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News from China
Chinese firm gets more time to sell stake
22nd June 2016

 AUSTRALIA has granted a three-year extension for a Chinese company to reduce its 80 percent stake in Australian cotton farm Cubbie Station after it indicated it could not meet the October 2015 deadline.

Australia approved the sale of Cubbie Station to a consortium comprising Shandong Ruyi Scientific & Technological Group Co — 80 percent — and local company Lempriere — 20 percent — on the provision that the textile manufacturer would reduce its holdings to 51 percent within three years.

Though foreign ownership of Australian farmland is a sensitive political issue, heightened in the current general election, Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison granted the extension as a reflection of the “genuine undertakings” Shandong Ruyi had made to reduce its interest.

“It also recognizes the fact Ruyi has met the other undertakings placed on it through the FIRB approval process,” Morrison said yesterday.

Australian agriculture lobby groups however are concerned about the inconsistent messages coming from Australian authorities over foreign investment into farmland after a Chinese consortium was prohibited from purchasing arid cattle producer S. Kidman & Co, Australia’s largest land holding.

“The industry’s quite happy to have a firm ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but they need to know before they go into the due diligence or analysis or the proposal of a purchase as to what the rules are,” Agribusiness Australia spokesman Tim Burrows told Australia’s National Broadcaster.

“We can’t have a situation where the rules change many months after the investor’s started looking at the project or the proposal.”

Australia in February changed its regulatory framework for foreign investor purchases into agriculture, slashing the threshold for Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board approval to A$15 million (US$11.2 million).

Source: Shanghai Daily, June 22, 2016
Tighter scrutiny may slow China’s appetite for overseas acquisitions
21st June 2016

 IN less than six months of 2016, China’s appetite for overseas acquisitions has outpaced last year’s record, as mainland buyers chase global assets such as real estate, chemicals and high-end technology.

China National Chemical Corp’s US$43 billion bid for Swiss agrichemicals maker Syngenta makes up almost 40 percent of this year’s US$111.6 billion total, but even without that deal the pace has quickened.

Bankers and lawyers say there could, however, be some slowdown in the second half, as mainland buyers face heightened scrutiny at home and abroad.

China International Capital Corp, the country’s biggest investment bank, expects outbound deals to hit US$150 billion this year.

Chinese acquirers announced US$111.5 billion worth of deals in 2015 from 632 transactions, according to Thomson Reuters data. Completed deals, on which banks are paid fees, last year stood at US$73 billion, compared with US$45.6 billion so far this year.

Some recent Chinese technology deals have met with opposition, however, which could turn some buyers cautious. Midea Group Co’s efforts to buy out German industrial robot maker Kuka provoked political concerns in Germany, and the company has had to offer numerous guarantees on preserving local sites and jobs.

“We expect outbound M&A activities will continue to rise, but not at the nose-bleeding rate of the first quarter of 2016,” said David Wu, head of corporate finance for China at ING Bank.

China’s desire to temper the outflow of its foreign reserves, which dropped more than half a trillion dollars last year, could also curb deals.

Lawyers say the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, the custodian of the country’s US$3.19 trillion reserves, is anxious that the deal outflows could weigh on the yuan.

“SAFE canceled the formal approval process for outbound transactions some time ago, but they are monitoring flows going out quite carefully, given the recent surge in money leaving the country,” said Andrew McGinty, a partner at Shanghai-based partner at law firm Hogan Lovells International.

Uncertainty surrounding the outcome of this week’s referendum in Britain over its membership of the European Union and the upcoming US presidential elections in November are also factors likely to slow Chinese overseas purchases, bankers say.

After many years of focusing on the booming domestic economy, Chinese firms are increasingly looking to diversify their revenues as growth at home slipped to a 25-year low.

Other big purchases announced by China Inc this year include HNA Group’s US$6.3 billion acquisition of Ingram Micro Inc and Haier Group’s US$5.4 billion bid for General Electric Co’s appliances unit.

“Whether it be from the private sector, government or even middle market firms, this expansion is strategic and long-term focused,” said John Kim, head of M&A, Asia ex-Japan at Goldman Sachs.

“The appetite is particularly voracious for technology, media, health care and financial services, and for the foreseeable future it won’t be going away,” he added.

Source: Shanghai Daily, June 21, 2016
Home price rise moderates in May
20th June 2016

 CHINA’S property sector continued to recover but at a slower pace in May, with fewer cities reporting month-on-month rises in new home prices, an official survey has showed.

Of 70 large and medium-sized cities surveyed last month, new home prices climbed month on month in 60 of them, down from 65 in April, the National Bureau of Statistics said.

Meanwhile, four cities reported month-on-month price declines, down from five in April, according to the bureau data.

For pre-owned homes, 49 cities said prices rose month on month in May and 13 posted lower prices, compared with 51 and 10 in April.

Overall, the home price growth has slowed, with the average month-on-month increase for new homes narrowing 0.3 percentage points and that for existing homes contracting 0.4 percentage points, said Liu Jianwei, the bureau’s senior statistician.

Both top-tier cities and smaller cities saw milder month-on-month growth in May than in April, but the year-on-year data remained upbeat, Liu said.

On an annual basis, 50 cities posted new home price gains and 18 reported falls in May, compared with 46 and 23 in April.

New home prices soared 54 percent year on year in Shenzhen, the sharpest increase last month among all the major cities.

Prices in the top-tier cities of Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou rose 33.8 percent, 21.4 percent, and 19 percent year on year, respectively.

The northeastern city of Jinzhou saw the steepest price drop of 3.2 percent over a year earlier.

While top-tier cities posted slower year-on-year price increases, second and third-tier cities saw average growth accelerate from April, Liu said.

China’s housing market started to recover in the second half of 2015 after cooling for more than a year, boosted by government support, which included interest rate cuts and lower deposit requirements.

But the sector’s recovery has been uneven from city to city, with economically strong areas reporting sharp price rises, and less developed areas still seeing huge stocks of unsold houses.

The contrasting picture has prompted local authorities to take different approaches: Shenzhen and Shanghai have tightened policies to curb speculative buying, while third and fourth-tier cities are eying new ways to spur sales.

Source: Shanghai Daily, June 20, 2016
Ctrip posts US$240m loss in Q1 on Qunar buy
17th June 2016

 CTRIP.COM Inc posted a net loss of 1.58 billion yuan (US$240 million) in the first quarter after acquiring loss-making Qunar, the country’s No. 1 online travel agency said yesterday.

The travel platform’s net loss of 1.58 billion yuan in the January-March period beat analysts’ expectations of a 3.62 billion yuan loss. Ctrip’s revenue surged 80 percent from the same quarter a year ago to 4.18 billion yuan.

Ctrip’s loss was due to a one-off compensation payment to former senior executives of Qunar after Ctrip acquired the Baidu-invested firm in a share swap with Baidu in October.

Excluding share-based compensation charges, Ctrip’s net profit was actually 257 million yuan, compared with 33 million yuan a year ago.

Nasdaq-listed Ctrip is expected to post a net profit of above 100 million yuan in the second quarter, the firm said during a phone conference yesterday.

In the first quarter, Ctrip boosted revenue from hotel accommodation by 70 percent year on year to 1.6 billion yuan. Revenue from transport ticketing surged 106 percent to 1.9 billion yuan.

Source: Shanghai Daily, June 17, 2016

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