Internet

Latest Financial Trends & News for Internet in China

E-COMMERCE: JD Dodges a Bullet, Gets Support from E-Commerce Has-Been

Bottom line: A US prosecutor’s decision not to file rape charges against JD.com’s founder may bring short-term relief to the stock, but the case still shows the importance of understanding the unusual role Chinese founders play at their companies.

Scales of justice tip in JD.com’s favor

On this day after Christmas I thought I’d play a little catch-up by weighing in on the controversial decision that saw a Minnesota prosecutor decline to press rape charges against JD.com’s (Nasdaq: JD) founder and CEO Richard Liu. Following the big announcement at the end of last week, there’s been a minor follow-up as another former China e-commerce executive came to Liu’s defense, only to get blasted himself and end up issuing an apology.

There are several big lessons in this tale, led by the fact that Chinese standards for what constitutes acceptable behavior are not always in sync with those in the West. That’s an important lesson for Western investors who may buy into these companies thinking that, for example, a JD.com is the same thing as Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN). The JD case shows that clearly there are major differences in terms of behavior by both the companies and their founders. Read Full Post…

TELECOMS: Huawei Lands at Center of US-China Trade War

Bottom line: The US case against Huawei’s CFO is likely to end with her release on technical grounds as part of a deal between the US and China, though the company could still face punishment for illegally selling US products to Iran.

Huawei CFO detained for violating US anti-Iran sanctions

It’s a few days old by now, but I wanted to begin the new week by sharing some of my thoughts on the recent blow-up involving telecoms equipment giant Huawei’s CFO, who was detained in Canada at Washington’s request. At this point I mostly want to give my views on the politics behind this story, and also my take on how things are likely to play out.

I’ll start off with the view that this particular story has been a long time in the making, and anyone who thinks it was cooked up by Donald Trump as an excuse to wring concessions out of China is mistaken. I’ll also give my view that this kind of come-uppance for a corporate giant like Huawei is relatively deserved, since Chinese companies have basically thrived and grown as quickly as they have by frequently thumbing their noses at the law. Read Full Post…

INTERNET: Amnesty, Employees Launch Google Attack

Bottom line: A major new campaign calling on Google to abandon its plan to return to China’s search market will add pressure on the company to reconsider its decision, but is unlikely to succeed unless the pressure grows significantly stronger.

Amnesty launches petition to protest Google’s China return

If Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) CEO Sundar Pichai thought he could quietly launch a new filtered China search engine without any major backlash, he’s quickly finding out otherwise. The search giant’s controversial plan to return to the world’s biggest search market is facing its stiffest resistance to date, in a frontal assault coordinated by human rights group Amnesty International and Google’s own employees.

The message from both groups is the same: Don’t do it. In Amnesty’s case, the group has launched an online petition (announcement) calling on Google not to go through with the plan, code named Dragonfly, that was first uncovered back in August. (previous post) At the same time, a group of more than 300 Google employees has signed a petition urging the company to reconsider its China plans on the blogging site Medium. (online petition) Read Full Post…

E-COMMERCE: China E-Commerce Answers Beijing’s Import Call

Bottom line: China’s drive to boost imports will benefit the nation’s big e-commerce companies with cross-border trade capabilities, though such purchasing will still be a small fraction of their overall volume.

China steps on import accelerator

It may be election day in the US, but here in China the focus is decidedly on imports with the staging this week of a massive import-focused expo in Shanghai. This particular event, officially called the China International Import Expo, has big political overtones, which I’ve looked at in a bit more depth in my weekly column on doing business in China, for anyone who is interested. (English article)

I’ll recap that element briefly in a moment, but the focus of this post will fall squarely on some relatively big numbers coming out of three of China’s leading e-commerce companies, in terms of the kinds of imports they think they can facilitate over the next few years. One report has added up commitments from Alibaba (NYSE: BABA), JD.com (Nasdaq: JD), Suning (Shenzhen: 002024) and NetEase (Nasdaq: NTES), and determined the four have collectively said they could facilitate 1.5 trillion yuan in imports, equal to about $216 billion. (Chinese article) Read Full Post…

E-COMMERCE: Alibaba Lays Out Big Goals in Annual Letters

Bottom line: Alibaba’s vague road map in its latest chairman and CEO annual shareholder letter is too far off to be meaningful, but does chart its aspirations to change from its current form to something more like an IT services company.

Alibaba shares future vision in shareholder letter

Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) founder Jack Ma and his heir apparent Daniel Zhang have just laid out their vision for the e-commerce giant in their latest annual letter to shareholders, and I have to say it’s at once very grand while also being quite short on detail. There are some lofty goals revealed inside, headlined by a new plan with some targets for what the company hopes to achieve by 2036. Never mind that that’s nearly 20 years away, which is like an eternity when it comes to the Internet.

At the same time, there’s a very general road map for how we get there, all of which I’ll detail shortly. Alibaba has actually executed relatively well so far on some of its road map, which roughly has it transforming from a mere e-commerce company to something more like an IT services provider. But nearly all of that diversification has been within its highly protected domestic market so far, and it’s far from clear it can replicate that model into its nascent international operations. Read Full Post…

SEARCH: Google Takes Offensive on China Search Return

Bottom line: Google’s decision to finally talk openly about its plan to return to China looks smart though slightly late, by explaining the desperate need for alternatives in the massive though tightly controlled search market.

Google breaks silence on plan to return to China search

After staying mum on the subject for quite some time, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is finally speaking out on its controversial decision to return to the China search market. Its CEO Sundar Pichai broke the company’s silence on the matter at an event this week sponsored by Wired magazine, going on the offensive to try and defend his company’s decision.

It does seem like the company should have taken this kind of more aggressive approach sooner, rather than waiting more than two months from when the news first broke. (previous post). From my perspective as someone living in China, this country is really in dire need of an alternative to current search leader Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU), and the argument has nothing to do with propaganda or censorship.  Read Full Post…

E-COMMERCE: Dangdang Orphaned by Cash-Challenged HNA

Bottom line: The collapse of Dangdang’s $1.2 billion sale of itself to HNA shows the deal was most likely fueled by backdoor connections with no grounding in financial reality, and the company will probably be sold ultimately at a much lower price.

Dangdang comes out a lemon after HNA sale collapses

It’s Friday and I’m quite looking forward to the weekend, so I thought I’d indulge myself with a more gossipy post on the latest troubles of e-commerce has-been Dangdang. Anyone looking for good stock tips with this one will probably be somewhat disappointed, since Dangdang was one of a large group of Chinese firms to privatize from New York over the last few years in pursuit of higher valuations by re-listing at home.

A number of companies from that re-listing wave have already re-listed here in China, often with results that bore out the thesis that such a process was well worth the effort. Among those are names like Focus Media (Shenzhen: 002027) and Homeinns (Shanghai: 600258), which are now worth considerably more as China-traded companies than they ever were in New York. Another notable success is WuXi AppTec (Shanghai: 603259), a drug maker that was part of the larger WuXi PharmaTech that de-listed from New York in 2015. Read Full Post…

IPOs: Meituan-Dianping Listing Shows Signs of Life

Bottom line:  Nio stock is likely to give back most of its huge second day gains over the next couple of weeks, while Meituan-Dianping could debut strongly but will likely stagnate for its first two years as a public company.

Meituan, Nio display surprising strength

It seems that perhaps I was a bit premature earlier this week when I wrote the latest listing by electric vehicle (EV) maker Nio showed investors had lost appetite for money-losing Chinese tech firms. Nio’s stock has actually done quite well in its first two trading days, after a tepid pre-debut reception. And now we’re getting word that money-losing online-to-offline (O2O) services giant Meituan-Dianping has also priced its own mega-offering in Hong Kong at the top of its range.

Such a sudden shift in sentiment seems hard to explain, and I do suspect there may be at least a little manipulation going on behind the scenes. Still, perhaps investors are feeling just a tad more upbeat about Chinese tech these last few days in light of new signs that the US-China trade war may soon ease with new talks scheduled to try to hammer out a deal. Read Full Post…

IPOs: Meituan-Dianping Heads List of Money-Losing New Listings

Bottom line: Meituan-Dianping’s IPO is likely to meet with lukewarm reception due to its big losses in several key areas, but could become more attractive over the medium term as it emerges as industry leader in one or two key areas.

Restaurant ratings leader takes IPO orders

As the rest of China continues to fixate on the sex scandal surrounding e-commerce giant JD.com’s (Nasdaq: JD) CEO, I thought I would end the week on a less controversial subject with a look at another blockbuster IPO by online-to-offline services giant Meituan-Dianping. The company has officially filed to make a listing in Hong Kong, and could be one of a growing number of Chinese Internet firms to choose the former British colony over the U.S. following a rule change earlier this year.

That change allowed companies to list in Hong Kong using a dual-class share structure that gives disproportionate voting power to company managers over ordinary shareholders. Previous prohibition of such a structure was the key element that led e-commerce giant Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) to make its own record-breaking IPO in New York instead of Hong Kong in 2014, and no doubt Hong Kong is still smarting over that loss. Read Full Post…

E-COMMERCE: CEO Sex Allegations to Rock JD.com Stock?

Bottom line: The detention of JD.com’s CEO on sexual misconduct allegations makes for good headline fodder, but is unlikely to have any extra impact on the company’s stock that is already under pressure.

JD CEO questioned over sexual misconduct claims

The Chinese media have been buzzing all weekend over reports that e-commerce giant JD.com’s founder and CEO Richard Liu was detained by police in the U.S. over sex-based allegations. The story certainly does make for titillating headlines, and will certainly come as a slight embarrassment to JD if and when the company and Liu ever fess up to anything inappropriate.

But from a business perspective, JD probably has bigger fish to fry than a small sex scandal involving Liu, who seems to have a penchant for this kind of thing. The biggest issue for the company is sustained profitability, which has been elusive since its original Nasdaq IPO in 2014. Investor patience is clearly wearing thin towards the company, which has been running mostly on hopes and a few major positive strategic alliances to prop up its shares these last few years. Read Full Post…

INTERNET: Google Feels China Backlash From Own Employees

Bottom line: An internal petition calling on Google to be more transparent about its plans to return to China represents the first major backlash to the move, but is unlikely to dissuade the company from going ahead.

Google employees question China return

When the news first broke a couple of weeks ago that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) was planning a return to China’s search market, many predicted that western sources would be quick to criticize the plan, even though few voices have actually spoken out so far. Fast forward a couple of weeks, when we are hearing the first sounds of what’s likely to become a sea of protests if and when the company actually makes its China search homecoming.

Perhaps not too surprisingly, the first salvo in the storm of protest that could soon emerge is coming from within Google itself, with word that employees are circulating a petition raising questions about the reported move. (English article) This kind of internal debate could be especially troubling, since the last thing that Google wants is an uprising within its own ranks at such a delicate time. Read Full Post…