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from Breakingviews:

From soccer pitch, lessons on Chinese tycoon risks

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By Una Galani

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

Chinese investors are setting their sights on trophy assets in the West, and soccer teams look like fair game. The case of English football club Birmingham City, whose main shareholder and former president just sold a stake to an obscure Chinese company, offers a cautionary tale. Big personalities make risky shareholders, but China brings extra anxieties.

Birmingham had already experienced the rise and fall of a wealthy patron. Hong Kong hairdresser-turned-businessman Carson Yeung led a buyout of the soccer group between 2007 and 2009. But after facing money laundering charges, he stepped down as chairman of the listed holding company on Feb. 4. On Feb. 12 the indebted Birmingham International Holdings said it was selling a 12 percent share in its UK subsidiary for HK$45 million ($5.8 million).

The cash is welcome – Birmingham’s parent turned loss-making following the club’s relegation from the Premier League in 2011. But the buyer is mysterious. Beijing Liangzhu International Media and Advertising Company is listed by a Chinese local government company registration website as a “design, manufacturing and advertising” company, founded in 2005 with capital equivalent to just $250,000. Beijing Liangzhu will get two seats on the club’s existing four member board as part of the deal. Its influence may grow more if plans to sell a 24 percent stake are followed through.

from Breakingviews:

Alibaba tests the limits of non-bank banking

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By John Foley

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

Alibaba isn’t a bank. But for customers it’s getting hard to tell the difference. Users of China’s dominant e-commerce website can now deposit funds, make investments, take out loans and even give out gifts of virtual cash. In taking on China’s lenders, Alibaba and its online rivals may be taking on bank-like risk.

from Breakingviews:

Alibaba tests the limits of non-bank banking

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By John Foley

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

Alibaba isn’t a bank. But for customers it’s getting hard to tell the difference. Users of China’s dominant e-commerce website can now deposit funds, make investments, take out loans and even give out gifts of virtual cash. In taking on China’s lenders, Alibaba and its online rivals may be taking on bank-like risk.

from Ian Bremmer:

Is the China-Japan relationship ‘at its worst’?

At the Munich Security Conference last month, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying said the China-Japan relationship is “at its worst.” But that’s not the most colorful statement explaining, and contributing to, China-Japan tensions of late.

At Davos, a member of the Chinese delegation referred to Shinzo Abe and Kim Jong Un as “troublemakers,” lumping the Japanese prime minister together with the volatile young leader of a regime shunned by the international community. Abe, in turn, painted China as militaristic and overly aggressive, explaining how -- like Germany and Britain on the cusp of World War One -- China and Japan are economically integrated, but strategically divorced. Even J.K. Rowling has played her part in recent weeks, with China’s and Japan’s ambassadors to Britain each referring to the other country as a villain from Harry Potter.

from Breakingviews:

Alibaba’s $1.6 bln map deal fuels online land grab

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By Robyn Mak and John Foley 

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Alibaba’s purchase of AutoNavi is a land-grab, in two senses. The Chinese e-commerce group has offered a premium price to buy out the 72 percent of the U.S.-listed mapping company it doesn’t already own, valuing the whole thing at $1.6 billion. There’s a compelling competitive reason for Alibaba to get deeper into online maps, but what’s hard to locate is the financial rationale.

from Breakingviews:

China’s “biggests” come early, late or not at all

By Ethan Bilby and John Foley
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

China collects superlatives. In 2013, it added biggest goods trader, top red wine consumer and number one oil importer. Some “biggests” are a sign of investment potential, but others suggest inequality and inefficiency. Meanwhile, some of the most meaningful, like having the world’s dominant currency, still look a long way off.

from Global Investing:

Reforms changing the yin-yang of investing in China? – PODCAST

China's influence on emerging markets, let alone the global economy, cannot be understated. Great strides have been made to build the economy over the past 30 years, but not without its casualties. In a conversation with Michelle Gibley, director of international research at Charles Schwab, I asked her about a new research paper she's published on why, amid the angst and doubt on emerging markets, she has shifted her views. She's turned positive on Chinese large-cap stocks and says the China of the past was running out of gas.

Click here to the interview. (My thanks to Freddie Joyner for helping get the audio into workable shape.)

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Behind the wave of market anxiety

What has caused the sudden anxiety attack that overwhelmed financial markets after the New Year? We may find out the answer at 8.30 on Friday morning, Eastern Standard Time.

Almost all agree that the market turmoil has been linked to alarming events in several emerging economies -- including Turkey, Thailand, Argentina and Ukraine -- that has spilled over into concerns about more important economies, such as China, Russia, South Africa, Indonesia and Brazil.

from Breakingviews:

Smog obscures looming water risk for China

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

China’s smog is visible, and vexes the urban rich. But attempts to fix the looming “airpocalypse” may be exacerbating another acute risk: water. If the country’s planners really want to make growth sustainable, they will need to pull the plug on cheap supply for thirsty energy companies and consumers.

from Global Markets Forum Dashboard:

Better year for commodities?

We quizzed Gavin Wendt, Founding Director & Senior Resource Analyst at MineLife, on the impact of Fed-taper on commodities, base metals, precious metals, nat-gas, Indonesia's ban on mineral exports and China.

Gavin is positive on soft commodities as hard commodities in the medium to longer-term. "The world's population is 7 billion and growing - and demand for energy, hard and soft commodities will only grow," he said.

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