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News Digest: February 5, 2016

The following press releases and media reports about Chinese companies were carried on February 5. To view a full article or story, click on the link next to the headline.

  • Shanghai Disneyland (NYSE: DIS) Announces 30 Travel Partners, Heads Off Scalpers (Chinese article)
  • Merchants Bank (HKEx: 3968) Terminates Payment Support for P2P Lending Sites (English article)
  • Evergrande Taobao Soccer Club Fined 1 Mln Yuan, Sues League (Chinese article)
  • ChemChina, Syngenta (Zurich: SYNN) to Move Quickly on US National Security Review (English article)
  • eLong (Nasdaq: LONG) Enters into Definitive Merger Agreement for Going Private  (PRNewswire)

RETAIL: Murdoch’s Fox Returns to China With ‘Simpsons’ Stores

Bottom line: Fox’s new “Simpsons”-themed China stores will meet with lukewarm response, and will pave the way for announcements later this year of a new Chinese theme park and film production joint venture. 

Fox brings ‘Simpsons’ stores to China

After years of standing on the sidelines, media mogul Rupert Murdoch is finally taking his first big step back into China with plans to open a new chain of concept stores based on the popular TV series “The Simpsons”. An executive with Murdoch’s Twentieth Century Fox (Nasdaq: FOX), which owns the animated TV series, discussed this particular plan last year, even mentioning the “Simpsons” name at that time. Still, some are scratching their heads at this particular concept, since the TV series is relatively unknown in China and was actually banned here until recently.

This announcement is probably just a teaser for the bigger events that will come later this year, including announcement of a 20th Century Fox theme park for China, and possibly a new film production tie-up. Fox is actually playing catch-up to other major Hollywood studios in all 3 areas, following its withdrawal from the market with the sale of its main Chinese TV station to Shanghai’s China Media Capital (CMC) in 2010. Read Full Post…

LEISURE: Disney Countdown Begins with Park Opening Date

Bottom line: Shanghai Disneyland will meet its target of opening in the half of this year, but the event will be marked by numerous small problems that are common with such big projects but generate negative publicity.

Disneyland set for June 16 opening
Disneyland set for June 16 opening

The countdown to launch for what’s likely to become one of Disney’s (NYSE; DIS) biggest growth drivers for the next decade has officially begun, with announcement of a June 16 opening date for the $5.5 billion Shanghai Disneyland resort. The most noteworthy thing about this particular announcement is the date itself, which falls within Disney’s target for an opening in the first half of the year. The newest Disneyland was originally set to open by the end of last year, and another delay would have sent a negative signal that the park was running into more problems.

But the June 16 opening date comes just within Disney’s latest target, hinting at the huge complexity of a project that will draw not only huge crowds but also intense media attention at the start. From a purely seasonal perspective, a more ideal opening date would have been in April, when Shanghai’s weather starts to warm and a full day outside becomes a comfortable proposition for tourists after the long winter. Read Full Post…

News Digest: January 14, 2016

The following press releases and media reports about Chinese companies were carried on January 13. To view a full article or story, click on the link next to the headline.

  • Shanghai Disney (NYSE: DIS) Resort to Open on June 16 (English article)
  • China Telecom (HKEx: 728), Unicom (HKEx: 762) Partner to Improve Operations (English article)
  • Yum’s (NYSE: YUM) China Sales Rose 1 Pct in December Before Planned Spinoff (English article)
  • Huawei Founder Ren Targets 30 Pct Annual Growth for Consumer Division (Chinese article)
  • HK Tycoon Richard Li Sells Down ZTE (HKEx: 763) Stake (HKEx announcement)

ENTERTAINMMENT: ‘Star Wars’ Rattles China Box Office, Draws SMG

CMC teams up with special effects house Base FX

The newest “Star Wars” movie is in two headlines this week, led by a strong debut for the seventh installment in the franchise that has just opened in China several weeks after its global premier. The movie is also in headlines related to a new initiative by the hyperactive China Media Capital (CMC), which has just formed a joint venture with a company that made some of the special effects for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”. In this case CMC’s new partner is Base FX,  a Beijing-based start-up with strong ties to Hollywood.

Much has been written about prospects for the new “Star Wars” movie in China, where the franchise isn’t very well known because none of the first 6 films in the series were screened in the country unit recently. To address that problem, the movie’s producer Disney (NYSE: DIS) has been working overtime to promote the film in China, with relatively strong results. Read Full Post…

E-COMMERCE: Alibaba Sells Film with Disney, Debt with Huarong

Bottom line: Alibaba’s new Disney tie-up is unlikely to gain much traction due to overcrowding in China’s Internet video market, while its tie-up to sell $8 billion worth of bad debt from asset manager Huarong looks mildly positive.

Alibaba in streaming tie-up with Disney

E-commerce giant Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) is in a trio of headlines as we head into the year-end holidays, led by a new tie-up with Disney (NYSE: DIS) as it looks to leverage its growing stable of media assets. But in a sign of how much attention the company now attracts, the other 2 stories in the headlines aren’t really ones that Alibaba would care to trumpet too much.

The larger of those is mildly positive, with media reporting that Alibaba’s Taobao C2C marketplace is teaming up with one of China’s leading bad asset sellers to auction off $8 billion in soured loans. The other headline is one that’s becoming a small headache for Jack Ma, and involves Evergrande Taobao the soccer team that he co-owns. That story has one of Japanese car maker Nissan’s (Tokyo: 7201) China joint ventures suing the club for breach of contract related to a high-profile sponsorship dispute. Read Full Post…

News Digest: December 16, 2015

The following press releases and media reports about Chinese companies were carried on December 16. To view a full article or story, click on the link next to the headline.

  • Disney (NYSE: DIS), Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) Team to Stream Films to Chinese Viewers (English article)
  • Huawei Says 2015 Sales to Top $60 Bln, up More Than 29 Pct from 2014 (Chinese article)
  • China Mobile (HKEx: 941) Expects to Break 500 Mln 4G Users by End 2016 (English article)
  • Takeout Food Ordering Platform Ele.me’s Daily GMV Reaches 80 Mln Yuan (English article)
  • Dongfeng Nissan Sues Evergrande Taobao Soccer Club for Breach of Contract (Chinese article)

ENTERTAINMENT: Disney Pirates Fined as Shanghai Park Nears

Bottom line: Shanghai’s clampdown on piracy of the Disney brand reflects the city’s desire to protect its huge investment in the soon-to-open Shanghai Disneyland, and also Disney’s growing clout in China.

Shanghai protects Disneyland investment

Disney (NYSE: DIS) pirates, beware. As the grand opening of mainland China’s first Disneyland draws near, the park’s home city of Shanghai is stepping up efforts to protect is multibillion-dollar investment by clamping down on piracy of the Disney brand. That crackdown is certainly long overdue, and has just netted 5 hotels that were illegally using the Disney name to dupe visitors into thinking they were affiliated with the US entertainment giant.

In an interesting aside to this clampdown story, the 5 properties busted in the new clampdown were owned by Shenzhen-based Vienna Hotels Group. That’s significant because in August Vienna was reportedly in talks to be acquired by Shanghai’s leading hotel group Jin Jiang (HKEx: 2006; Shanghai: 600754). (previous post) Thus this latest crackdown could signal the Jin Jiang-Vienna talks ultimately collapsed, since it’s unlikely Vienna would have been targeted in such a high-profile way if it was part of the locally well-connected Jin Jiang. Read Full Post…

RETAIL: Disney Advances in Shanghai with Uniqlo Tie-Up

Bottom line: Disney’s Uniqlo tie-up highlights its new focus on China retailing as the opening of its Shanghai Disneyland draws near, and could be followed by a major film-production tie-up in the next 1-2 years.

Disney in new China retailing tie-up

Entertainment and retailing juggernaut Disney (NYSE: DIS) is turning up the volume of its advance into China, with Shanghai emerging at the epicenter of its campaign. In the latest move on that front, the company has just announced it will launch a new concept store in China’s commercial capital in partnership with Japanese fast-fashion retailing juggernaut Uniqlo. That particular move comes just 4 months after Disney opened its first China Disney store in the heart of Shanghai’s financial district. That store was also Disney’s largest in the world.

This sudden retailing push comes as Disney prepares for the main event in the first half of next year, which will see it open its first mainland Chinese Disneyland, also in Shanghai. That opening will cap years of lobbying and planning, and will be the first new Disneyland since the last one opened in Hong Kong a decade ago. Read Full Post…

MEDIA: Nothing New in Youku’s New Paramount Tie-Up

Youku Tudou in new licensing deal

It’s a quiet day on China’s corporate news front, as many companies stay silent and hope that the latest sell-off on the nation’s stock exchanges calms as the week progresses. So in the absence of major news, I thought I’d look at the latest Hollywood tie-up involving Youku Tudou (NYSE: YOKU), and do some reading between the lines about what it means for the struggling online video company.

The thing that most caught my attention about this latest licensing deal between Youku Tudou and Paramount Pictures was how passe it seemed. Youku Tudou and its rivals were frequently making this kind of announcement a couple of years ago, when they were trying to secure premium content that web surfers would pay to watch on their sites. But nowadays such deals don’t seem like big news anymore, and instead companies are focused on creating their own exclusive content. Read Full Post…

ENTERTAINMENT: Huayi Eyes Studio Status with Ping An Tie-Up

Bottom line: Huayi Bros could be moving towards an eventual goal of becoming China’s first major Hollywood-style studio through its massive new 30 billion yuan partnership with Ping An Bank.

HUayi goes to the movies with Ping An

It’s become quite common in China these days to see non-entertainment companies pour millions of dollars into entertainment-related ventures, most notably film-production deals. Everyone’s goal is to repeat the success of recent box office hits like “Monster Hunt”, which are earning big money by drawing on a fast-growing Chinese box office that could pass the US to become the world’s largest in the next decade.

But even I was surprised to see the size of the latest mega tie-up, which will see Ping An Bank pair with the highly successful independent movie producer Huayi Bros (Shenzhen: 300027) in a massive partnership with 30 billion yuan ($4.7 billion) in investment. That’s quite a large sum of money for the entertainment space, and is roughly comparable to how much e-commerce leader Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) said it would pay last week for 20 percent of retailing giant Suning (Shenzhen: 002024). Read Full Post…