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News from China
House prices stay ‘generally stable’ in China
20th November 2017

 China’s property market remained stable in October with home prices falling or posting slower growth in major cities amid tough control policies, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

On a yearly basis, new housing prices saw slower growth in 13 of the 15 major cities considered the “hottest markets,” the bureau’s data showed.

On a month-on-month basis, new housing prices fell in nine of the 15 cities.

New home prices in Tianjin, Shanghai and Chengdu rose 0.1, 0.3 and 0.7 percent, respectively, from a month earlier.

Of the 70 large and medium-sized cities surveyed, home prices in 50 cities rose month on month, compared with 44 in September.

Bureau statistician Liu Jianwei said housing prices were “generally stable” in major cities as control policies in different cities continued to take effect.

New housing prices in the country’s first-tier cities dropped 0.1 percent compared with a month earlier, while pre-owned home prices remained flat.

On a yearly basis, both new and pre-owned home prices in first-tier cities reported slower growth for the 13th consecutive month in October.

New home prices in smaller second and third-tier cities both rose 0.3 percent month on month, higher than the growth in September.

The data provide fresh evidence that the property market boom is running out of steam as the government continues cooling measures to squeeze asset bubbles.

Since late last year, dozens of local governments have passed or expanded restrictions on house buying and raised minimum down payments.

The market was also cooled by relatively tightened liquidity conditions as the government moved to contain leverage and risk in the financial system.

Data from the People’s Bank of China showed that loans to the real estate sector continued to slow, with outstanding loans up 22.8 percent year on year to 31.1 trillion yuan (US$4.7 trillion) at the end of September, 1.4 percentage points lower than the rate seen at the end of June.

Despite the cooling measures, China’s economy expanded by a robust 6.9 percent year on year in the first three quarters, well above the government target of 6.5 percent for the year.

Recent policies have showed the government will not loosen its stance in curbing property speculation and that will limit the upward potential for housing prices, Bank of Communications said in a note.

Authorities stepped up measures to act against irregularities in property financing earlier this month, prohibiting property developers, real estate agencies as well as Internet finance and micro-loan companies from offering illicit down payment financing.

Using funds obtained via channels such as consumer loans for property purchases will also be banned, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development said.

Earlier data showed that property sales by floor area rose 8.2 percent in the first 10 months, losing 2.1 percentage points from the January-September level. At the end of October, 602.58 million square meters of property remained unsold, down by 8.82 million square meters from a month earlier.

Source: Shanghai Daily, November 20, 2017
VW and partners to inject US$12b to produce NEVs
17th November 2017

 Volkswagen will invest more than 10 billion euros (US$12 billion) along with its partners in China to build new energy vehicles in the country, the company said yesterday.

 
Volkswagen is also forming a new joint venture with state-owned JAC Motors to make electric vehicles, with an aim to get the first electric car to market by next year, the company said in a press release on the eve of the Guangzhou Auto Show.
 
The move comes as China has put in place a series of carrots and sticks to compel carmakers to produce more fuel efficient and eventually petrol-free cars.
 
Volkswagen has been a laggard in the area so far, selling just a few hundred “green” cars among sales of four million vehicles in China last year.
 
The investment and partnership will help the German manufacturer reach its goal of introducing dozens of new energy models and delivering 1.5 million new energy vehicles in the country by 2025.
 
“China is leading the way to the final breakthrough in the adoption of e-mobility and Volkswagen Group China is determined to be at the forefront,” said Jochem Heizmann, president and chief executive of Volkswagen Group China.
 
China will implement a complex quota system in 2019 requiring automakers to produce a minimum number of electric cars.
 
China originally wanted to start enforcing the rule in 2018, but it delayed it by a year after Germany and some foreign firms raised concerns.
 
For electric car buyers, China has introduced subsidies and in some cities like Beijing, where getting a valid license plate is near impossible, authorities have allocated thousands of plates for electric cars.
 
China has plans to phase out petrol vehicles entirely, though it has yet to set a date for the ban.
 
Volkswagen now faces one of the biggest challenges for electric carmakers — batteries — and it said it was looking for partners to ramp up battery production capacity for its vehicles.
 
Other foreign automakers are also stepping up efforts to produce green cars in China.
 
US-based Ford sees that 70 percent of all Ford cars available in China will have electric options by 2025. Last week it unveiled a US$756 million investment with its Chinese joint venture to make e-cars.
 
Volvo plans to introduce its first 100-percent electric car in China in 2019.
Source: Shanghai Daily, November 17, 2017
Global banks laud removal on cap
16th November 2017

 NTERNATIONAL banks that have for years been pressing for more access to Chinese capital markets are lauding new regulations that remove caps on foreign ownership of domestic commercial banks, asset management companies, securities firms, fund managers and life insurers.

 
Zhu Guangyao, vice finance minister, opened the investment door wider in an announcement last week.
 
Currently, a single foreign investor cannot own more than 20 percent of a bank or an asset manager, and total foreign ownership cannot exceed 25 percent.
 
Caps on shareholdings in securities firms, fund managers and life insurers will also be lifted to allow foreign investors to take majority stakes — and eventually full ownership.
 
The deregulation was hailed as a “remarkable milestone” by the financial research team at UBS Securities. It was a sentiment echoed throughout foreign corridors.
 
A total of 39 foreign banks have been locally incorporated in China by the end of 2016, with over 1,000 joint ventures, according to data from the China Banking Regulatory Commission. Collectively, their exposure to the country totaled a record high of US$1.89 trillion during the first half, latest data from rating agency Fitch show.
 
Easing of restrictions on their operations has been incremental since China promised to open up its financial markets gradually upon its entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001. Many foreign players have complained that excessive regulation has choked their efforts to gain any significant toehold in the world’s second-largest economy.
 
In frustration, some foreign banks have actually cut their footprint in China as a result. In January, Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd, one of Australia’s biggest banks, joined a slew of lenders to sell its 20 percent stake in Shanghai Rural Commercial Bank.
 
Euphoria over the latest announcement comes as no surprise.
 
“HSBC welcomes the changes,” said Peter Wong, deputy chairman and chief executive of the Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corp. “Further foreign participation will help China’s financial markets become more global, supporting greater internationalization of the yuan.”
 
In June, HSBC became the first foreign lender in China allowed to hold a maximum 51 percent of a securities joint venture, according to media reports.
 
“We welcome this milestone policy change, which we believe will bring further investment to China and create new business momentum for the financial services industry,” a spokesperson for Morgan Stanley said.
 
James Gorman, global chief executive of the US investment banking giant, said the bank will “seize the chance” to increase its stake in a local joint venture, according to a report in the South China Morning Post.
 
Earlier this year, the bank increased its share in Morgan Stanley Huaxin Securities, a joint venture with a local broker, to 49 percent from 33 percent.
 
JP Morgan Chase & Co, another global leader in financial services, said that it “welcomes any decision” made by the Chinese government that further liberalizes the financial sector. The bank said it will continue to “evaluate viable options” to strengthen its position in China.
 
Last year, JP Morgan sold its minority stake in a joint venture to its Chinese partner, First Capital Securities Co Ltd. At the time, it cited lack of control over the venture’s operations and the limited contribution it made to group revenue.
 
Citi China said “a more detailed roadmap” of liberalization would help foreign financial institutions “be better prepared” and it “looks forward to more open markets” to better support their clients, following the recent announcement.
 
Singapore’s OCBC Bank and United Overseas Bank, which are expanding their presence in the world’s second largest economy, also lauded the latest deregulation in financial services.
 
Darren Tan, chief financial officer at OCBC Bank, said continued liberalization of China’s financial services sector is “positive.” The Singaporean lender now owns 20 percent of the Bank of Ningbo, a city commercial bank and the maximum allowed before the policy change.
 
UOB (China) said it believes the latest policy shift will “encourage foreign banks to strengthen their investment” in China and “create more opportunities for growth.”
 
However, industry observers urged caution amid all the euphoria.
 
“These measures point to a further opening up of China’s financial sector,” wrote Nomura chief economist Zhao Yang in a report. “However, their impact will be only marginal in the short run and may take time to kick in more significantly.”
 
A research note from UBS Securities said foreign banks may now reassess the value of nationally licensed joint-stock banks or regional banks of superior quality and niche markets.
 
“With the ownership cap removed, smaller banks with geographical and niche market advantages may draw interest from foreign investors,” it said. “We believe the new policy will benefit listed insurance companies and securities firms more than banks.”
 
This is echoed by the opening of Manulife Investment (Shanghai) Limited Company today, the first foreign financial institution that has received the investment company wholly foreign-owned enterprises license.
 
“To us, China is a market of high significance,” said Michael Dommermuth, executive vice president, head of wealth and asset management, Asia, Manulife. The Toronto-headquartered multinational insurance company is betting big on the fast-growing asset management market in China.
 
Moody’s Investors Service said that China’s decision to allow foreign majority ownership of financial companies is “credit positive.”
Source: Shanghai Daily, November 16, 2017
Nepal scraps mega power deal with Chinese firm
15th November 2017

 Nepal has cancelled an agreement with a Chinese company to build the largest hydroelectric plant in the impoverished landlocked country, which suffers from chronic energy shortages.

 
The project, agreed in June, would have nearly doubled Nepal’s current hydropower production and cost an estimated US$2.5 billion.
 
But the finance ministry recommended it be scrapped, saying it had been awarded without an open and transparent bidding process, according to letters seen by AFP yesterday.
 
“The cabinet has terminated the irregular and impulsive Budhi Gandaki hydro electric project agreement with Gezhouba Group,” Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa tweeted Monday following a cabinet meeting.
 
The government signed an agreement with the China Gezhouba Group Corporation in June to build the long-mooted 1,200 megawatt Budhi-Gandaki hydroelectric plant.
 
A Nepal representative for CGGC said they were surprised by the government’s decision.
 
“We had done quite a lot of work for the project... such decision is bound to alarm not just us but any investor. There is fear among other foreign companies as well,” Om Bandhu Karki, public relations manager for CGGC in Nepal, said.
 
Water-rich Nepal has a mountain river system that could make it an energy-producing powerhouse, but instead it imports much of its electricity from neighboring India.
 
Experts say it could be generating 83,000 megawatts, but its total installed generation capacity currently stands at less than two percent of that.
 
Demand for electricity has long outstripped supply in Nepal due to chronic under-investment and inefficiencies in the power network.
 
The result has been crippling for domestic industry and deterred foreign investment.
 
CGGC is currently building three smaller hydropower plants in Nepal and has completed another one.
 
Nepal’s government is also currently building a 750 megawatt plant.
 
Meanwhile, construction of two India-backed projects is expected to begin next year after years of delays.
Source: Shanghai Daily, November 15, 2017

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