Opinion

George Chen

Japan, Australia, if not China?

George Chen
May 17, 2011 02:59 UTC

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

I am hearing more complaints these days from trader friends about how boring the market is these days. Why boring?

Trading volume is low and there are apparently more risks than opportunities as investors seek clear signals about the central bank’s monetary policy direction and about what global funds think of China for the second half of the year.

With investors uncertain about the outlook for the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock markets, some are beginning to rethink their positions on Japan. Concerns about radiation are easing and I hear more people talking about the big potential for Japan’s market and economy to rebound amid massive reconstruction there. An old and new question then arises: can we bet on the Nikkei, again?

Australia also looks like a good bet to some rich Chinese investors. They say the property market alongside the long beaches in Australia offers profit-taking opportunities over the next few years.

Remember my recent column about many rich Chinese trying to emigrate in the next few years? Australia is always a popular destination. A number of local media reports also indicated some family members of top Chinese leaders already bought nice villas in the resource-rich country whose diplomatic relations with China have been up and down in recent years.

Firing and hiring

George Chen
Apr 1, 2011 02:39 UTC

GS

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

Today is April Fools’ Day, a rare opportunity to make fun of friends and colleagues with pranks and practical jokes. Ever ahead of the game, Goldman Sachs produced an amusing mistake yesterday making it look more than a little foolish, as many investors and rival bankers may attest.

The bank’s Asia structured products unit said yesterday that trading in four index warrants it issued in relation to the Nikkei 225 was abruptly suspended in Hong Kong because of errors in supplemental listing documents. The formula of “cash settlement amount per board lot” for the warrants was misstated, Goldman Sachs Structured Products (Asia) Ltd said in a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange. Click here to read the Goldman Sachs statement (PDF).

Before being suspended, the warrants surged by between 130 and 1,077 percent on Thursday morning, which local media reported could cost the bank millions of dollars.

Post-earthquake concept stocks

George Chen
Mar 24, 2011 04:01 UTC

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

Have you had breakfast or lunch yet? In Hong Kong, I’m guessing few people are choosing sushi these days.

Many restaurants in Hong Kong, even Japanese restaurants, have been quick to distance themselves from the crisis in Japan since the earthquake as concerns about food safety are growing in many Asia-Pacific cities, including Beijing, Seoul and Sydney.

The Japanese authorities announced this week that they would widen a ban on exports of a wide range of food products from areas surrounding the earthquake-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. In fact, even before the official ban, the health authorities in China, Hong Kong and South Korea were already monitoring all such imports from Japan.

Dairy and property: How Japan’s crisis is affecting China

George Chen
Mar 17, 2011 09:06 UTC
Chinese moms While the rest of the world is trying to help Japan deal with the aftermath of its earthquake and tsunami, some parents in China and Hong Kong are on a single-minded quest to buy up as much made-in-Japan baby formula as they can. On my way to work on Monday morning, I saw a long queue of anxious-looking people in front of a grocery store. Over the following three days, the queue got longer and longer and more and more anxious. They were all after the same thing – baby formula from Japan. This is simply because some Chinese parents believe their babies are accustomed to drinking Japanese milk and they are concerned that radiation may affect the quality of exports from Japan in coming months Hong Kong media reported that retail prices for some Japanese baby formula have risen more than 30 percent this week. At present, the market price is about HK$250 (US$32) for a standard container and some retailers are reportedly limiting purchases to six per person to avoid angering latecomers. In this case, parents called on relatives, even elderly grandparents, to join the queue on their behalf (which works if you have many relatives and friends who are willing to help). Of course, Hong Kong parents are not alone in this concern. A fast-growing number of parents in mainland China are on a similar quest and they don’t mind paying HK$2,000 (US$256) for a round-trip ticket from major mainland cities to Hong Kong to buy made-in-Japan products. People in Hong Kong, may soon face a bigger disappointment as a result of Japan’s earthquake – the possibility of property prices rising even further and faster. Local property agents say they have noticed some landlords want to increase rents, especially in downtown areas such as Admiralty and the Mid-levels, which are within minutes of Hong Kong’s Central financial and business district, where many international banks have their regional headquarters. Global financial firms including Blackstone, BNP Paribas and Royal Bank of Scotland are relocating foreign staff, especially senior executives, from Tokyo to neighboring bases to avoid the possibility of radiation exposure. These executive typically head to Singapore, Hong Kong and Beijing, with most apparently happier to choose Hong Kong, if not Singapore. Rents in Hong Kong are already a social problem, making the city one of the most expensive places in the world in which to live. The government has been trying to cool prices since late last year. With more rich but timorous bankers being relocating to Hong Kong from Tokyo and so far no indication of when they might return to Japan, the outlook for the property market in Hong Kong looks bullish. I’m not saying this isn’t a positive  trend, but given what is happening to the lives of ordinary people in Hong Kong and China, the crisis in Japan is becoming a crisis for Asia, if not the rest of the world. If the nuclear crisis cannot be contained and people lose confidence in crisis management and post-crisis protection, a chain reaction may be seen in many areas beyond dairy and property prices.

Japan

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

While the rest of the world is trying to help Japan deal with the aftermath of its earthquake and tsunami, some parents in China and Hong Kong are on a single-minded quest to buy up as much made-in-Japan baby formula as they can.

On my way to work on Monday morning, I saw a long queue of anxious-looking people in front of a grocery store. Over the following three days, the queue got longer and longer and more and more anxious.

Japan, in danger and opportunity

George Chen
Mar 14, 2011 03:41 UTC

earthquake

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

You might consider yourself very smart, powerful or perhaps wealthy, but after watching live coverage on TV of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan on Friday afternoon, what was your reaction? We’re all nobodies in the face of the forces of nature.

On Friday afternoon before the earthquake, the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index showed unexpected signs of recovery but the rebound was unfortunately short-lived. Immediately following the news alert about Japan’s worst earthquake in decades, stock markets from Hong Kong to Shanghai all retreated quickly.

This was a very natural reaction to such a massive natural disaster. Almost the same reaction was seen after the earthquake in China’s Sichuan province in May 2008. When investors feel uncertain and then the market sentiment becomes anxious, they sell. Fair enough – who really is in the mood to trade after seeing such a horrible event?

LePad, China’s answer to the iPad

George Chen
Dec 14, 2010 04:55 UTC

Lenovo

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

If Apple calls its tablet computer the iPad, what will China’s Lenovo name its new rival product? The answer: LePad. No kidding.

Lenovo CFO Wong Wai Ming said during an interview at Reuters offices in Beijing on December 13, when attending this week’s China Investment Summit, that the world’s No.4 PC maker would launch its LePad tablet computer in China within the next few weeks and was also planning a smartphone to run on China Mobile’s TD-SCDMA 3G network as it moves beyond its traditional PC base.

I’m not trying to give a free advertisement for Lenovo’s LePad in my column today. The reason I raise the matter is mainly to draw your attention to how fast Chinese companies can react to new international consumer trends and the quick success of new products such as Apple’s iPad. In less than half a year, ZTE Corp launched a tablet PC in October that sold for a far lower price than the iPad, even though it looks very much the same.

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