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News from China
Global wine output to fall to lowest level since 1961
25th October 2017

 GLOBAL wine production this year is set to fall to its lowest level since 1961 after harsh weather in western Europe damaged vineyards in the world’s largest production area, international wine body OIV said yesterday.

Global output is expected to fall to 246.7 million hectoliters in 2017, down 8 percent from last year, the Paris-based International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) said in its first estimates for the year.
A hectoliter represents 100 liters, or the equivalent of just over 133 standard 75 cl wine bottles.
The global decline reflects a plunge in output in the European Union, where the world’s top three producers — Italy, France and Spain — are each projected to see a sharp drop.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive, sees the bloc’s wine grape harvest will shrink to a 36-year low in 2017 as adverse weather from spring frosts and summer heatwaves takes its toll.
In France, the weather has affected most of the main growing regions including Bordeaux and Champagne, and the government has projected production will sink to its lowest in decades.
The OIV’s projections, which exclude juice and must (new wine), put Italian wine production down 23 percent at 39.3 million hectoliters, French output down 19 percent at 36.7 million and Spanish production down 15 percent at 33.5 million.
Reduced global production may erode a surplus over demand seen in recent years, when consumption was curbed by the effects of a world financial crisis in 2008.
The OIV said it was initially assuming a consumption range of 240.5 to 245.8 million hectoliters based on medium and longer-term trends, but did not yet have firm demand data for 2017.
However, the impact of reduced production on actual market supply and prices depends on levels of stocks from previous years and the quality of wine in landmark regions.
In France, the world’s leading exporter by value, producers have pointed to the prospect of good quality wine.
Outside Europe, the United States, the world’s fourth-largest producer and the biggest consumer, was expected to see output remain little changed at 23.3 million hectolitres, down 1 percent, the OIV said.
Production in Australia was set to rise 6 percent to 13.9 million hectoliters while Argentina was seen to post a 25 percent jump to 11.8 million after a weather-hit 2016, the OIV said.
Source: Shanghai Daily, October 25, 2017
Chinese recyclers see looming waste piles of e-vehicle batteries
24th October 2017

 AFTER years of dismantling discarded televisions and laptops, a Shanghai recycling plant is readying itself for a new wave of waste: piles of exhausted batteries from the surge of electric vehicles hitting China’s streets.

The plant has secured licences and is undergoing upgrades to handle a fast-growing mountain of battery waste, said Li Yingzhe, a manager at the facility, run by the state-owned Shanghai Jinqiao Group.
“We believe there will be so much growth in the number of electric vehicles in the future,” he said.
Shanghai Jinqiao will be entering a market that includes Chinese companies like Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium and GEM Co Ltd, whose share prices have risen as they invest in battery recycling facilities of their own. That confidence comes even as companies face considerable hurdles launching battery recycling businesses, including high operating costs.
The growth of China’s electric vehicle industry — and the ambitions of recycling companies — is underpinned by a government drive to eventually phase out gasoline-burning cars, part of a broader effort to improve urban air quality and ease a reliance on overseas oil.
Led by companies like BYD and Geely, sales of electric vehicles in China reached 507,000 in 2016, up 53 percent over the previous year. The government is targeting sales of 2 million a year by 2020 and 7 million five years later, amounting to a fifth of total car production by 2025.
According to the International Energy Agency, China accounted for above 40 percent of global electric car sales in 2016, followed by the European Union and the United States. It also overtook the United States as the market with the greatest number of electric vehicles.
Production in China of the lithium batteries that power those cars has also soared. In the first eight months of 2017, Chinese manufacturers produced 6.7 billion batteries, up 51 percent from the year-earlier period, according to industry ministry data.
All that activity could put China in pole position for dominating the global electric car industry, as well as related businesses like batteries and recycling.
China began promoting electric vehicles in 2009, and as the first of those cars reach the end of their lifespan, lithium battery waste could be as much as 170,000 tons next year, industry experts estimate. The figure is likely to keep multiplying in tandem with car sales.
Dealing with all that waste poses huge problems for China. Lithium batteries are not yet classified as hazardous waste and are therefore not subject to stringent disposal controls. Battery waste includes heavy metals like cobalt and nickel, as well as toxic residues that could end up in waterways and the soil if not handled properly.
Despite the challenges, battery waste also represents a significant opportunity for the country’s growing recycling industry.
The China Automobile Innovation Centre, an industry think tank, estimates the recycling market could be worth 31 billion yuan (US$4.68 billion) by 2023.
Wang Chuanfu, president of BYD Co Ltd, China’s leading electric carmaker, last month described the lithium, copper and cobalt extracted from spent batteries as “treasures.”
Larger companies with high-tech recycling operations are already reaping the benefits, including Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium , Sinolink Securities, a local brokerage, said in a note to investors. The company’s share price has surged more than 200 percent this year.
Sinolink also cited GEM , a self-proclaimed “urban miner” that runs China’s largest automated battery dismantling facility in Shenzhen. GEM’s shares have risen more than 60 percent since January.
Still, the industry faces numerous obstacles.
Recycling lithium batteries can be prohibitively expensive for many companies. And the industry has yet to agree on the standardisation necessary to handle spent batteries more profitably and in big numbers.
Some executives also say China is not doing enough to encourage the industry with subsidies and enforce existing environmental regulations.
“Speeding up the recycling of lithium batteries is a matter of urgency, and has become a major issue for the development of the new energy vehicle industry,” Zhang Tianren, chairman of battery maker Tianneng Power, wrote in a proposal submitted to China’s parliament in March.
The commercial viability of the sector has been undermined by soaring waste treatment costs, as well as high taxes, Zhang said.
In his paper, Zhang cited one recycling company as saying that the value of materials extracted from one ton of lithium-iron-phospate battery waste stood at 8,110 yuan, but the cost of recycling them would be 8,540 yuan.
Automating the recycling process in China was another major challenge due to a lack of standardized product designs, said Zhang.
Automation was also being held back by poor equipment and technology, especially among smaller producers, Xiao Hai, chief engineer with the Shenzhen-based Clou Electronics, a company that develops new energy products, said at an energy conference in August.
The government, meanwhile, is trying to transform the country’s recycling system into a high-tech regulated industry.
Large-scale battery makers are being pressed to establish their own recycling facilities, and polluting backyard recyclers have been forced to close.
China’s industry ministry last year urged the sector to introduce standardized designs and raise technology to “international” levels by 2020. It plans to publish comprehensive new battery recycling rules before the end of the year.
Battery companies have for the moment been bearing much of the cost of recycling. While carmakers are technically liable for recycling batteries, in practice they sign deals with suppliers to recycle batteries on their behalf.
Green Cheng, chief executive of Shenzhen Cham Battery Technology Co Ltd, said that recycling was a strain on the resources of battery makers.
Shenzhen Cham churns out 300,000 lithium batteries a day at its factory in Dongguan, in southern China, and lists Geely , the automaker, among its partners. The company has to pay a recycling firm to dispose of batteries.
“If manufacturers like us are going to be responsible, then the government definitely needs to provide funds to support us,” he said.
Source: Shanghai Daily, October 24, 2017
Chinese banks enjoy net US$300m in forex buying
20th October 2017

 CHINESE banks saw a net foreign exchange purchase of US$300 million in September, the first settlement surplus in more than two years as cross-border capital flows stabilized, official data showed yesterday.

Chinese lenders bought US$156 billion worth of foreign currency last month and sold US$155.7 billion, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange elaborated in a statement.
The data broke a deficit sequence that had been running for over two years.
In the first three quarters, Chinese banks bought US$1.2 trillion worth of foreign currency and sold US$1.31 trillion, resulting in a net sales of US$112.9 billion.
The amount marked a 54-percent drop from the deficit seen in the same period last year, and showed that supply and demand in the forex market was “basically” balanced, the SAFE said.
Businesses and individuals have become less willing to hold foreign currency, the regulator said.
Given China’s sound economic fundamentals, wider openness and more stable market expectations, cross-border capital flows will continue to be balanced and stable, the SAFE predicted.
Regarding the possible effect of US balance sheet reduction, the regulator said the move will not cause fundamental changes to cross-border capital flows.
There had been concerns over capital flowing out of the Chinese market in the second half of 2016, when the economy was facing downward pressure and the yuan was in the middle of a losing streak against the US dollar.
In January, China’s forex reserves had plunged below US$3 trillion, but as the economy stands on a firmer footing and the yuan continues to stabilize, the stockpile has increased steadily since February.
China’s forex reserves rose for the eighth month in a row in September to US3.1085 trillion, its highest level since October of 2016.
Official data yesterday showed China’s economy continued steady expansion in the first three quarters of this year, with growth at 6.9 percent year on year, well above the government’s annual target of 6.5 percent.
Source: Shanghai Daily, October 20, 2017
Never be a better time in China for innovation
19th October 2017

 SPD Silicon Valley Bank (SSVB) is a joint venture between Shanghai Pudong Development Bank and US-based Silicon Valley Bank that serves the technology and innovation start-ups in China.

David A. Jones, President of Silicon Valley Bank Asia and SSVB, the first Sino-US joint banking venture, moved to Shanghai in 2013 to guide the bank in its dealings with innovation companies of all sizes as well as help build the innovation ecosystem in China.
Here, in an exclusive interview with Shanghai Daily, Jones spells out the bank’s unique vision and what exactly makes an innovation company.
Q: SSVB aims to create an innovation ecosystem. Could you please elaborate on this?
A: We usually bring CEOs with similar issues together in a start-ups community, where the “big brothers” are delighted to share their experience and expertise with the younger entrepreneurs so that they can avoid making mistakes. I was once an entrepreneur and I know what failure tastes like.
CEOs with similar issues do not have to come from the same industry. CEOs of the start-ups need advice and they should be able to balance out different ideas.
You see, our so-called “innovation ecosystem” is much more like a “solutions pool” actually. In this ecosystem, people are really very giving and beneficiaries have great appreciation for such kind of sharing.
Q: Based on your experience, what kind of help and resources do the innovation companies need most?
A: Capital is the least thing they need, which does not mean capital is not important. At SSVB, we bring different pieces together and introduce the target venture capital, private equities or other professionals to those companies. That is what we are trying to do here in China.
Our ability goes beyond lending loans to them. We put the right information in front of the right people and build up the thought leadership. By leveraging our own network in the innovation ecosystem, we make endeavors to help start-ups grow and increase their probability of success.
Q: And how does SSVB evaluate the potential of those enterprises?
A: Profitability is not the only indicator. Many of our clients are very young pre-profit companies in their early stages. We would like to wait some time before they begin to make profit. This is our “defining moments” for those companies.
We have patience with disruptive innovation companies like Twitter. But this process depends on the type of the company and its industry.
We attach great importance to the “value creation variables” of the innovation enterprises. For example, the number of sales and re-sales is a key variable or metric for the e-commerce start-ups. Companies have to be the first mover and stick to their core business and keep on re-innovating.
Q: SSVB strives to become the most sought-after bank for innovators, enterprises and investors. What kind of strategies you have undertaken to meet this target and what has been the experience so far?
A: Unlike other foreign investors or foreign bases of other banks who mainly serve foreign companies, our target is Chinese innovation enterprises and they comprise 99 percent of our clients. So we have to become familiar with local investors, local incubators, local people and service providers for those companies.
We are the only bank that focuses on innovation. And there is no end to innovation.
We do a lot of face-to-face communication with entrepreneurs. And it takes time to differentiate.
Q: How do you translate your overseas experience in China? What kinds of difficulties have you met?
A: I would not use the word “problem.” I would say we had several things to deal with. We waited three years to get the yuan license and (since then) our business has grown well in the past couple of years.
You see, we are building an expanding local team. In our business model, we need a little bit understanding of the Silicon Valley, and we need a lot of understanding of the way local people think and do. That is why we are planning to hire almost 90 percent of our employees locally.
In my vision, there is no need for the staff to take time doing translations to report to me. And our business agreements here are all in Chinese, as our local clients can understand the implications better in Mandarin than English.
In the US, people would feel comfortable if there is empty space on the official website of a company. But here in China, empty space gives the impression of “lack of products to sell.” Therefore, we make relevant changes to our website accordingly.
As I am here, and we intend to be here forever, I have to be more like the Chinese. You have to adapt. As we know, some American giants which enjoyed huge success in America, do not reap the same in China. So we have to adapt and we have succeeded here by doing business in a more Chinese way.
Q: Could you please walk me through the typical process once a start-up approaches you?
A: When I meet the CEOs of the start-ups, all I try to figure out is whether their companies are innovative or old economies. We will hear their description of their business models, and then make a judgment of whether it meets our criteria for innovation or not.
Before lending to them, I will talk about their latest investment, ask them how much money they have raised and what kinds of issues they have met.
We only focus on the innovative companies and we do not bet on any other industries.
However, we do meet people who are not really entrepreneurs all the time. Here I would like to share one example with you. Recently, I spent a nice morning with a company which makes electric motors. I asked its CEO to take me on a tour around its facilities. When I learned that they had modified their motors for 25 years, I realized that this company could not be called an innovative company by any means. There is no such thing as 25 years of innovation.
The great thing in China now is that it has many, many innovations and the bad thing is that not all of those on the list of innovative companies are real innovators.
Q: Would you mind sharing with us one of the most successful client cases at SSVB?
A: Sure., a Shanghai-headquartered steel e-commerce company set up in 2012, has become the largest steel retailer in China with its one-stop supply chain service. Our collaboration with this company began five years ago, when it was just a start-up with a team of 30 or 40 people. We felt a strong sense of commitment from their staff to innovating the business model of the steel industry and we are proud to be the first partner to provide the company offshore banking service.
Q: What is your evaluation of the current business and funding environment for the entrepreneurs? Any predictions for 2018?
A: In my vision, there could never be a better time in China for innovations. I learned from a recent report that there has been a total of US$10.8 billion equivalent investment on Chinese innovative companies during the first half of 2017.
And I am a firm believer that this trend will carry on throughout in 2018 as the government has rolled out a slew of preferential policies to boost the innovative economy.
Source: Shanghai Daily, October 19, 2017

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