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News from China
IMF raises forecast but warns of debt risk
11th October 2017

 THE International Monetary Fund yesterday raised its growth forecast for China but again warned of risks stemming from the build-up of debt in the world’s second-largest economy.

The fund’s latest World Economic Outlook report also projects strengthening economic growth across most of Asia, raising its forecast for Japan but reducing it for India.
The fund expects China’s economy to expand by 6.8 percent this year, up from its previous estimate of 6.7 percent, due to stronger recorded growth in the first half.
If realized, the growth rate will outdo last year’s 6.7 percent, which was China’s slowest pace of expansion since 1990.
For 2018, the IMF raised its estimate to 6.5 percent from the 6.4 percent forecast in its July World Economic Outlook.
In raising the growth targets, the fund said it expects authorities to maintain a high level of investment-fueled growth “to meet their target of doubling real GDP between 2010 and 2020.”
The uptick in growth will result in greater debt levels over the long term, the IMF said, raising the prospect of a “sharp growth slowdown in China.”
The fund urged authorities to intensify efforts to rein in the expansion of credit.
Its latest World Economic Outlook predicts strengthening economic growth globally, building on healthy data from the first half of 2017.
China’s booming economy continues to propel Asia and drive worldwide economic growth. But despite the rosier near-term outlook, the fund is concerned about growing debt in the country.
China’s slower transition from an investment-based economy to a consumption-based one, the report said, “comes at the cost of further large increases in debt.”
The pace of China’s credit growth has alarmed analysts in recent years.
Since the global financial crisis in 2008 its debt load as a percentage of gross domestic product has grown more than 10 percent per year on average, according to IMF estimates, which assessed the ratio had ballooned to 234 percent of GDP by 2016.
Analysts will look for signals about China’s future economic and financial policies during the Party’s congress, which starts on October 18.
The government will publish third-quarter growth data on October 19.
Elsewhere in Asia, the fund raised Japan’s growth forecast to 1.5 percent this year from 1 percent last year.
But it was less optimistic on the country’s long-term prospects, citing the shrinking Japanese labor force.
In India, the “growth momentum slowed” due to the impact of a currency exchange initiative and the launch of a nationwide goods and services tax. The IMF lowered India’s forecast growth to 6.7 percent from the 7.2 percent predicted in July.
Strong global demand has also been a boon for the rest of Asia, where the fund forecasts sustained growth.
“In the rest of emerging market and developing Asia,” the fund wrote, “growth is expected to be vigorous.”
Source: Shanghai Daily, October 11, 2017
Sinopec to sell oil assets in Argentina
10th October 2017

 ADVISERS to China’s Sinopec have offered its oil assets in Argentina to about a dozen potential suitors, three sources familiar with the matter said, as losses and labor headaches prompt Asia’s largest refiner to pull out.

The Argentine oil and gas assets, mainly in the southern province of Santa Cruz, could be worth US$750 million to US$1 billion, one of the sources said.
That would be less than half the US$2.45 billion Sinopec paid in 2010 to buy the Argentine assets from US-based Occidental Petroleum Corp, marking an aggressive drive to diversify its oil sources at the time.
Prospective buyers for the assets — mainly large energy firms from the United States, Europe, Africa and Latin America — include Angola’s state oil company Sonangol and two Russian energy giants, including Rosneft, said two of the sources.
Mexico’s Vista Oil & Gas has also expressed an interest, according to a separate source.
Meanwhile, Compania General de Combustibles, the energy arm of Argentine holding company Corporacion America, would also be studying some of the assets in Santa Cruz, Corporacion America spokeswoman Carolina Barros said.
One of the sources said there could be more than 15 prospective suitors.
Sinopec is being advised by Scotia Waterous, a unit of Canada’s Bank of Nova Scotia, which focuses on energy deals, two of the sources said.
All the sources declined to be named as the sale plans are confidential.
Sinopec and Sonangol did not respond to requests for comment. Asked about the sale and its interest, Rosneft said it was not able to confirm the information.
Vista, Scotia Waterous and Argentina’s energy ministry declined to comment.
In 2010, when Sinopec bought the Argentine assets, China — the world’s No. 2 oil consumer — was scouting for natural resources to feed its surging economy.
Worsening economic conditions and social unrest in Argentina, however, have “weighed” on the operation since then, Sinopec said in September last year.
Source: Shanghai Daily, October 10, 2017
Tourism flourishes during holiday
9th October 2017

 TOURISM has been booming in China during the National Day holiday, benefiting its economy and those of many other countries, official data yesterday showed.

One of China’s two Golden Weeks, the National Day holiday saw a surge in tourist revenue along with passenger flows. This year the holiday was extended by one day as the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Cake Festival, fell on Thursday.
A total of 705 million tourists traveled around the country during the holiday, generating 583.6 billion yuan (US$87.7 billion) of revenue, the China National Tourism Administration said.
The two figures marked jumps of 11.9 percent and 13.9 percent year on year respectively, the CNTA said.
Provinces with major scenic spots have seen rising numbers of tourists, with southwestern Guizhou having hosting over 46 million tourists who spent 30.5 billion yuan during the eight days, up 42.1 percent and 43.5 percent year on year respectively, said the CNTA.
Inner Mongolia in north China was visited by 106.2 million tourists who spent 8.3 billion yuan, up 24.5 percent and 38.3 percent respectively.
Most Chinese have chosen to indulge in food, cultural and rural tourism this year. Theme parks, museums and traditional culture streets have also seen an obvious growth in the number of visitors, according to CNTA.
The booming tourism was accompanied by busy traffic. Over 110 million trips have been made by rail since the holiday travel rush started on September 28, the China Railway Corporation said.
CRC scheduled thousands of extra trains during the holiday to ensure smooth travel. Airports were also expected to have seen passenger numbers rise, and highways have been clogged with more vehicles.
The economic impact of China’s mobile population has also been felt worldwide as more Chinese have opted to travel overseas.
Data complied by CNTA showed that around six million Chinese from nearly 300 cities traveled to 1,155 cities in 88 countries or regions during the National Day holiday.
Russia was the most popular destination for Chinese tourists, followed by Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia, while Moscow was the most popular city, followed by St Petersburg, Bangkok, Pattaya, and Singapore, CNTA data showed.
No figures are available as to how much Chinese have spent overseas during the eight-day holiday.
At a time when traditional growth drivers are losing steam, China has pinned hopes on services, including tourism, for new impetus to drive consumption and employment, and support economic growth and restructuring.
Source: Shanghai Daily, October 9, 2017
Citigroup Considering Onshore Cash Equities Business in China
6th October 2017


HONG KONG — Citigroup Inc is considering setting up an onshore cash equities business in China and expanding research coverage of Chinese stocks, to boost its share of the business in Asia, said the head of its regional equities unit.
The U.S.-headquartered bank is also looking to add at least 10 people to the unit, including bankers and technology staff, mainly at its Hong Kong and Singapore hubs, Richard Heyes told Reuters.
Citi's sharpened focus on its Asia equities business, which includes stock trading and research, is part of its global effort to bolster trading technology, hire senior bankers and boost financing to hedge funds.
"It's an interesting opportunity, one we are looking very closely at," Heyes said, referring to setting up an onshore cash equities business in China, which he said was in its early stages. He declined to give details.
"At the moment we don't feel we have a competitive disadvantage doing it from Hong Kong in the way the majority of people do. But over time, do I think we should strongly think about on-ground presence? Yes."
Analysts said China-listed shares' inclusion in the U.S. index publisher MSCI's emerging-markets benchmark this year, a milestone for global investing, would lead to a jump in demand for brokerage and research services.
That came on top of the introduction of programs allowing two-way trading between stock markets in Hong Kong and Shanghai and Shenzhen, as part of Beijing's efforts to open up capital markets.
China's brokerage revenue pool touched $41 billion in 2015, showed a report last year by Quinlan & Associates
Assuming institutional broking revenue is 10 to 15 percent of the total, a 1 percent market share would bring $40 million to $60 million in annual revenue to an equities house in the world's second-largest economy, the consultancy said.
To tap into an expected demand surge, Citi, which provides research on 175 China-listed firms, plans to increase coverage to 200 by year-end and 250 in the longer term, Heyes said.
"We have seen very clearly, as one of the biggest players in (the Hong Kong stock) connect, a very significant ramp up in the opening of accounts. It's very clear that many people are getting prepared for future activity in the China market."
Citi is also looking to bolster financing support for hedge funds, to help win more trading business and boost its Asia equities market share.
"We have had very meaningful success with some very important, large global hedge funds in the U.S. We are now expecting or have commitments from many of them to on-board us in Asia either by end of this year or early next year."
Source: New Yokr Times, October 6, 2017

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