SMARTPHONES: Huawei Rolls Past Apple

Bottom line: Huawei could challenge Samsung for the global smartphone crown in as little as a year, though a potential Achilles heel could be the “outing” of its surging Honor brand that most may not associate with the Chinese parent.

Huawei passes Apple in global smartphone ranks

Smartphone pioneer Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) has just reported its latest quarterly results, which means that all the data tracking firms can simultaneously release their own industry data showing the latest trends. Those trends show that Apple’s sales were basically flat for in the quarter on a unit basis, even as the bigger story was that the US giant lost its spot as the world’s No. 2 smartphone seller to a surging Huawei during the period.

The big picture is less that Apple is losing market share, and more that Huawei is surging in its march toward market dominance. Part of the reason behind the surge is booming popularity for Huawei’s sub-brand called Honor, which perhaps doesn’t carry the same stigma of the Huawei name. Read Full Post…

CHIPS: China Kills Qualcomm Mega-Merger With Silent Treatment

Bottom line: China used its traditional silent treatment approach to kill Qualcomm’s bid to buy NXP, quite possibly to show its displeasure with recent US trade tensions, but resulting global pressure could forced it to be more transparent in the future.

China kills Qualcomm-NXP deal with silent treatment

We’ll close out the week with my own quick-and-dirty post mortem of the collapsed deal that would have seen telecoms chip maker Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) purchase Dutch rival NXP (Nasdaq: NXPI) for $44 billion. Put simply, this deal appears to have been killed by China’s classic approach of “kill them with silence.”

But there’s a bit of a postscript this time around, as China’s regulator took the unusual step of actually breaking its silence once the deal was dead. This appears to show that China has learned a lesson from this particular battle, namely that it needs to take a stance on things and explain its decisions, even if people might disagree. That would be quite a break from its old approach of just sticking its head in the sand and pretending like nothing is happening when it makes unpopular decisions.  Read Full Post…

INTERNET: Facebook, Google in New China Steps

Bottom line: Facebook and Google’s latest micro-moves into China reflect their longer term efforts to get permission to launch major services in the market, though it’s unclear if they will get such a green-light anytime soon.

Facebook, Google take new baby steps in China

You have to give China-challenged Internet giants Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) an “e” for effort. Both companies have popped into the China headlines over the last two weeks for micro-moves into the world’s largest Internet market, including the latest news that Facebook plans to set up a company in Hangzhou that will become an “innovation hub”.

The Facebook news comes just about a week after Google confirmed that it has launched a new artificial intelligence (AI) game in China on a platform operated by local Internet giant Tencent (HKEx: 700). Both of these moves are miniscule in the big scheme of things, especially for companies of Google’s and Facebook’s size.  But they do reflect the kind of baby steps, some might also say groveling, that such corporate giants will need to take to get a hold in the world’s largest Internet market where they are now mostly denied permission to operate. Read Full Post…

INTERNET: Baidu Sambas Out of Brazil

Bottom line: Baidu’s withdrawal from Brazil reflects a broader inability of Chinese companies to succeed overseas due to their different practices and local wariness about their ability to protect user privacy.

Baidu says bye-bye to Brazil

In what is probably coming as a surprise to no one, media reports are saying that search leader Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU) is pulling out of Brazil. This would represent the company’s latest failure abroad, and is really part of a broader string of failures not only for the company but China’s internet sector in general. This particular group is quite good at milking the China market for all it’s worth, but then being unable to replicate its success in other markets.

There are lots of reasons for the inability of China’s Internet companies to succeed outside their home market. One is simply inexperience. But another is really the direct result of Beijing’s determination to set up what almost amounts to a parallel Internet in China that in some ways is identical to the global Internet but in others is very different. Read Full Post…

SMARTPHONES: Xiaomi Takes Big Step Into South Korea

Bottom line:  Xiaomi appears to be gaining confidence of investors through moves like its entry into South Korea, but it will take at least another year to prove it really has the savvy to thrive over the longer term.

Xiaomi calls on South Korea

Newly listed smartphone maker Xiaomi (HKEx: 1810) has kept the world guessing these past two weeks with its on-again-off-again performance both on the Hong Kong stock exchange and now in the real world. The former is a reference to its stock, which did quite poorly in the run-up to its trading debut last Monday but has done a U-turn since then and posted some impressive gains.

The latter is a reference to the company’s latest strategic move, which has it launching its low-end smartphones in South Korea. That may not sound like much, since the market is relatively small and Xiaomi already sells its products in more than 70 countries and regions globally. But the symbolic significance is quite large, since South Korea is home to leading global smartphone maker Samsung (Seoul: 005930). Read Full Post…

GAMES: Tencent Takes Gaming Act Abroad

Bottom line: Tencent’s WeGame could stand a 50-50 chance of success in moving abroad, since the company already has a proven track record in games and will face relatively low privacy protection concerns due to the less-sensitive nature of gaming.

Tencent takes its gaming global

Despite their huge success at home, none of China’s big Internet companies has ever scored a major victory outside its home market, despite a number of low-profile attempts. Social networking giant Tencent (HKEx: 700) is about to become the latest to take a stab at the market, with word that the company will soon launch an international edition of its gaming platform called WeGame.

There are a number of reasons why Chinese Internet companies have yet to really crack any major foreign markets, underscoring the uphill battle Tencent will face. The largest is probably well-established competition in most places, both from local players as well as global giants like Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG). The second biggest element is probably trust, since many foreigners are a bit suspicious of these Chinese companies and their ability to protect customer privacy. Read Full Post…

IPOs: Inke Pops in Trading Debut, Xiaomi Bounces Back

Bottom line: Live broadcasting specialists Inke and Huya should do well over the next year but could face difficulty after that as popularity of such services fades, while Xiaomi’s stock gains over the last two days look like a dead-cat bounce.

Inke goes live with strong trading debut

Following the unimpressive debut of smartphone maker Xiaomi (HKEx: 1810) earlier this week, live streaming site Inke (HKEx: 3700) is the latest high-tech listing in the headlines with a more impressive debut in Hong Kong. This latest deal follows the US listing for Huya (NYSE: HUYA), China’s first live streaming site to make an IPO, which has tripled since its New York IPO in May.

There are some mixed messages in here, perhaps indicating mixed investor sentiment towards many of these new-economy companies as investors try to separate the wheat from the chaff. If that’s the case, investors certainly seem to think that Huya and perhaps Yinke represent the wheat in the hot online streaming category. Meanwhile, they seem less certain about Xiaomi, which fizzled in its trading debut on Monday but has come bouncing back somewhat since then. Read Full Post…

IPOs: Xiaomi Fizzles in Debut, But What’s Next?

Bottom line: Xiaomi’s stock is likely to be volatile over the next year and could move broadly downward as investors wait to see if the company’s comeback has legs and it can move into higher-end products.

Xiaomi fizzles in trading debut

Smartphone maker Xiaomi (HKEx: 1810) seems to have become the proverbial lead zepplyn sinking further and further into the mire as it finally made its trading debut in Hong Kong. The company has been dogged by skepticism almost since the get-go of its blockbuster IPO, which ended this morning here in Asia with the stock’s official trading debut. The question from here now becomes: how far will the stock sink before it finds a bottom, and what are its real prospects over the mid- to longer-term?

Let’s jump right in with the news, which had Xiaomi shares dipping 2.3 percent when their long awaited trading began here in Hong Kong on Monday morning. The shares opened at HK$16.60, versus an IPO price of HK$17. Things didn’t get much better after that, and the stock was down to HK$16.36 the last time I checked midway through the morning session. Read Full Post…

TRADE: Micron, China Mobile Muddy US-China Trade Tensions

Bottom line: A court order barring Micron Technology from China and Donald Trump’s attempts to keep China Mobile out of the US reflect blurring lines between business and politics in heightening US-China trade tensions.

Fujian court bars Micron sales in China

Two new headlines are showing how trade tensions between the US and China are spilling over into the high-tech realm, while also reflecting a certain amount of confusion and twisting of the facts. Leading the somewhat misleading headlines is an item that has U.S. memory chip giant Micron (Nasdaq: MU) suddenly being shut out of China for a number of its products due to a patent dispute. The other headline has Donald Trump saying that leading Chinese telco China Mobile (HKEx: 941; NYSE: CHL) shouldn’t be allowed to offer services in the US due to national security concerns.

The Micron story is being spun by some media as having a US-China trade tensions angle, when really that’s not the case and it’s just a typical patent dispute. The same could be said for the much larger case involving a US ban on telecoms equipment maker ZTE (HKEx: 763; Shenzhen: 000063), which is being spun as part of US-China trade tensions, even though ZTE is being punished for violating much older US sanctions against sales to Iran. China Mobile, on the other hand, is clearly a Trump pet project and does reflect his protectionist tendencies. 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…

TELECOM: What’s Next After ZTE Resolution of ZTE Case

Bottom line: ZTE will experience fallout from its run-in with Washington through much of next year, and could see an even longer-term hit to its global business as international customers start to look for alternate suppliers.

ZTE off life support, but major challenges remain

The saga of embattled smartphone and telecoms equipment maker ZTE (HKEx: 763; Shenzhen: 00006) appears to be nearing an end, as trading resumed in the company’s stock following an official settlement with Washington over  illegal sales to Iran. The ending to this story certainly came with a big climax, with ZTE shares plunging by 42 percent in Hong Kong on the first day after trading resumed.

They fell by a smaller 10 percent in China on Wednesday, but only because China places a 10 percent limit on daily rises and declines in individual stock prices. Not surprisingly, the stock was down another 10 percent in China on its second day of trade, while the Hong Kong shares did a dead cat bounce and were up slightly. Read Full Post…