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from Breakingviews:

Sinopec petrol sale attracts a motley bunch

By Ethan Bilby

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Sinopec’s petrol station stake sale could drum up a mixed bunch. The Chinese oil giant is seeking investors to help develop Sinopec Sales, which operates its vast network of filling stations. Prospective buyers from food retail, energy, technology and private equity have been shortlisted, according to Reuters. But the price tag of around $16 billion for a 30 percent stake could force them to club together.

Sinopec Sales operates 30,000 petrol stations. Energy distributors like ENN may see some logic in owning more of China’s fuel delivery network. Yet buyers from a range of other industries see greater potential in developing additional sources of income.

Take retail. Though Sinopec Sales has 23,000 Easy Joy convenience stores, these currently bring in just 1 percent of the group’s revenue. Boosting that figure could be lucrative: for established retailers, profit margins on non-fuel sales are three times higher than the 1.7 percent Sinopec Sales squeezes out at the moment. That explains why Alimentation Couche-Tard, the Canadian owner of Circle K convenience stores, is on the shortlist.

from Breakingviews:

Alibaba deal spree turns from romance to thriller

By John Foley 

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Alibaba’s investment story has turned from romance to thriller. Its Hong Kong movie-making affiliate has uncovered “possibly non-compliant” accounting just four months after the Chinese e-commerce giant bought a 60 percent stake. It’s not clear whether Alibaba’s controls were flawed – but it certainly raises questions about the value of the company’s recent investment binge.

from Breakingviews:

China data puts economists to the Rorschach test

By John Foley 

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist.  The opinions expressed are his own.

Is China’s economy stable or stuttering? Swings in credit and investment reflected in data released on Aug. 13 support conflicting views. Broadly, things look on track. But uncertainty can be damaging if it undermines the confidence of the people who matter most: consumers and depositors.

from Photographers' Blog:

Singing from the heart

Beijing, China

By Jason Lee

Every night from 7pm until around midnight, anyone in Beijing who craves a bit of music can go and enjoy an “open-air concert” in the southeast of the city.

Street musician Zhang Mingyuan sings during his daily performance at a square outside a shopping mall in Beijing

The singer, Zhang Mingyuan, isn’t part of a famous music label and his performances are just held on a street corner. But even so, the warm atmosphere that he creates in the chilly night air seldom disappoints.

from Counterparties:

MORNING BID – Margins, China and whatever else

We’re deep into a period where the earnings calendar has basically dried up and the news flow overall is pretty slim, so the market will hang whatever gains it can on thin reeds – deals involving master-limited partnerships here, results from the likes of Sysco (the food services company there), and maybe Priceline.com in the mix too. The broader economic signals remain the more important ones for markets right now, and while they’re not uniformly outstanding, there are some hopeful signs for those finally looking for an acceleration in activity.

The earnings situation has been better than anticipated – Goldman Sachs notes that margins broke out of an 8.4-to-8.9 percent rate in the second quarter, ticking up to 9.1 percent, and the firm’s corporate “Beige Book” – a compendium of company comments – shows that the concerns the C suite has looks more like the concerns of those seeing accelerating demand and rising prices, and not slack demand and weak pricing power. They cited a strengthening corporate outlook, margin forecasts coming under pressure as a result of inflation expectations, and a combined focus on spending money on both buybacks and capital investment. Furthermore, companies have been less negative than in the recent past when it comes to revisions, and guidance for the fourth quarter of this year and first quarter 2015 was revised higher.

from Breakingviews:

Aircraft leasing flies back into vogue in Asia

By Peter Thal Larsen

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Aircraft leasing is flying back into vogue in Asia. Many Western groups jettisoned the business of buying and renting out planes after the financial crisis. Now China’s sovereign wealth fund and tycoon Li Ka-shing are considering climbing on board. Strong forecast demand for aircraft explains the appeal – as long as finance is cheap and reliable.

from Breakingviews:

China’s e-commerce secret weapon: the delivery guy

By John Foley 

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Want a Big Mac delivered to your door in minutes? Or a refrigerator by the end of the day? While U.S. retailers puzzle over how to make that happen, China’s e-commerce companies are already there. Servicing the country’s web-connected consumers at ever-faster speeds is driving some big businesses, not to mention stock market valuations. The secret weapon: the humble delivery guy.

from Full Focus:

Earthquake in China

The death toll rises after a 6.3 earthquake in southwestern China triggers landslides and causes thousands of buildings to collapse.

from Breakingviews:

China index: Beijing cleans up skies, not its act

By Katrina Hamlin

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Skies above China’s big cities are turning blue, as its economic warning lights flash red. Across the country, PM2.5 readings – a measure of small particulates in the air – fell by 6 percent year on year in the first six months, Greenpeace reported in July. Beijing even scored the city’s least smoggy month since January 2011 according to data from the U.S. Department of State. Dirty industrials are leaving town and shutting down – but that’s just a quick fix.

from Breakingviews:

Microsoft’s China dream sorely strains credibility

By Ethan Bilby

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Xbox gamers fear the “red ring of death”, a flashing light that can herald system failure. Microsoft, which makes the consoles, must be awaiting a similar sign in China. After 22 years, the tech giant has achieved little in the country, which looks to account for around 2 percent of revenue. Cloud services may multiply that over time, but political headwinds are raising the cost of business - possibly too high.

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