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News from China
Fewer new homes bought in Shanghai
12th July 2016

 SALES of new homes last week tumbled from a three-month high while the average price hit a seven-week low, according to latest data.

The area of new homes sold, excluding government-subsidized affordable housing, plunged 37.1 percent from the previous seven-day period to 248,900 square meters, the lowest weekly volume registered in four weeks, Shanghai Homelink Real Estate Agency Co said in a report yesterday.

“The market’s withdrawal appeared quite normal after strengthening for three straight weeks,” said Lu Qilin, director of research at Homelink. “Meanwhile, July and August are a traditional low season for property sales because of the hot weather, and the beginning of a month is often a slack period compared with the end of a month.”

The report said home buyers in suburban districts such as Fengxian and Jiading were the most positive. Around 34,000 square meters of new houses were sold in Fengxian while Jiading saw sales of some 32,000 square meters.

The average cost of new homes, meanwhile, also fell amid lackluster sales of medium to high-end properties. The new homes were sold for an average of 34,678 yuan (US$5,184) per square meter, a weekly decline of 9.2 percent, according to Homelink data.

“The weekly fall was mainly due to a structural shift with eight of the 10 best-selling projects sold for less than 30,000 yuan per square meter on average,” Lu added.

Meanwhile, just 110 new high-end homes priced at 80,000 yuan per square meter and above each were sold citywide last week, a sharp drop of 136 units from the previous seven-day period.

Supply fell as sentiment among real estate developers continued to weaken for the third straight week. About 111,500 square meters of new homes were released, a week-on-week drop of 43.1 percent, Homelink data showed.

“We don’t expect new home supply to see a major rebound until September and October, which are the best season for property sales in the year,” said Lu Wenxi, a senior manager of research at Shanghai Centaline Property Consultants Co.

Source: Shanghai Daily, July 12, 2016
Brexit may hasten the pace of ‘Asian century’
11th July 2016

 BRITAIN’S vote to leave the European Union and simmering discontent in other Western countries is seen as hastening the arrival of an “Asian Century,” analysts say, led by the rise of China and India.

By 2050, Asia will account for over half the world’s GDP, almost double that of 2011, according to the Asian Development Bank, with three billion newly affluent citizens.

The EU and other powerful collectives such as the United Nations, NATO, IMF and World Bank hark back to the post-World War II era, with a vision of cooperation leading to peace, prosperity and security.

But the churning currents of globalization and institutions’ reluctance to reform have left Asian nations feeling that they are not well-represented and looking to form new alliances.

“The old system which kept the West rich and safe is under threat,” said Neelam Deo, a former ambassador and director at Gateway House think-tank in Mumbai.

“The British voting to leave the EU in the way they did will impact the old institutions which were set up after World War II and intended to entrench Western power,” she said.

Brexit has summoned the spectre of a domino-like departure of other members of the EU, pounded by the migrant and euro crises, as well as a fragmenting United Kingdom, should Scotland vote for independence.

A resurgent Russia, which is angered by EU- and US-imposed sanctions and has friendly ties with China and India, has hailed the Brexit vote as it looks for cracks to exploit.

As the “American Century” got underway after WWII, following imperial Britain before it, China was writhing in the chaos of civil war and colonial India was just gaining independence.

Now China is the world’s second-largest economy, set to overtake the US in around a decade, while India will be the world’s most populous nation by 2022.

The IMF named the Chinese renminbi a reserve currency — a main world currency — last November, joining the pound, dollar, euro and yen.

Rising economic stars Indonesia and the Philippines are growing at around 5 percent a year, while Europe remains sluggish. Yet emerging markets argue that IMF voting reforms still don’t give them a big enough voice, while India laments its lack of a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Three centuries ago, before the industrial revolution, Asia was the dominant power, far away from the twin Atlantic centers. Beijing’s flagship “One Belt, One Road” policy seeks to revive the ancient Silk Road trade route with huge investment from central Asia to Europe.

In January, China opened the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, seen as rivaling the World Bank or the Japan-led Asian Development Bank, seeking to expand its financial clout. Describing itself as “a bank conceived for the 21st century,” AIIB has attracted 57 members.

Source: Shanghai Daily, July 11, 2016
Midea wins majority control in Kuka
8th July 2016

 CHINESE appliance giant Midea has secured majority control in German industrial robotics supplier Kuka, it said yesterday.

Midea — best known for selling washing machines and air conditioners — offered 115 euros (US$127) per share for Kuka, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of industrial robots, in June.

It valued Kuka at 4.6 billion euros and was a near 60 percent premium to Kuka’s closing price before Midea announced it was increasing its stake in the German firm in February.

As of Wednesday, the offer had been accepted by holders of 43.74 percent of Kuka’s shares, the Chinese company said in a statement on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, where it is listed.

Adding the shares it already owns, it said it had “approximately 57.25 percent of the issued share capital and the existing voting rights of Kuka.”

Following public and official concerns in Germany that the takeover might lead to losses of technology and local jobs, Midea and Kuka unveiled an investor deal which includes a commitment to keep its existing headquarters, factories and jobs earlier this week.

China has pushed its companies to “go out” and invest in foreign targets to increase their technological capabilities and seek new markets as economic growth slows at home.

There is huge demand for robotics in China, where officials are trying to raise manufacturers’ productivity. Since 2013, China has bought more industrial robots each year than any other country, and it is expected to be the world’s biggest operator of industrial robots in 2018. Many Chinese robotics companies have tried to raise their competitiveness through overseas mergers and acquisitions.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called for foreign objectivity on overseas M&As by Chinese companies and “a reasonable and transparent business environment for them.”

“Such normal business behavior should be granted fair treatment,” said Hong Lei.

Source: Shanghai Daily, July 8, 2016
Yuan hits lowest in 5 1/2 years
7th July 2016

 THE yuan weakened to the lowest in five and a half years against the US dollar yesterday after the central bank eased the guidance rate amid global and domestic economic uncertainties.

The yuan closed at 6.69 per US dollar at 4:30pm after going above 6.70, the weakest since late 2010.

The spot rate fell from Tuesday’s 6.6695 after the People’s Bank of China yesterday lowered the central parity rate by 0.4 percent from Tuesday to 6.6857, the weakest since November 2010.

The yuan can trade within 2 percent on each side of the reference rate.

The weaker yuan was in line with the pound’s tumble to a 31-year low against the US dollar on fears of financial and economic instability from Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

The PBOC tolerates a greater decline of the yuan in line with the trend of US dollar strengthening as it wants to keep the yuan relatively stable against a basket of currencies, according to analysts, adding that the sluggish outlook of the Chinese economy is also weighing on the yuan’s exchange rate.

“Nearly all emerging market currencies have been weakening since Britain decided to leave the European Union, and the yuan cannot avoid the impact,” foreign exchange broker FXTM said in a note.

“Market sentiment for the yuan will continue to weaken in the second half as risk aversion prevails. The market is also worried that the close link between the Chinese and British governments will be hurt by the Brexit decision.”

Zhu Haibin, chief China economist of JPMorgan, said China’s economic growth may slow to 6.3 percent annually in the fourth quarter from 6.7 percent in the first quarter. The US investment bank maintained its forecast for the yuan’s exchange rate at 6.75 against the US dollar at year’s end.

Source: Shanghai Daily, July 7, 2016

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