10 February - 16 February 2003

No 128


China's January exports up 37.3% to USD 29.78 billion
China posted a slim trade deficit of USD 1.24 billion in January. Exports grew 37.3% year-on-year to USD 29.78 billion, while imports surged 63.4% to USD 31.02 billion. CCTV said the imports surge was due to lower tariff rates, higher shipments before the Lunar New Year holiday, and higher import prices, especially in crude oil and its derivatives. (Dow Jones, 13 Feb)

Official admits jobless data is misleading
Vice-Minister of Labour Zhang Xiaojuan sayd "urgent" solutions are needed to address the country's rising unemployment and acknowledged official jobless figures were misleading. China's official unemployment rate rose to 4% at the end of last year and is forecast to hit 4.5% this year, but it does not include laid-off workers and the rural jobless. Officials have said urban unemployment actually hovers at about 7%, but even this figure has been described as overly optimistic. The central government has set a target of creating 9.5 million jobs this year to keep the official jobless rate below 4.5%. (SCMP, 13 Feb)

Korea: 72.2% of small firms want to invest in China
According to the Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business's study of 178 SME firms, 77.5% have plans to invest in another market within the next five years and 72.2% named China as top candidate, followed by Vietnam (13.9%) and Indonesia (1.3%). The respondents' key consideration in choosing foreign investment market are production costs (39.7%), distribution and sales network (38.4%) and flexibility of labor (10.6%). (Korea Herald, 10 Feb)

China's foreign trade set to stagger in 2003
Chinese experts remain optimistic about the country's trade prospects but expect overall year-on-year growth to be sluggish. With contributing factors that include a larger competitive base and the reviving trade protectionism on the global market, China's export growth is expected to slow down from last year's 22.3% to between 5% and 10%. (China Daily, 10 Feb)

Provincial growth figures feed doubts on GDP forecasts
The country's 31 provinces and municipalities reported GDP growth of more than 8% last year, with some reaching as high as 12%. The figures highlight doubts about the accuracy of information supplied by central government officials. Some analysts say China's real growth could be less than half the official rate, given that provincial officials inflate economic figures to win promotions. "They have their figures, we have ours," said a deputy director of the National Bureau of Statistics. (SCMP, 7 Feb)


KPMG faces suit from minority shareholders
KPMG has become the first of the big four international accountancy firms to face a minority shareholder lawsuit in the mainland against a listed company for cooking the books. The ground-breaking suit will probably raise the big four's litigation risks in China, long seen as a backwater for corporate governance and minority shareholder protection. (SCMP, 12 Feb)

Insurers on brink of next reform step
China is set for landmark breakthroughs in the restructuring of its creaky insurance sector in 2003, as number of insurers are lining up for public flotations on both domestic and overseas capital markets. Among these firms, three large State-owned firms - China Life, the People's Insurance Co of China (PICC) and China Re - are the most likely candidates for listing. (Business Weekly, 11 Feb)

AMCs launch initiatives to dispose of bad loans
China's four State-run debt-recovery asset management firms look ready to launch a number of new initiatives to dispose of the huge number of non-performing loans collected in 1999. Huarong said it is planning another round of public bidding this year to dispose of its massive chunk of NPLs. The new plan follows the establishment of two joint ventures with investment bankers Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, Salomon Smith Barney and Goldman Sachs late last year. Cinda Asset Management Corp announced a deal last week with Deutsche Bank to dispose of bad assets with a book value of CNY 2.55 billion. (Business Weekly, 11 Feb)


Bigger foreign stakes allowed
Foreign firms that conduct safety tests and quality inspections will be allowed to take a controlling stake in China-based joint ventures by the end of this year. By 2005, foreigners will be able to launch fully owned enterprises in China to provide testing and certification services. (Business Weekly, 11 Feb)

Anhui legislate to protect entrepreneurs
The Anhui Provincial People's Congress has approved a regulation protecting the business activities of enterprises and entrepreneurs, the first of its kind passed by a local legislature in China. The regulation comprises a wide range of subjects including the scope of legitimate rights and interests of enterprises and their managers. It also stresses that the personal freedom and safety of entrepreneurs should not be infringed upon. When economic disputes occur, unauthorized detention and search of their private residence and sites of work are banned. (People's Daily, 9 Feb)


Nintendo announces huge seizure in China of pirated games
Authorities who raided factories in southern China in search of counterfeit Nintendo video games last month found games, packaging and components totaling some 300'000 items, including new titles released just weeks earlier. China is the main source of counterfeit Nintendo games, a trade that cost the company USD 649 million in lost sales last year. (AP, 12 Feb)


Canon to partially withdraw from China
Japanese electronics giant Canon plans to move some of its China operations back to Japan, in particular the manufacture of low-end products. The cost of labor in China has increased since Canon entered the local market years ago. Instead of hiring workers to manufacture products in China, the company may automate production back home. Meanwhile, Canon will expand its investment in China in most of its other sectors. (Shanghai Daily, 13 Feb)

Deutsche Post buys 5% of Sinotrans for EUR 52.5 million
Deutsche Post AG acquired a 5% stake in Sinotrans Ltd., one of the largest logistics companies in China, for EUR 52.5 million. The acquisition was tied to the HKD 3.40 billion initial public offering of 38.5% of Sinotrans, a unit of China National Foreign Trade Transportation (Group) Corp. (Dow Jones, 13 Feb)

China rules aim to curb growth of retail chains
China issued rules aimed at tightening the expansion of retail chains, suggesting that officials may be worried about foreign dominance of the sector. SETC ordered provinces and cities to submit detailed maps of planned retail sites and to tighten their systems for licensing new stores, possibly including holding public hearings before approval. (WSJ, 13 Feb)

China: Handset kingdom in the making
China may strengthen its position as the world's largest mobile phone market this year, producing about one-third of the planet's mobile phones. China is expected to produce 130 million handsets this year with sales expected to reach 127 million units. (China Daily, 11 Feb)

Sanguine vision of tourism
China's tourism sector last year grew 11.43%, generating CNY 556.6 billion. 97.91 million travellers visited the Chinese mainland, up 9.99% year-on-year, among them, 13.44 million were foreigners, up 19.71%. The number of travellers from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan increased 5.65%, 19.98% and 6.35% respectively - to 61.88 million, 18.92 million and 3.66 million. China's domestic travel industry last year was worth CNY 387.8 billion, up 10.11%. However, the average domestic travel expense per capita was CNY 441.8 yuan, 1.7% less compared with 2001. About 16.6 million Chinese travelled abroad, up 36.84% year-on-year. Some 6.54 million Chinese travelled overseas for business, while 10 million travelled for pleasure, up 26.08% and 44.87% respectively. China's outbound travel sector is expected to increase more than 10% this year. (Business Weekly, 11 Feb)

IBM launches R&D center in Dalian
IBM signed an agreement with Dalian Software Park to set up a joint research and development center, its second in China after Shenzhen. (People's Daily, 9 Feb)


Hainan aims at national power resources center
South China's Hainan Province is ready to turn itself into a national power-generating centre, taking advantage of its rich resources of sea and natural gas. Local officials announced an ambitious plan to set up an oceanic gas generation base that would transform surplus gas-generated power into electricity for Guangdong Province. (China Daily, 13 Feb)


Shanghai restarts construction of world's tallest tower
Construction on the world's tallest building restarted after a five-year hiatus. The Shanghai World Financial Centre will be 492 metres tall and 101 storeys above ground when completed. Construction began in August 1997, but was suspended in the wake of the Asian financial crisis. (China Daily, 14 Feb)

Shanghai permits foreigners to buy, lease real estate
A new regulation, which will take effect on March 1, specifies that foreign businesses and individuals can purchase all types of real estate in Shanghai, except for those under special state or municipal regulations. (People's Daily, 14 Feb)

Shanghai accelerates customs clearance
The Shanghai customs will emphasize paperless customs clearance, advance customs declarations and cooperation with its counterparts this year to accelerate customs clearance. (Xinhua, 12 Feb)

Shanghai aims to clean itself up for foreign investors
Shanghai has spent CNY 45 billion on environmental protection in the past three years. Now, the local government is drafting a detailed environmental plan, the second in the city's history. The new blueprint will focus on improving air and water quality, disposing of solid waste, expanding parks and forests, upgrading industrial areas and managing agricultural waste. (SCMP, 11 Feb)

Private businesses on fast rise in Shanghai
Shanghai added 185 private firms daily last year. By late last year, the city had 224'000 private firms, with a total of 2.5 million employees, mostly engaged in real estate development, intermediary services, expo organizing, tourism and logistics. Private businesses contributed 11.1% to the city's GDP. (People's Daily, 10 Feb)

Shanghai leading recipient of Chinese capital
Last year Shanghai accumulated CNY 50.65 billion in investment from other parts of China, representing a year-on-year increase of 84.6%. Beijing ranked first in terms of registered capital for enterprises it launched in Shanghai, which amounted to CNY 22.99 billion last year, followed by Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces. (Shanghai Daily, 10 Feb) And who is going West?

Shanghai announces R&D center construction plan
Shanghai is planning to build 40 to 50 R&D centers to sharpen the municipality's edge in the new high-tech industry. These centers will be built around 15 technical platforms involving the design of integrated circuit, bio-information, drug preparation and electronic government administration. Overseas enterprises, once having set up R&D institutions in Shanghai, will be granted preferences in recruiting skilled professionals and receive financial support. (Xinhua, 9 Feb)

Pearl River

More Japanese firms look to investment in Southern China
Japanese companies, in particular SMEs, are looking more to southern, rather than east China, as their destinations of investment. Cheap labor, low raw material costs, geographical location and close relations with Hong Kong are the main reasons attracting the Japanese SMEs to invest in southern China, Guangdong province in particular. A recent survey by JETRO's head office in Tokyo showed that over 50% of the Japanese enterprises in China made profits in 2002 and the enterprises see a much brighter future in 2003. (People's Daily, 11 Feb)

Consortium formed to build Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge
A consortium of private developers has been formed to build a 29-kilometre bridge linking Hong Kong with Macau and Zhuhai. The project is still awaiting approval from the Guangdong government. The proposed bridge is seen as important to Hong Kong's future economic development. (Business Times, 11 Sept)

Non-state-owned sector exports see huge rise in Guangdong
Exports from the rapidly growing non-state-owned economic sector of Guangdong Province reached USD 8.6 billion in 2002, up 78%, last year . In total Guangdong exported more than USD 118 billion worth of products. (People's Daily, 10 Feb)


China's manned space flight to go ahead this year
China is sticking to plans for a manned space launch this year, confident of its rockets' safety and undaunted by the shuttle Columbia's destruction. The government hasn't announced a launch date, but earlier reports put it in the second half of this year. (Dow Jones, 14 Feb)

Rolling Stones plan first China concerts in April
The aging British rockers tentatively plan to perform in Beijing and Shanghai in early April. It would be the band's first appearance in the world's most populous country. (AP, 10 Feb)

Massive underground lake found in arid NW China
Scientists have discovered a massive underground lake in China's arid northwest, giving hope for the reduction of poverty in one of the country's most remote and sparsely populated regions. (Dow Jones, 9 Feb)

Weekly Market update  30 January 2003  14 February 2003
Shanghai A 1567.29 1579.38
Shanghai B 127.27 126.14
Shenzhen A 449.63 455.34
Shenzhen B 209.30 208.58
Hong Kong Red Chip  1029.56 1006.43
Hong Kong H 2148.85 2180.73
Source: South China Morning Post

China Business Briefing is a random selection of business related news gathered from various media and news services covering China, edited by the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing and distributed among Swiss Government Offices and other interested parties. The Embassy does not accept responsibility for accuracy of quotes or truthfulness of content. Upon request and depending on the resources available, the Embassy will provide further information on the subjects mentioned in the China Business Briefing.

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