Retail/Consumer

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…

IPOs: No One Comes to Haier’s German Party

Bottom line:  Haier’s weak IPO under a new German program to internationalize Chinese stocks owes to lack of awareness and thin trading, and reflects challenges the new market will face in its drive for recognition.

Haier IPO party draws low interest

What if you threw an IPO and nobody came? That’s what seems to be happening for home appliance giant Haier, which has just made the inaugural listing on a new Sino-German stock exchange aimed at internationalizing Chinese companies. The program captured headlines earlier this year when it was first announced that Haier had been selected to make the inaugural listing. But momentum has rapidly faded since then.

I’ll examine some of the reasons for the lackluster debut shortly, and what it might mean for the internationalization of Chinese stocks, which appears to be the bigger goal with this program. But first let’s review this latest less-than-dazzling end to a story that began with relatively strong sentiment and big hopes. 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 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…

IPOs: Pinduoduo Provides Fresh Face for E-Commerce

Bottom line: A new IPO by e-commerce company Pingduoduo could do reasonably well due to its rapid growth and unusual business model, but could suffer from a “flavor of the day” element over the longer term.

Pinduoduo puts new spin on group buying

After years of basically having just two choices to invest in China’s e-commerce market, investors will soon have another new and interesting option with the upcoming listing of a company called Pinduoduo. I’ll admit that I was unfamiliar with Pinduoduo before reading about this upcoming listing. But that said, the numbers do point to a potential high-flyer in the making, including a business model that combines elements of Groupon (Nasdaq: GRPN) and Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) to let people recruit their friends to get good deals on merchandise.

The company is also noteworthy for its ties to social networking giant Tencent (HKEx: 700), whose wildly popular WeChat platform is apparently the main venue where friends can get together to get their deals. This particular deal comes as China’s own homegrown Groupon, Meituan-Dianping, prepares for its own Hong Kong listing in a deal expected to raise up to $6 billion, amid a broader bumper IPO season for China new economy offerings. Read Full Post…

IPOs: Uxin Files in NY, Battery Maker in China, Mindray on ChiNext

Bottom line: New listing plans by used car platform operator Uxin, EV battery maker Amperex and medical device maker Mindray should all do well, driven by strong growth potential and their leading positions in China.

Bumper crop of new China IPOs headed to market

The latest IPO season for Chinese firms is kicking into high gear on both sides of the Pacific, with announcement of several hot new offerings that each has a slightly different story to tell. At the head of the class is a new listing for used car platform operator Uxin, which is aiming to raise up to $500 million in New York.

That’s followed by a listing plan for electric vehicle battery maker Amperex, which is having to settle for a sharply-lower valuation than it had been originally seeking with a listing in China. Last but not least there’s medical device maker Mindray, which de-listed from New York and has just submitted a plan to list on China’s enterprise-style ChiNext board, after its initial plan to re-list on one of China’s larger main boards was rejected. Read Full Post…

PCs: Lenovo Kicked Out of Hang Seng Index

Bottom line: Lenovo’s ejection from the Hang Seng Index caps its long fall from grace over the last four years, and leaves the company in an increasingly deep hole that may be hard to emerge from.

Lenovo ejected from Hang Seng Index

Capping its long fall from grace, PC giant Lenovo (HKEx: 992) has been officially booted from the Hang Seng Index, in a move that looks highly symbolic but also has some very real ramifications for this former high-flyer. It’s probably too early to relegate Lenovo to the history books, but we can certainly say the company is down for the count with this latest blow.

As someone who has followed Lenovo for most of its life as a listed company, I can provide my own view that the company is certainly facing a life-or-death moment in its lifetime that dates back more than three decades, making it one of China’s oldest tech names. I have called repeatedly for the departure of CEO Yang Yuanqing and introduction of some newer, younger blood to the company’s top ranks. But it doesn’t seem that Yang’s boss, Lenovo founder Liu Chuanzhi, cares too much what I think, as he has repeatedly stuck with this right-hand man throughout the company’s decline. Read Full Post…

IPOs: China Biotechs Abandon New York for Hong Kong

Bottom line: Two biotech firms’ abandonment of New York IPOs for Hong Kong is part of a broader trend to make Hong Kong and China more competitive for high-growth startups, and could ultimately boost valuations in all three markets.

Pharma startups abandon New York for HK

We’ll take a break from all the trade war talk as we close out the week and instead turn to another major development taking place in Hong Kong, where the local stock exchange has just rolled out some reforms with major implications for high-growth startups. Those reforms have reportedly netted a couple of biotech firms that were originally planning to list in New York, reflecting a potential new rivalry between these two markets.

Before the reforms, Hong Kong’s stock exchange was quite traditional and also strict about a few things, including dual-class partnership structures and profitability. The former British colony refused to allow dual-class partnerships that gave disproportionate power to holders of a special class of preferential shares. At the same time, it also had strict rules saying all companies must show three consecutive years of profitability before listing. 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…