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News from China
Chinese listed firms post strong net profits in H1
24th August 2017

 OVER 70 percent of Chinese listed companies reported strong profits for the first half of the year.

 
As of Monday, 1,004 Chinese listed companies had disclosed their first-half reports with total net profit up 21.2 percent year on year to 297.1 billion yuan (US$44.6 billion), according to data compiled by Wind, a leading information service provider.
 
About 74 percent of the companies registered year-on-year net profit growth in the first half of the year.
 
A total of 223 companies witnessed a year-on-year profit surge of over 100 percent in the first half, and 233 companies reported year-on-year profit growth of between 30 and 100 percent.
 
Most companies in both traditional sectors such as coal and steel, as well as a number of newly emerging industries posted strong growth on the back of the country’s economic restructuring and business environment improvement.
 
Shanxi Xishan Coal and Electricity saw net profit growth of 739 percent in the first half due to rising coal prices and expanded output.
 
Nanjing Iron & Steel’s net profit surged 730 percent, as China continues to slash excess steel capacity and product price increases.
 
“The profit growth of coal, steel-related listed companies is the result of deeper supply-side structural reform, which improves the business environment and productivity,” said Gui Haoming, chief analyst of Shenwan Hongyuan.
 
China’s manufacturing sector in June stayed above the boom-bust mark for the 11th consecutive month, with traditional sectors like oil refining and metal smelting witnessing robust growth, suggesting improved supply-demand structure, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
 
“China’s manufacturing sector and the broader economy are likely to continue steady growth on the back of favorable macroeconomic conditions and rebounding market demand,” Gui said.
 
China is seeking to transition from an economy reliant on investment and exports of low-value-added goods to an innovation and service-driven one, and the first-half reports showed new growth engines were picking up momentum.
 
The tech-heavy small and medium-sized enterprises board witnessed net profit growth in the first six months, with new energy vehicle-related shares doing particularly well.
 
Anhui Zotye Automobile, a new energy vehicle manufacturer, saw net profit soar 494 percent year on year in the first half due to government efforts to boost green energy.
 
Companies in smart manufacturing and emerging sectors such as next-generation IT technology also saw strong profit growth.
 
China’s economy expanded 6.9 percent in the first half of 2017, with consumption, services and innovation-driven sectors taking up larger roles in the economy.
 
The statistics bureau’s data showed that hi-tech and equipment manufacturing sectors rose by 13.1 percent and 11.5 percent in the first half respectively.
 
While acknowledging the profit growth of listed companies, analysts called for more focus on hidden risks to ensure the long-term sustainable growth of listed companies.
 
“The slightly tightened market liquidity and tougher supervision to ward off financial risk will weigh on the performance of many listed companies in the future,” said a Haitong Securities report.
Source: Shanghai Daily, August 24, 2017
China Mobile offers new data packages
23rd August 2017

 CHINA Mobile will offer more data and favorable price packages to 20 million users in Shanghai from Friday as it aims to compete with its two rival state-owned carriers.

 
China Mobile’s users in Shanghai will be able to enjoy upgraded packages of 50 yuan (US$7.35) for 4 gigabytes of data on average, four times more than the previous package. An entry-level 4G package will cost 30 yuan under the new policy, down from 50 yuan for the previous package, Shanghai Mobile said.
 
The telco aims to offer users flexible choice and more value-added services like free data for video services and low-cost broadband services. For example, Shanghai Mobile users can enjoy free 30 GB data for one of the video streaming services from iQiyi, Tencent and its own Migu services.
 
China Telecom will unveil new marketing campaigns for its broadband services in Shanghai on Friday.
 
China Unicom is raising 78 billion yuan from Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent.
 
Source: Shanghai Daily, August 23,2017
China’s Great Wall Auto interested to make offer for Fiat Chrysler
22nd August 2017

 CHINA’S Great Wall Motor Co is interested in bidding for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, a company official said yesterday, confirming reports it is pursuing all or part of the owner of the Jeep and Ram truck brands.

 
There has been speculation over Chinese interest in FCA since Automotive News reported last week that an unidentified “well-known Chinese automaker” made an offer earlier this month, triggering a jump in FCA’s Milan-listed shares.
 
“With respect to this case, we currently have an intention to acquire. We are interested in (FCA),” an official at Great Wall Motor’s press relations department said by phone. He declined to give his name and gave no further details.
 
FCA Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne is seeking a partner or buyer for the world's seventh-largest automaker to help it manage rising costs, comply with emissions regulations and develop technology for electric and self-driving cars.
 
In a statement, Fiat Chrysler said it had not been approached by Great Wall Motor, and was busy with implementing its current five-year business plan.
 
A move for FCA by Great Wall Motor, China’s largest sport-utility vehicle and pick-up manufacturer, would be audacious, however.
 
At a time when China’s attitude to outbound deals has cooled, if Great Wall bought FCA, which has a market value of almost US$20 billion, it would be by far China’s largest overseas automotive industry deal — and possibly one of its largest ever overseas purchases — dwarfing Geely’s acquisition of Volvo cars in 2010.
 
FCA is also larger than Great Wall, which has a market value of closer to US$16 billion.
 
Earlier yesterday, two people familiar with the matter said Great Wall Motor had asked for a meeting with FCA, with the aim of making an offer for all or part of the group. Also yesterday, citing an e-mail from Great Wall Motor President Wang Fengying, Automotive News reported Great Wall had contacted FCA to express interest specifically in the Jeep brand.
 
The industry publication cited a Great Wall spokesman confirming interest, but saying the Chinese automaker had not made a formal offer or met with FCA’s board.
 
“Our strategic goal is to become the world’s largest SUV maker,” Automotive News quoted the spokesman as saying. “Acquiring Jeep, a global SUV brand, would enable us to achieve our goal sooner and better (than on our own).”
 
“Jeep is the most logical choice since (Great Wall) wants to be the largest SUV maker in the world,” said Yale Zhang, head of Shanghai-based consultancy Automotive Foresight.
 
Ram could be an option, but “the Jeep brand is recognized globally. I think Great Wall Motor is eying a global strategy, not just the United States,” Zhang added.
 
Marchionne told analysts last month that a new five-year strategy — to be unveiled next year — could include asset sales.
 
While he acknowledged that Jeep, Ram, Maserati and Alfa Romeo could exist on their own, he appeared to pour cold water on the idea that any of them would be sold — at least not without leaving behind a less profitable “stump” that may struggle on its own.
 
Jeep SUVs and Ram trucks, the two most coveted of Fiat Chrysler’s brands, have become a major profit engine and a driver for Fiat’s North American operations.
 
Jeep, which traces its roots to the iconic World War Two military vehicle, targets sales of 2 million vehicles in 2018, up from 1.4 million in 2016. Marchionne has said deliveries from the SUV brand could eventually rise to as many as seven million a year as demand for sporty vehicles is set to keep rising.
 
In a recent note, Morgan Stanley estimated Jeep’s enterprise value at 23 billion euros (US$27 billion) — nearly 150 percent of the whole of FCA’s market value.
 
A move for FCA or one of its main brands would be challenging to finance, and would have to overcome serious regulatory hurdles — but it would boost Great Wall’s position in the US market and globally.
 
It would also allow it to get around the politically charged issue of manufacturing in the United States to sell there, something that would otherwise take decades to build up.
 
Great Wall’s founder and chairman Wei Jianjun saw opportunity when China began to fall in love with SUVs, and invested heavily in its Haval brand, cutting back on sedans. Within a few years, it was a top seller, with its H6 model topping sales charts going back to 2014.
 
The people familiar with the matter told Reuters that Great Wall had been making plans for the United States for some time, mainly by upgrading some key products and improving branding.
 
It earlier this year officially launched a new “Wei” brand, named after the chairman, of potentially US-market ready vehicles.
Source: Shanghai Daily, August 22, 2017
Can car purchase be like buying a cola?
21st August 2017

 IMAGINE buying a car as easily as a can of Coca-Cola from a vending machine. Sound impossible? Perhaps not anymore.

 
E-commerce giant Alibaba Group is planning to have a “vending machine” selling new cars to Chinese consumers by the end of this year. Buyers will be able to choose a car via an app on their mobile phones, make an online payment and pick up the vehicle 20 minutes later from a storage facility.
 
Automotive vending is the latest chapter in the convergence of online and offline sales. It dovetails with new consumption patterns where shoppers prefer using mobile phones to buy what they want.
 
Alibaba announced the new plan last month, triggering some lively discussion among Chinese netizens. The company received about 7,700 posts and 500 replies on Sina Weibo after it posted a video about the car “vending” service.
 
“It represents not only a vending machine, but also a way to combine online and offline buying through the use of mobile apps,” said Fu Xingxing, a student from Tongji University. “Consumers will be able to pay online and pick up their new car. It shows that the Internet is profoundly changing our daily lives, including shopping patterns.”
 
He is among the millions of potential, mostly younger car buyers who seem fascinated by the new business model. About 60 percent of consumers born in 1990 or later said they would consider buying a car through online channels, according to a survey of 900 car owners and potential buyers conducted by market research firm Ipsos.
 
Alibaba is squarely targeting that generation of people, who use mobile phones in almost every facet of their lives and don’t necessarily need to “kick tires” before selecting a car.
 
“In the past, it took consumers a long time to make a final decision about purchasing a car,” said Yu Wei, general manager of the automotive division of Tmall, the online sales platform of Alibaba. “In the future, we aim to provide a flexible and convenient car-buying experience to young consumers through the use of the automotive vending machine.”
 
New retail strategy
 
The concept is part of the company’s new retail strategy focused on new car sales. Alibaba set up its automobile business unit more than two years ago and is now in partnership with up to 60 car brands in China.
 
During a sales campaign in June, more than 30,000 vehicles were sold online via Tmall within three days, according to Alibaba. That equates to a full-year sales number for many large car dealerships.
 
The idea of automotive vending machines has raised eyebrows. Some auto analysts regard it cautiously, saying the new business model has a long way to go in proving itself. They cite high operating costs related to facility sites, logistics and procurement. There are also considerations such as competition from traditional car dealers and complicated after-sales procedures.
 
Alibaba hasn’t revealed a specific location for its first auto vending machine.
 
“If it is located in the central area of a big city to attract customers, the facility will come at a huge cost,” said independent market observer Liu Xiaofeng.
 
Ye Sheng, auto research director at market research firm Ipsos, said traditional car dealers have certain advantages in terms of pricing and after-sales service.
 
“That’s because they have been working with car manufacturers for such a long time,” he said.
 
“And consumers may raise a lot of questions relating to matters such as license plates, car insurance and after-sales maintenance. Many customers will feel more comfortable with face-to-face communication provided by traditional car dealers.”
 
David Zhang, an independent automotive consultant, tends to take a similar view.
 
“Buying a car is much more complicated than simply buying a Coke or Sprite from a vending machine,” he said. “Consumers have more than 100 automotive brands to choose from, compared with a handful of soft drink brands.”
 
Zhang said he has seen vending machines selling mobile phones in airports.
 
“However, the life cycle of a car is much longer than that of a mobile phone,” he said. “Car owners hold onto a car for three to five years before buying a new one. Mobile phone users may change their handsets once a year.”
 
Tongji student Fu said he’s not surprised by all the online chatter about automotive vending.
 
“Anytime anything new appears, there’s always lots of discussion,” he said. “As a consumer, I just wait and see what happens before embracing any new trend. So far, e-commerce has delivered a lot of good changes.”
Source: Shanghai Daily, August 21, 2017

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