Bottom line: Baidu’s long-term revenues will decline by 15-20 percent from current levels as a result of a cut-back in sponsored links and new transparency policies that will scare away some of its advertisers.
What’s the cost of being honest, or at least a little more honest? If your name is Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU), apparently the answer is about $400 million, which is how much China’s leading search engine has just lowered its latest quarterly revenue forecast after taking steps to become more transparent. Put differently, the figure is about one-eighth of Baidu’s previous revenue forecast for the quarter, meaning it would translate to lost revenue of about $1.3 billion of the $10.25 billion it generated for all of last year. Read Full Post…
Bottom line: A flurry of new corporate crackdowns will have the biggest impact on Baidu due to its role in a scandal over false advertising claims, and indicates this year’s summer crackdown season could be hotter than usual.
Summertime in China is a season for crackdowns, and we’re getting a taste of a potentially hot summer ahead fueled by a high-profile scandal involving false advertising claims on leading search engine Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU). Three separate crackdowns are in the headlines as we begin the new week, including 2 that look potentially tied to the Baidu scandal.
That scandal consumed China for much of last week, after a student with cancer claimed he was duped into seeking treatment at a hospital that made false claims about its ability to treat his disease. (previous post) In his long list of complaints before he died of his illness, Wang Zexi also accused Baidu of deception for putting the hospital and its inflated claims high in his search results simply because the hospital paid a rich premium for such high placement. Read Full Post…
Bottom line: Autohome and E-House are both likely to complete their privatizations from New York, continuing the migration of US-listed Chinese firms returning home to seek higher valuations on China’s stock markets.
The drive back home for New York-listed Chinese companies continues as we head into the new week, with online car site Autohome (NYSE: ATHM) becoming the latest to announce a privatization plan. In a slightly unusual twist to that story, Autohome shares actually rose above the offer price before the buyout deal was announced, suggesting investors were hoping for a bigger premium than the one offered. But they quickly fell back to the offer price in after-hours trading.
At the same time, online real estate company E-House (NYSE: EJ) announced it has signed a definitive deal to privatize, nearly a year after it first announced its plan to de-list from New York. E-House’s plan has gone down a windy road since it was first announced last June at the height of a rally that saw China’s stock markets more than double in a year. Since then Chinese markets have tanked twice, and are now about 40 percent lower than where they were when E-House first announced its offer. Read Full Post…
Bottom line: Wanda’s new FIFA sponsorship is an opportunistic and savvy move both politically and financially, while CMC’s new smaller soccer investment also looks like a good play to win goodwill from Beijing.
China’s recent fascination with global sports deals continues, with word of major new tie-ups involving 2 big fans of President Xi Jinping’s recent call to improve the nation’s poor performance in soccer. The larger deal has an opportunistic Wanda Group signing on as China’s first top-tier sponsor of FIFA, the world soccer body whose reputation has suffered lately due to a major corruption scandal. The second deal has the acquisitive China Media Capital (CMC) investing in in SoccerWorld, a British operator of sports stadiums.
Both deals have a strongly political element, since Chinese President Xi Jinping is personally a big soccer fan and has appealed to China’s private sector to help improve the nation’s performance at the world’s most popular sport. Some of China’s other top corporate leaders have also answered that call, including Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) founder Jack Ma, leading web portal Sina (Nasdaq: SINA) and electronics retailing giant Suning (Shenzhen: 002024). Read Full Post…
The following press releases and news reports about Chinese companies were carried on March 3. To view a full article or story, click on the link next to the headline.
Qualcomm (Nasdsaq: QCOM) Fined $7.5 Mln in US for Bribery in China, Denies Charges (Chinese article)
Jack Ma’s Ant Financial Said to Be in Talks for Caixin Stake (English article)
Sina (Nasdaq: SINA) Reports Q4 and Fiscal Year Results (PRNewswire)
Deadline Expires for Minsheng Bank (HKEx: 1988) in Talks for HK Broker Quam Stake (HKEx announcement)
Ele.me Says Working with Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) on Take-Out Dining, Denies Merger (Chinese article)
Bottom line: Sina’s latest board reduction to just 5 members looks like a strategic move by Chairman and CEO Charles Chao, as he prepares a sale that will give him a major executive position at his company post-merger.
The share price isn’t the only thing shrinking these days at leading web portal Sina (Nasdaq: SINA). The board of one of China’s oldest Internet companies has also just undergone a major reduction, with 2 of its 7 members leaving without any sign of replacements. I’m not extremely familiar with Sina’s board and its dynamics, but it does seem like 5 members is quite small for a company of Sina’s size and could reflect a power play by longtime Chairman and CEO Charles Chao.
Such a play could be prelude to the sale of Sina to a rival, with e-commerce giant Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) as the most likely candidate. I’ve been predicting such a sale for a while now, and this latest move looks like the latest signal that Chao could be clearing out board members who might oppose such a deal. With just 5 members left on the board, Chao would only need 2 to agree with him to approve a deal that he would personally negotiate. Read Full Post…
Bottom line: Vipshop shop shares could see some upside if the company improves its public relations and its revenue and profit growth stabilize at current levels.
A scandal involving pirated liquor is cooling down former e-commerce high-flyer Vipshop (NYSE: VIPS), in an episode reminiscent of a much larger brouhaha that devoured sector leader Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) almost exactly a year ago. In this case, the scandal involving fake Moutai liquor has been dragging on for more than 2 weeks now, and the latest development has Vipshop apologizing for its lack of transparency in handling the incident.
Some are saying this particular scandal could just be the tip of the iceberg, and that numerous other fake products could be lurking on Vipshop’s website that specializes in bargains for lesser-known brands. But in my view, slowing growth is the real cause for concern among Vipshop investors, many of whom are taking advantage of this news as an excuse to sell their stock. Read Full Post…
Bottom line: Sina’s new deal to broadcast the video channel of the Manchester United soccer team looks like a good bet, while LeTV’s new deal to broadcast US baseball games is more likely to strike out.
Leading web portal Sina (Nasdsaq: SINA) and online video giant LeTV (Shenzhen: 300104) have just announced 2 new sporting deals, extending a recent streak of similar investments by media companies in search of exclusive content. The first deal will see Sina become the official broadcaster in China for Britain’s Manchester United soccer club, while the second will see LeTV’s sports division get similar rights for live broadcasts of US Major League Baseball (MLB).
Both moves are really just licensing deals, though each could become an important new revenue source for Sina and LeTV as they search for exclusive content to lure viewers to their services. From a quantity perspective, LeTV is the big winner in this new round of deals since it will gain rights to hundreds of baseball games played in America each year. But Sina is the winner from a quality perspective, since soccer is far more popular in China than baseball, which is relatively unknown among average Chinese. Read Full Post…
Bottom line: Weibo’s investment in mobile video app Miaopai looks like a smart move to build on its recent momentum, while 58.com’s spin-off of its Guazi used car service is mostly a management restructuring.
A couple of web-related fund-raising stories are in the headlines today, though their relatively small size reflects investor sentiment that is rapidly fading towards these money-losing Internet companies. The bigger of the 2 deals has short video app Miaopai raising $200 million, in a funding round led by China’s Twitter-like Weibo(Nasdaq: WB). The second has leading online classifieds site 58.com (NYSE: WUBA) spinning off its Guazi used car businesses, in a move aimed at giving the company more flexibility to raise money for its future growth.
The $200 million figure is one of the largest we’ve seen in recent months, but is well below mega-fundings in the first half of this year when China’s stock markets were rallying and fundings of $1 billion or more were almost ordinary. But the flow of money has slowed sharply in recent months as investors get impatient for profits, forcing a number of former rivals into mergers to accelerate their drive to profitability. Read Full Post…
The following press releases and media reports about Chinese companies were carried on November 26. To view a full article or story, click on the link next to the headline.
Ganji Founder to Yang Haoyong Leaves as 58.com (NYSE: WUBA) Co-CEO, Joins Guazi.com (PRNewswire)
Sina (Nasdaq: SINA) Leads $200 Mln Investment in Mobile Short Video App ‘Miaopai‘ (English article)
UnionPay, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) Said to Reach Apple Pay Agreement for China (English article)
Bottom line: Alibaba could make a bid for Weibo in the next 6 months, in a deal that would share many similarities with its newly launched blockbuster offer for Youku Tudou.
China’s Internet is buzzing over the industry’s biggest acquisition to date with Alibaba’s (NYSE: BABA) offer for Youku Tudou (NYSE: YOKU), but that deal could presage an even higher-profile one that sees the fading Twitter-like Weibo (Nasdaq: WB) follow a similar fate. Or even more intriguing, Alibaba could make a potential play for Weibo’s parent and founder Sina (Nasdaq: SINA), in a move that would spell the end for China’s leading web portal and one of its oldest Internet firms.
There would be many similarities between such a deal and the Alibaba offer for leading online video site Youku Tudou deal announced late last week. Investors appear to also believe such a deal could possible, based on stock reactions to the blockbuster deal that would see Alibaba pay $4.6 billion for the more than 80 percent of Youku Tudou it doesn’t already own. Weibo shares leaped 13.4 percent after the deal was announced, second only to Youku Tudou’s own 22 percent jump. Read Full Post…