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News from China
AI, robotic firms likely to find funding in China
18th July 2016

 STARTUPS looking for funding to develop next-generation technology like artificial intelligence and robotics are increasingly likely to find it in China.

Companies working on equipment to deliver parcels to the moon, robots to stock warehouse shelves, and computers capable of acquiring knowledge like a human are among more than 30 startups seeded by Comet Labs since its founding last year.

The venture capital firm, created by Chinese investment fund Legend Star, gave the media an introduction to its work this week. It provided only the briefest of glimpses into its investment portfolio, without disclosing further details on the seed companies, but it was enough to make clear the cutting-edge nature of their technology.

Legend Star is owned by Hong Kong-listed Legend Holdings, which is also the parent company of Chinese PC maker Lenovo. Comet Labs not only provides funding for startups, but also helps find them clients.

Comet Labs’ Managing Director Saman Farid said the startups it has backed have managed to secure a combined US$40 million in follow-up funding rounds that have also drawn investors including Google Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and Y Combinator.

“The world has been carried forward by waves of technology, from digitization to the Internet, then mobile Internet and we believe the next wave will be artificial intelligence,” said Farid.

Until recently, China had mostly been on the receiving end of venture capital from around the world as many of the country’s top Internet firms, from Alibaba and Tencent to Uber competitor Didi and smartphone maker Xiaomi, received backing from overseas.

But the outbound investment made by Chinese firms like Comet Labs could signal a reverse in the flow of capital, as investors in China look out for entrepreneurs tinkering with what could eventually evolve into technology that redefines industries.

Earlier this month, Zhongguancun Development Group, a state-backed investment firm based in Beijing’s tech hub Zhongguancun, also set up a fund to raise 10 to 20 million yuan (about US$1.5 to 3 million) to incubate startups focused on smart manufacturing in Germany.

In June, a group of Chinese investors, including Baidu, CICC Alpha, China Everbright and IDG also participated in the US$60 million financing round for US online cross-border payment startup Circle, which uses the block chain technology that many in the financial industry say has the potential to bring sweeping changes to the financial world.

This investment comes at a time when China’s vast manufacturing sector is wobbling. Industrial production growth has been slowing consistently, sinking to 6 percent for the first half of 2016, compared with double-digit rates couples of years ago.

Source: Shanghai Daily, July 18, 2016
SOEs post better profit performance
15th July 2016

 CHINESE centrally administered state-owned enterprises reported better financial performances in the first half of 2016 as the market-oriented reform measures began to take effect, said the country’s SOE regulator yesterday.

The total profit of China’s 106 centrally administered SOEs stood at 623.47 billion yuan (US$93.3 billion) in the first six months, down 3 percent year on year, but the fall narrowed by 2.4 percentage points compared with the first six months of last year, according to the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.

Thirty-eight SOEs reported an increase of over 10 percent in revenue while 16 saw their income grow more than 30 percent.

SOEs in the coal, electricity, water and air transport sectors saw their output and sales rise steadily.

Six SOEs saw a turnaround in their financial performance from suffering losses in the first quarter of the year to making profits in the second, according to the SASAC.

It attributed the improvement to the market-oriented SOE reforms. China plans to merge the centrally administered SOEs to bring their total number within 100 this year.

Source: Shanghai Daily, July 15, 2016
Top office rents lose steam in Q2
14th July 2016

 SHANGHAI’S Grade A office rents climbed more slowly on both sides of the Huangpu River in the second quarter of this year, and the city is set to see vacancy rates rise amid an abundance of new supply in the second half, major global property consultants said in their latest reports.

Grade A office rents edged up 0.6 percent from the first quarter to 9.90 yuan (US$1.48) per square meter per day in Puxi between April and June, the slowest pace recorded in the past six quarters, according to JLL’s quarterly market report.

Rents in Pudong rose 1.1 percent quarter on quarter to 11.40 yuan per square meter per day during the same period, also slowing from the 1.7 percent growth in the first three months of 2016.

“While domestic finance companies and multinational retailers continued to be active in the CBD areas, strong rental growth over the past year has led some tenants to consider less expensive options in decentralized markets,” said Eddie Ng, managing director for JLL East China. “This process is creating opportunities for landlords in sub-markets near the CBD such as the railway station and the North Bund areas.”

Nearly 600,000 square meters of new supply are set for Shanghai’s core office market over six months through December.

“As a consequence of the new supply, vacancy rates in all areas of the city are expected to increase, although the rise is Puxi will be greater than in Pudong,” said Chester Zhang, associate director at Savills China Research.

Source: Shanghai Daily, July 14, 2016
China’s FDI jumps 9.7% in June
13th July 2016

 CHINA’S foreign direct investment jumped 9.7 percent in June from a year earlier, official data showed yesterday, recovering from a 1 percent drop in May and hitting a 10-month high.

The total of FDI received by China last month was 98.2 billion yuan, or US$15.2 billion, the Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on its website.

In the first half of 2016, FDI rose 5.1 percent from the same period a year earlier to 441.76 billion yuan, or US$69.42 billion, according to the statement.

The ministry has started releasing yuan-denominated FDI since early 2015, along with equivalent dollar figures based on its own conversion.

Foreign investment in the services sector rose 8 percent in the January-June period to 310.8 billion yuan, or US$48.9 billion, accounting for 70.4 percent of all FDI, said the ministry, with investment in high-tech services soaring 99.7 percent from a year earlier.

Investment in the manufacturing sector fell 2.8 percent in the first half from a year earlier to 124.9 billion yuan, or US$19.5 billion, making up for 28.3 percent of total FDI.

The ministry did not give numbers for FDI by specific countries and did not rank the biggest suppliers, though it said the United States, Britain and Germany were among the top-10 sources.

Source: Shanghai Daily, July 13, 2016

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