Chinese Consumers Are Set to Power the Recovery, UBS Says (Caixin)
Consumption in China is expected to grow 6% to 7% in 2023 from the previous year on the back of reviving confidence and the release of pent-up demand after three years of stringent Covid restrictions, according to Swiss banking giant UBS. For the first time since the pandemic hit, China’s consumption growth this year will outpace the country’s economic expansion, which is projected at around 5%, said Christine Peng, head of Greater China Consumer Research at UBS, at a Wednesday event. Consumers are likely to spend more on services as they resume dining out and traveling, Peng said. Spending on durable goods such as appliances and furniture will also increase. The home appliance industry is likely to register 15% to 20% growth in 2023 and 2024, said Peng, citing Chinese residents’ increased household savings and needs for replacements. UBS has been monitoring Chinese consumer demand over the past three years and found a rising appetite to upgrade appliances such as air conditioners and refrigerators since the second half of 2022, according to Peng. The growing demand partly reflects Chinese households’ rising deposits during the pandemic, when restrictive measures reined in spending. China’s savings rate increased to 32.4% in 2022 from 29.9% in 2019, with the rate in urban areas touching 37.4%, according to Peng. Chinese people’s excess savings — amounts above what consumers would have saved based on pre-pandemic trends — may have totaled 4 trillion yuan ($589 billion) between 2020 and 2022, Peng said. Excess savings will be the main driving force of China’s consumption growth this year and next as business operations resume and consumers’ confidence rebounds, she said. UBS estimated that growing demand and softening price increases for raw materials such as metal and oil will improve profitability for the consumer goods industry. China’s home appliance industry was squeezed by sliding sales and rising costs over the past two years. In the first 10 months of 2022, home appliance sales declined 10% following a 14% drop in 2021. Meanwhile, average prices increased 15% in the first 10 months last year and 13% in 2021, according to UBS. Chinese policymakers have emphasized domestic consumption in the country’s post-pandemic recovery. A key policy meeting in December highlighted the importance of expanding domestic demand and for the first time put a higher priority on spurring consumption than on stimulating investment. Officials at the meeting pledged to implement a more forceful fiscal policy and targeted monetary policy to support businesses and domestic consumption. But some analysts said consumption growth this year may be hindered as people are more hesitant to spend after income growth slowed during the pandemic. In the first 11 months of 2022, China’s total retail sales shrank 0.1% from a year earlier as disruptions from the pandemic and control measures cut into people’s incomes. During that period, domestic consumption’s contribution to GDP growth was 52.4%, down from 57.2% in 2019.
Vaccine-Maker CanSino Bio Plans Swiss Listing (Caixin)
Vaccine-maker CanSino Biologics Inc. is planning to issue global depositary receipts (GDRs) and float the securities on the SIX Swiss exchange, according to a Tuesday exchange filing. Through the listing, the Chinese company hopes to tap new international financing channels, while improving its international brand to help with its overseas business development. CanSino did not disclose the size of the offering, or how it plans to use the proceeds, but it is looking to “raise sufficient funds and financial resources” for its globalization strategy, which centers around the research and development, manufacture, and commercialization of innovative vaccines that meet Chinese and international standards. The issuance plan first needs approval from shareholders as well as Chinese and Swiss financial regulators, the filing said. The context: CanSino’s single-shot adenovirus Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for global emergency use by the World Health Organization. The inhaled version has got the green light from China’s regulators for use as a booster. It is also developing an mRNA shot, which is in mid-stage trials. In the first three quarters of 2022, CanSino reported a net loss attributable to shareholders of 474.4 million yuan ($70 million), compared with a 1.3 billion yuan net profit for the same period the previous year as demand for Covid vaccines slowed and their prices dropped. CanSino is the latest in a growing number of companies making use of the China-Swiss Stock Connect program, which was launched in July 2022. As of the end of December, nine Chinese issuers had listed GDRs on the Swiss bourse, while dozens have announced plans to raise funds in the same way.
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China Wraps Up Two-Year Tech Crackdown, Top Official Says (Caixin)
China’s more than two-year clampdown on its sprawling internet sector is coming to an end, according to a top central bank official. The special campaign to rectify 14 internet platform companies’ financial businesses is basically complete with few remaining issues to resolve, said Guo Shuqing, Communist Party secretary of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC). Further supervision of the sector will be normalized, and support will be given to help platform companies play a bigger role in job creation and global competition, said Guo, who is also chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC). The statement was the first signal from a top regulatory official that the government is winding down a massive clampdown that affected the country’s biggest internet companies including Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings. Beijing took aim at the country’s most valuable companies starting in October 2020, warning that platform operators might abuse their power and undermine competition. The crackdown later engulfed everything from e-commerce to ride-hailing and online education. It led to the suspension of Ant Group’s blockbuster initial public offering and the delisting of ride-hailing giant Didi Global from New York only five months after its debut. Over the two years, regulators summoned top tech companies for several meetings. They forced e-commerce leader Alibaba to pay a record fine and food-delivery giant Meituan to lower the fees it charges restaurants for delivery and improve the treatment of its drivers. The tough regulatory posture along with rising economic headwinds spurred rounds of sell-offs of China tech stocks, wiping out as much as 70% of their market value in Hong Kong and the U.S. Softening signs first emerged in the spring of 2022 when Vice Premier Liu He said in a March meeting that efforts to “rectify” internet platform companies should be completed “as soon as possible” to promote their stable and healthy growth. In May, the PBOC backed up Liu’s remark, saying it would adopt normalized supervision of internet platform companies’ financial activities and would support the sector’s healthy development. At the Central Economic Work Conference in December, which set out China’s 2023 economic policy agenda, top leaders offered a clearer pledge to support internet platform enterprises, with an explicit call for the rapid development of the digital economy, normalization of sector regulation, and support for the role of platform enterprises in economic growth, job creation and global competition. Caixin learned from multiple sources that the last regulatory meeting convened by the central bank with 14 leading platform companies was held Sept. 20, during which officials indicated that no more restrictive policies would be issued for the sector.
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