (HKEx; 700) and Ctrip (Nasdaq: CTRP), just to name a few. (Chinese article) Such talk is really a bit cheap and would be quite impractical in the current market, since de-listing such massive firms from their current markets would require tens of billions of dollars in most cases, and even hundreds of billions in the case of a massive company like Tencent. Read Full Post…