10 minutes estimated reading time
Ant Group saga
Beijing interviews Jack Ma over $37bn Ant IPO | Financial Times – Ant Group founder and shareholder Mr Ma last month gave a speech in Shanghai criticising regulators in China and abroad. He felt that Ant Group shouldn’t suffer their excessive regulation of banking and financial technology.
That didn’t go down that well with Chinese financial regulators and then Shanghai’s stock market operator calls a halt on Ant Group’s imminent listing, citing changes in regulatory environment | South China Morning Post which resulted in Ant to refund US$167.7 billion to 1.55 million Hong Kong investors in two batches after IPO is suspended | South China Morning Post
Ant Group aggregates large loans from banks and doles out the money as high interest small loans to young Chinese. Think Wonga or similar payday loan businesses that have sprung up since the 1990s. Ant also have savings and investment products that they get from other firms and act as an agent to sell. The huge IPO valuation of Ant Group already felt like hubris before Jack Ma criticised the financial regulators. More on China related stories here.
MERICS China Industries Briefing – October 2020 | Merics – The laws have significant ramifications for Europe. Vague wording in both the Export Control Law and the draft Personal Information Protection Law open the door to sweeping retaliation measures against foreign companies and countries. The former cites harm done to China’s “national security and interests,” while the latter cites “discriminatory” measures taken against China concerning personal data as examples of legislative violations that warrant retaliation. On a more practical level, European firms with extensive operations in China, especially in R&D, will likely face additional compliance hurdles. These could include novel license requirements and security review procedures related to exporting goods, technologies and services, as well as collecting, processing and transferring personal information
Battle at Arm China threatens $40bn Nvidia deal | Financial Times – Mr Wu also has backing in some corners of the Shenzhen government. In September, for example, Mr Wu was named on a high-level reform committee in the city, alongside other high-profile business figures such as Merlin Swire and Zhang Lei, founder of Hillhouse Capital, according to a document seen by the FT. Both the Shenzhen government and Beijing have a keen interest in the outcome of the battle, since Arm’s intellectual property underpins almost every mobile phone chip designed in the country. – what a mess
Stanley Black & Decker shuts Shenzhen plant amid US-China trade war ｜ Apple Daily – Chinese media also report that most of the workers have already been recruited by other factories and obtained employment on the same day. Middle management and executives were snapped up by other firms. Staff from a neighboring electronic factory claimed they hired up to 200 former employees of Stanley Black and Decker. Kevin Tsui, an associate professor of the Department of Economics at Clemson University, casted doubt on the authenticity of these reports. While the Chinese economy has shown steady recovery, it is unlikely for firms to be able to take over unemployed workers on such a large scale. Stories of the generous compensations were published to stabilize public sentiment and prevent people from panicking as more and more foreign investors are pulling out, he added. Veteran news commentator Johnny Lau said the growing production costs in China, as well as new labor law restrictions, have prompted firms to move to South East Asian countries, which are more welcoming to foreign investors – fascinating reading on how globalisation is affecting China from a negative perspective
Key Takeaways | ChinaFile – reading this a topline report, it reminds me a lot of the UK’s disparate CCTV operations
In Hunt for Coronavirus Source, W.H.O. Let China Take Charge – The New York Times – it is hardly the only international body bending to China’s might. But even many of its supporters have been frustrated by the organization’s secrecy, its public praise for China and its quiet concessions. Those decisions have indirectly helped Beijing to whitewash its early failures in handling the outbreak.
Burberry announces partnership with Tencent Games’ blockbuster title Honour of Kings – Burberry – As interactive digital content is increasingly becoming a source of inspiration in luxury fashion, games offer another opportunity for consumers to connect with Burberry’s products online. Younger consumers are redefining community spaces, choosing to connect with each other and with brands in digital environments, such as sharing experiences through online games. Chinese luxury consumers’ offline and online lives increasingly intertwine, with more demand for a seamless connection between the two. Adding virtual products into existing online games environments offers a bespoke experience that aligns with the consumer’s existing lifestyle. – only a decade or more behind sports apparel…
Inside Apple’s Eroding Partnership With Foxconn — The Information – Foxconn has tried a variety of tactics to enhance its margins, all previously unreported, such as using Apple-owned equipment when doing work for Apple’s rivals and taking shortcuts on component and product testing, ex-employees said. In turn, Apple has tried to step up its monitoring and tracking of Foxconn employees and of Apple’s own equipment that resides in Foxconn facilities. Meanwhile, the relationship between the two companies is changing, as described by interviews with more than two dozen former Apple and Foxconn employees, including some senior managers. Apple, like its rivals Samsung, Nintendo and speaker design firm Sonos, is diversifying its manufacturing sites in an effort to hedge its bets. These companies are aiming to expand the number of manufacturers they work with and the countries where they operate in response to growing geopolitical risks such as the U.S.-China trade war. As a result, Foxconn’s bright satellite in Apple’s orbit has lost some shine. – This looks like a slow car crash
30 female engineers from India ask Silicon Valley to do better on caste discrimination – The Washington Post – The legacy of discrimination from the Indian caste system is rarely discussed as a factor in Silicon Valley’s persistent diversity problems. Decades of tech industry labor practices, such as recruiting candidates from a small cohort of top schools or relying on the H-1B visa system for highly skilled workers, have shaped the racial demographics of its technical workforce. Despite that fact, Dalit engineers and advocates say that tech companies don’t understand caste bias and have not explicitly prohibited caste-based discrimination. A new lawsuit shines a light on caste discrimination in the U.S. and around the world. In recent years, however, the Dalit rights movement has grown increasingly global, including advocating for change in corporate America. In June, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a landmark suit against Cisco and two of its former engineering managers, both upper-caste Indians, for discriminating against a Dalit engineer
Tory group in push for watchdog to counter Chinese interference | Financial Times – and so it starts, I have been expecting this for a while
How Borat 2 reveals the playbook for the streaming movie blockbuster – it had exactly four weeks to generate word of mouth. In Hollywood marketing terms, a four-week movie campaign is unheard of, ludicrous—or, as Borat would say, “Very nice—not!” Yet Amazon pulled it off by leaning on Baron Cohen’s relentless energy and creative salesmanship. There were Borat stunts galore both online and IRL, which helped create a burning sense of immediacy and helped the film explode into the cultural consciousness, as opposed to being slowly fed to audiences by an IV-drip marketing campaign over the course of lumbering months – I also imagine this was due to legal scrutiny of the film content
Three actionable insights with… Sir Martin Sorrell | The Drum – ”Marketeers have surrendered control. Too few marketeers are CEOs of companies. There are probably too many CFOs who are CEOs of companies and I can say that as an ex-CFO. I think this started in 2008 after the Great Recession. Then there’s a huge pressure in 2009. It rebounded in 2010, but ever since then and up to 2018 there’s been a relentless pressure on cost. It‘s nonsense that it‘s Google and Facebook that are putting pressure on the holding companies. The simple fact of the matter is the clients have been so focused on cost, they put pressure on the agency middlemen or middle women, and they push them. Remember the chat around ‘non-working’ costs around advertising — basically on production costs. But you know this phrase ‘non-working’ and the implication that a lot of what the agencies did wasn‘t working or it wasn‘t working well enough, so you had to get rid of it. This is huge pressure. So, instead of asking media owners for 60-day credit or 90-day credit, they asked the agencies. – Sir Martin Sorrell is as much sinner, as sinned against but this rings true
Breakingviews – China’s latest five-year plan girds for battle | Reuters – The message from China’s leadership seems to be that things will get worse before they get better. It elevated the status of technological self-reliance to be a “strategic support” for national development as a shield from overseas restrictions on imports. That will translate into greater R&D funding and subsidies, and diversion of funds to high-end manufacturing from property markets. There are early signs the approach is working: new registrations for semiconductor makers have jumped by a third this year, according to local media reports – the move away from overheated property markets is a good thing
The FT – Huawei develops plan for chip plant to help beat US sanctions and a good analysis on the challenges that will be faced on Radio Free Mobile – Huawei – Nowhere to run pt. XXIV. – these will be way behind the curve, it makes more sense if Huawei partners with other Chinese chipmakers
The resource curse and Hong Kong: Why the city has stagnated ｜Dr Michael Lawson ｜ Apple Daily – in many ways Hong Kong is now suffering in the grip of a resource curse, where the opportunities from catering for finance and tourism for mainland China have crowded out almost all other areas of the economy. It has often been said that Hong Kong is a very bureaucratic place, where trying to do anything new is almost impossible without multiple government approvals. This can be seen from the lag in adopting electric buses, the ban on electric bikes that is unique in the world, and the strange rule prohibiting tandem paragliding. This is because due to easy access to income sources which require little innovation, there has been no pressure to let anything change or develop in the Hong Kong economy. Like the rulers of other resources cursed countries, the nettle of economic reform is not grasped and vested interests are allowed to divide up the spoils. In fact, it is noticeable that the decline of the film and manufacturing sectors of the Hong Kong economy has neatly coincided with the rise of China as an economic powerhouse, with many of the established industries in Hong Kong willingly moving their operations there before being overtaken or taken over by more nimble mainland firms – pretty succinct analysis of the current economic problems facing Hong Kong