Changing China

Giant on the move

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from Global Investing:

Home is where the heartache is…

On a recent trip home to Singapore, I was startled to learn just how much housing prices in the city-state have risen in my absence.

A cousin said he had recently paid over S$600,000 -- about US$465,000 -- for a yet-to-be-built 99-year-lease flat. Such numbers are hardly out of place in any major metropolis but this was for a state-subsidised three-bedroom apartment.

Soaring housing prices have fueled popular discontent -- little wonder as median monthly household incomes have stagnated at around S$5,000.

For its part, the government -- which houses 80 percent of people on the densely populated island -- insists that public housing prices are shaped by 'market forces', pointing to a raft of financing schemes to help first-time buyers.

from George Chen:

Winners and losers as Hong Kong rents scale new heights

By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

When you walk around Hong Kong's Central commercial and business district these days, you may notice a number of stores are holding "removal sales", which means they can no longer remain in the same location. The reason? In most cases, just blame soaring rents.

Many analysts have forecast declines in residential and commercial property prices in Hong Kong for next year, although at a stable pace rather than a sharp drop. This may be true for some suburban areas where purchase options are more plentiful than those in downtown areas, but until that happens, prices are likely to keep rising, at least for the rest of the year.

How cheap is cheap?

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How cheap is cheap?

That was the most frequently asked question among bankers and private equity experts attending a recent forum in Hong Kong, as they swapped strategies about how to pick up stressed assets during the financial crisis. 

When Lehman Brothers collapsed a year ago, everyone shared the same view: The global financial crisis was just beginning.

from Commentaries:

A “Wynning” strategy of betting on VIPs

Wynn Macau Top-tier casino operator Wynn has always bet on VIP gamblers. Now it is adopting the same approach with its stock market flotation. Wynn is trying to trump half a dozen recent poor Hong Kong market debuts by shunning fickle retail investors and handpicking money managers who are likely to stay the distance. It remains to be seen whether this strategy can help justify its valuation premium.

Most Hong Kong retail investors sell their shares on the first day of trading for a quick profit. By putting 90 percent of the shares in the hands of institutional buyers, Wynn is aiming to avoid the hit when its shares start trading on Friday.

from Commentaries:

China might keep the weakest bank all to itself

Faced with a backlash against foreign investors, Beijing may
be tempted to offer shares in the last of its big four banks to
a domestic audience.

That decision may reflect China's new found confidence in
the wake of the credit crisis. But it also means Chinese investors
will retain full responsibility for the country's weakest bank.

Hong Kong for the weekend

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Many Asia bankers and dealmakers are based in Hong Kong but nowadays many of them only stay in the territory for weekends. So where are they during the rest of the week? China, of course. 

With deal flow suddenly picking up, it’s getting difficult to fix lunch or dinner appointments with bankers in Hong Kong during the work week, because they spend more time in Beijing, Shanghai and other mainland cities to have food or drinks with the potential China clients.
 
Last week, one Hong Kong-based private equity dealmaker canceled an appointment in the
former British colony at the last minute, saying he had to remain in Beijing to wait for a Chinese entrepreneur to sign a deal.
 
In an apology email, he said: “To be honest, Hong Kong to me is purely like a weekend destination these days.”
 
Another friend who works as a private equity investor once joked he and many others are merely “so-called Hong Kong-based” workers.

From Canada, looking back

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I first visited China in June 1997.  It was eight years after the Tiananmen crackdown, weeks before the Hong Kong Handover back to China marking the end of British rule, and over a decade before the 2008 Summer Olympics. It was a family trip — my parents were looking forward to a college reunion with classmates they hadn’t seen in decades and I had just finished my second year of university. I was looking forward to finally seeing the place I’d heard so much about.

Born and raised in Canada, I grew up listening to stories of the past — lessons in history, humanity, tragedy and survival. And like many children of immigrant families, there is a constant search for a balance and a place between the different worlds that shape our identity.

Dialect fun

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There is a common myth perpetrated about China — that everyone speaks “Chinese”.

There is in fact no single “Chinese” language.

There is an official language, Mandarin, taught at schools and used on the airwaves, yet even the government admits that only about half the country’s 1.3 billion population speak it fluently.

Beijing shopping surprises

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Shoppers rest in front of a billboard in BeijingI love to shop – I’m not afraid to admit it. And I passionately believe you can never have too many T-shirts, shoes or bags (and that you should never underestimate the power of a good moisturiser either).

One of the great joys of living in China, and especially in Beijing, is the shopping.

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