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News from China
General Motors, with an eye on China, promises at least 20 all-electric vehicles by 2023
3rd October 2017

 Auto buyers have yet to show much love for electric cars.

 
Sales of the Tesla Model S and Model X have stalled at around 25,000 per quarter. The company has yet to prove it can make and sell the lower-priced Model 3 in large numbers, saying Monday that it had produced only 260 of the cars through Sept. 30. Chevrolet sells only a few thousand Bolt EVs a month, despite rave reviews. Electric cars total only about 1% of total passenger vehicles sold in the U.S.
 
Yet on Monday, auto giant General Motors announced it will begin selling two new all-electric vehicles in the next 18 months, and will have at least 20 new zero-emission electric vehicles in its lineup by 2023.
 
The announcement follows similar plans revealed by major automakers around the world.
 
Volkswagen Group, which last year was the world’s top automaker, has said it will offer 80 new electric vehicles by 2025, and will electrify its entire fleet by 2030.
 
Mercedes-Benz similarly promised to make all its cars available with electric drive trains by 2020, while Volvo and Jaguar have stated they will eventually stop building cars that run only on gasoline or diesel fuel.
 
“This latest event by GM regarding ‘all electric’ is further proof of a rapidly changing industry, whether the consumer wants it or not,” said Rebecca Lindland, analyst at Kelley Blue Book.
 
If the consumer doesn’t want it, at least not to date, who does?
 
China, India, France, the United Kingdom and California. All are reviewing plans to severely limit or ban regular gas and diesel engines between 2030 and 2040. Although details are scarce, automakers need to get ready.
 
This is especially true in China, which is both the world’s largest auto market and its fastest growing. General Motors now sells more of its cars in China than in the U.S.
 
“China is their biggest market,” said Michelle Krebs, analyst at Autotrader. “If China decides to go electric, they have to do it.”
 
China’s government last week announced that roughly 10% of passenger vehicles sold in 2019 will be zero-emission “new energy vehicles,” moving up to 12% by 2020 and growing year by year. One highly placed Chinese official said the country may ban traditional engines altogether at some point in the future.
 
The stakes for automakers were made clear, Krebs said, by a Detroit auto executive who recently told her: “If the Chinese can regulate procreation, they can regulate electrification.”
 
No one is expecting internal combustion engines to disappear anytime soon. In fact, many executives see hybrid cars and plug-in hybrids as a bridge that will move consumers toward all-electric cars.
 
“General Motors has drawn a line in the sand: Its future will be all electric,” Krebs said. But she said GM was a little coy about what the new vehicles will be and when they’ll start getting here.
 
“The automaker wisely gave no time frame for when its full line of product would be electric because, frankly, no one knows how the EV future will evolve,” Krebs said.
 
GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra made the announcement near Detroit at the company’s design center. The new cars, she said, are part of a sweeping plan to move toward an automotive world that includes “zero emissions, zero congestion and zero crashes.”
 
The two new cars will be based on technology derived from the company’s Bolt EV, the 238-mile-range electric sedan that Chevrolet introduced late last year.
 
They will be plug-in electric vehicles or hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles that have no internal combustion engines and do not burn gasoline or emit harmful vapors from their tailpipes.
 
“GM is committed to a zero-emission future,” said the company’s advanced-technology spokesperson, Kevin Kelly. “We said the Bolt EV would be a platform for electric vehicles going forward. Today we are showing the next chapter of that.”
 
The new vehicles could be more like SUVs or crossovers than standard passenger cars, Kelly said.
 
The company also said it is developing a new fuel-cell architecture that will allow twin electric motors, powered by compressed hydrogen, that could drive a heavy-duty truck, delivery vehicle or ambulance.
 
GM is basing the two new electric vehicles on Chevrolet Bolt underpinnings.
 
The company also pledged to start producing hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles for commercial or military use in 2020, and to convert its entire model lineup to zero emissions in the future.
 
The two new electric vehicles probably will be SUVs or maybe a sportier car designed to compete with Tesla's Model 3.
 
GM says most of the new vehicles will be based on a new electric architecture with a longer range than the Bolt's 238 miles.
 
The automaker made the announcements Monday at its technical center in the Detroit suburb of Warren. Executives offered few specifics on the new vehicles.
 
GM, with its Bolt and Volt plug-in hybrid, is pushing into an increasingly competitive space while facing an uncertain sales future.
 
Though Tesla says more than 350,000 people have put down $1,000 refundable deposits to get in line for the upcoming Model 3 sedan, sales of the Bolt EV have not met analysts’ expectations.
 
On Monday, the company said it had produced only 260 Model 3s from the start of production in late July through Sept. 30, far short of the 1,500 vehicles it had forecast. Tesla had planned to be churning out 20,000 Model 3s a month by December, and 500,000 a year by the end of 2018.
 
In a note to investors, Tesla blamed “production bottlenecks” but offered no details. “It is important to emphasize that there are no fundamental issues with the Model 3 production or supply chain,” the company said. “We understand what needs to be fixed and we are confident of addressing the manufacturing bottleneck issues in the near-term.”
 
Analysts were more concerned with slow sales of the Model S and Model X, which have remained in the low to mid-20,000s for the last four quarters.
Source: LA Times October 3, 2017
China sets 2019 deadline for green car sales targets
2nd October 2017

 CHINA has set a deadline of 2019 to impose tough new sales targets for electric plug-in and hybrid vehicles, slightly relaxing an earlier plan to launch the rules from next year that had left global automakers worried about being able to comply.

 
Carmakers will need new-energy vehicles to hit a threshold equivalent to 10 percent of annual sales by 2019, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a statement yesterday. That level would rise to 12 percent for 2020.
 
The targets remove an explicit 8 percent quota for 2018, but otherwise match previously announced plans.
 
The quotas are a key part of a drive by China, the world’s largest auto market, to develop its own NEV market, with a long-term aim to ban the production and sale of cars that use traditional fuels announced earlier this month.
 
However, global automotive manufacturers wrote to Chinese authorities in June, urging a softening of the proposals for all-electric battery vehicles and electric plug-in hybrids.
 
Under the rules, carmakers will receive credits for NEVs that can be transferred or traded. These credits will be used to calculate if firms have met the quotas.
 
German automaker Volkswagen, the market leader, acknowledged meeting the target so soon would not be easy. VW sold just a few hundred green cars among the 4 million vehicles it sold in China in 2016, but it plans to sell about 400,000 NEVs in the country by 2020 and 1.5 million by 2025.
 
Japan’s Honda Motor Co said it planned to launch an electric battery car in China next year and would “try to expand our line-up of new-energy vehicles” to meet the quotas.
 
China wants electric and plug-in hybrid cars to make up at least a fifth of the country’s auto sales by 2025.
Source: Shanghai Daily, October 2, 2017
Faster growth in profits due to lower costs as prices rise
28th September 2017

 CHINA’S major industrial companies posted faster profit growth in August as producer prices went up and production costs came down, the National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday.

 
Industrial companies reported profits totaling 671.97 billion yuan (US$101.31 billion) last month, up 24 percent year on year — a growth 7.5 percentage points faster than in July.
 
The bureau tracks companies with annual revenue of more than 20 million yuan. Among the 41 industries surveyed, 39 posted year-on-year profit growth during the first eight months.
 
China’s producer price index, which measures costs of goods at the factory gate, rose 6.3 percent year on year in August, 0.8 percentage points higher than in July.
 
The price rebound added some 127.3 billion yuan to August industrial profits, accounting for 31.2 percent of the total profit increase last month, said bureau statistician He Ping.
 
The trend was particularly evident in sectors such as the petroleum, steel and electronics industries.
 
He added that ongoing supply side reform had helped lower costs and debts for companies and accelerated turnover of products and capital.
 
January-August total profits rose 21.6 percent to 4.9 trillion yuan, nearly three times the pace in the same period of last year and faster than the 21.2 percent increase for the first seven months.
 
Profits at China’s state-owned enterprises were up 46.3 percent to 1.08 trillion yuan in the January-August period, compared with a 44.2 percent rise in the first seven months.
 
Private companies reported profits growing 14 percent to 1.63 trillion yuan in the first eight months, compared with 14.2 percent in the first seven months.
 
Last month, the oil and natural gas exploitation industry’s profits went up 4.94 billion yuan from a year ago, but in July they suffered a decrease of 1.03 billion yuan.
 
Meanwhile, for each 100 yuan of revenue, companies had to spend 85.44 yuan, a 0.64-yuan decrease from the same period last year, according to bureau figures.
 
He said that the leverage ratio of Chinese industrial firms was on the decline amid the government’s supply-side structural reform. By the end of August, their debt-asset ratio dropped 0.7 percentage points from a year ago to 55.7 percent.
 
The industrial sector, which accounts for about a third of China’s GDP, started to pick up last year after a bad 2015, helped by government efforts to cut overcapacity and a recovery of the property sector.
 
Major activity indicators, including industrial output, retail sales and trade, showed cooler growth in August.
 
The upbeat August profits data has added to evidence of resilience in the sector and steady improvement in the overall economy, Xinhua news agency said.
 
China’s value-added industrial output grew 6 percent year on year in August, previous data showed. On a monthly basis, industrial production edged up 0.46 percent in August compared to July.
 
CITIC Securities expects industrial profit growth to slow to between 8 to 12 percent in the next 6 to 12 months amid slower price increases. But stable economic expansion and low inventory will sustain profit growth at a relatively fast range, CITIC said.
 
That compares with the 8.5 percent full-year increase in 2016.
 
Economists expected China’s GDP to moderate in the second half from the first half’s 6.9 percent, but the whole year growth is expected to exceed the government’s target of 6.5 percent.
 
Asian Development Bank has projected economic growth for this year at 6.7 percent.
Source: Shanghai Daily, September 28, 2017
Regulators put the squeeze on market risk
27th September 2017

 The Chinese government’s efforts to reduce risk in the financial system appear to be slowly showing positive results.

 
The campaign to unwind risk began in mid-2016, mainly targeted at the interbank funding market and the shadow-banking sector.
 
The interbank market is the conduit of financing for banks and other financial institutions. This year, volumes have been contracting. In the first eight months of the year, interbank assets fell by 3.2 trillion yuan (US$480 billion) and liabilities slumped by 1.4 trillion yuan.
 
Joint-stock banks showed the steepest decline, with interbank assets diving 45 percent, according to the China Banking Regulatory Commission.
 
The regulator said that the declines mean more money is being channeled into the “real” economy instead of idling in the financial sector.
 
The deleveraging has taken its toll on the net interest margins of smaller and mid-sized lenders that have relied on borrowing from the interbank market. Their margins fell sharply in the first half, while the nation’s largest banks improved their margins. That divergence is expected to continue through the second half, Noel Chan, a banking analyst at UBS Securities, told Shanghai Daily.
 
“We look at the deleveraging as akin to a mild forest fire, allowing the stronger trees to grow taller out of the ashes of the weaker trees and bushes,” Nomura noted in its recent Asia special report.
 
Amid the structural shift from interbank assets to traditional credit assets, Nicole Zhou, a partner at McKinsey & Co, said that banks “should always strengthen their core while growing fee income.”
 
The shadow-banking sector, which functions largely outside the banking regulatory system, is a tougher nut to crack when it comes to reducing financial risk.
 
That sector operates wealth management products, “underground” financing and off-balance-sheet lending. Its size in the six years to 2016 surged from 19.4 trillion yuan to 122.8 trillion yuan, according to a recent report by Nomura.
 
That rampant growth triggered alarm bells in a government afraid that a collapse in any sector of the financial system could undermine the whole economy.
 
Attempts to bring more order to the sector have been paying off. Wealth management products, a major driver behind the boom in shadow banking, lost ground for seven straight months, registering a 27 percent decrease year-on-year.
 
At the end of 2016, China’s asset management industry was valued at more than 60 trillion yuan, according to the People’s Bank of China.
 
The value of interbank wealth management products has been reduced by 22 trillion yuan this year. City and rural commercial banks that relied heavily on interbank financing in recent years suffered slumps of 40-90 percent.
 
Entrusted loans, another type of the informal lending, recorded a year-on-year reduction of 151.4 billion yuan in August. However, trust loans recorded a rise of 40.7 billion yuan, while undiscounted bankers’ acceptances reported a gain of 61.8 billion yuan over the same period last year.
 
The government’s crackdown on riskier shadow banking has led companies to resort to traditional banks for funding. Chinese commercial lenders extended 1.15 trillion yuan in corporate loans in August, up almost 350 billion yuan from the prior year, China’s central bank said recently.
 
Government attempts to implement controls always come with loopholes. Financial regulators are seeking to close them.
 
The National Financial Stability and Development Committee was set up in July to shore up weak links in supervision and strengthen coordination among the various regulators.
 
The central bank is now including asset management business in its prudential oversight. As of September 1, financial institutions have been banned from issuing negotiable certificates of deposit, a popular interbank debt instrument, with tenures exceeding one year.
 
The banking regulator has rolled out a series of policies to tighten financial regulations implemented earlier this year. For example, banks have been asked to monitor their interbank liabilities so that they don’t exceed a ceiling of one-third of total liabilities.
 
The government curbs aim to force the banks to adjust their balance sheets and profit models, Li Yamin, a banking analyst at Pingan Securities, said in an interview with Shanghai Daily.
 
“The adjustment is far from completed,” Li said. “It will carry on through the second half. It might take another year for some unlisted lenders to make the adjustments.”
 
UBS Securities’ Chan said the current crackdown is mainly focused on listed banks, but the firm’s research points to even more serious problems in the unlisted realm.
 
“It will take the decision-makers a long time to deal with the shadow banking activities, which weren’t built in a day,” he said. “In a sense, the deleveraging process has just begun.”
 
Sophie Jiang, head of Hong Kong and Chinese m bank research at Nomura, said banks with sizable exposures to leveraged financial assets — both on and off balance sheets — are yet to undergo fundamental changes.
 
“We believe that China will proceed with its efforts on financial deleveraging,” Li Jing, manager director of JP Morgan said in a recent Shanghai media briefing. “It is quite likely that the authorities will take a progressive and measured approach to avoid potential adverse impact on economic growth and financial stability.”
Source: Shanghai Daily, September 27, 2017

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