Opinion

George Chen

Designed in New York, made in Dongguan

George Chen
Oct 24, 2011 09:26 UTC

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

It could be the perfect story to show how China Inc and its American partner can work together for a win-win result, but Chinese consumers are having second thoughts on this.

Earlier this year, upscale U.S. handbag and accessory maker Coach said it planned to list in Hong Kong to reflect the growing importance of China’s luxury market. Coach didn’t give a timeframe for the IPO plan, but one thing is fairly certain – before Coach launches its IPO, its local partner in the small city of Dongguan, near Hong Kong, will aim to rise $200 million first.

The company, Sitoy (Dongguan) Leather Products has hired Bank of America-Merrill Lynch for a Hong Kong listing by the end of November. In IPO marketing materials distributed to potential investors, Sitoy described itself as the largest handbag OEM (original equipment manufacturer) in China, although it didn’t name any of its clients.

However, Chinese netizens quickly found out from the company’s website (www.sitoy.hk) that one of Sitoy’s OEM clients is Coach, a  New York-based brand popular among China’s fast-growing middle-class. In China, Coach prices are far lower than those for top-tier brands such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci, although it is still considered a luxury brand among consumers in the world’s No.2 economy.

“Why not buy expensive Caoch bags directly from the Dongguan factory? I believe the cost must be very cheap,” said one Sina Weibo user in response to the news. Foreign brands — not only luxury fashion brands but also consumer electronic makers — have many OEM partners in China, although they are often reluctant to identify them to avoid such unsatisfaction from local customers.

Banking on a Triple-A rating (Part 2)

George Chen
Aug 8, 2011 05:35 UTC

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

Who is perhaps the most hated man in Washington as well as on Wall Street these days?

Your guess? Not Muammar Gaddafi, not some Al-Qaeda extremist, not Kim Jong-il, but a man named David Beers. You may never have heard of David Beers but every financial policymaker in the world knows his name.

A Wall Street veteran and a graduate of the London School of Economics where he has endowed a scholarship in his name, he is the global head of sovereign credit ratings for Standard & Poor’s. For a Reuters story in details, click here.

Banking on a Triple-A rating

George Chen
Aug 4, 2011 04:00 UTC

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

You may think I am overly cynical today but let me first ask you a simple-yet-complicated question — what is fair?

Global ratings agency Moody’s said yesterday that the United States will retain its top AAA credit rating after President Barack Obama signed a bill to raise the federal debt ceiling. However, we heard very different opinions from China on the credit rating of the world’s No.1 economy.

A Chinese ratings agency yesterday downgraded the U.S. from A-plus to A, saying the deal to lift the debt ceiling would not solve underlying U.S. debt problems or improve its debt-paying ability over the long term.

Put a pause on China concept stocks

George Chen
Jul 22, 2011 04:02 UTC

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

Two Chinese dotcom companies have apparently become the latest victims of the growing market concern about China “concept” stocks in the wake a series of accounting scandals.

Online video firm Xunlei Ltd and Chinese e-book firm Cloudary Corp have postponed their U.S. fundraising plans. They both blamed volatile global markets. Volatile markets? Really? Aren’t the markets always volatile?

More or less, to some extent. We still see other companies lining up to list in the U.S. although the near-term outlook for China IPOs to land in the U.S. market doesn’t look too bright. In return, such concerns — warranted or not — are growing about Chinese companies listing in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Inflation-hit Chinese go abroad to shop

George Chen
Jul 11, 2011 06:32 UTC

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

It’s been a month since my last column on Reuters.com as I have been on the road for a while.

When I travel in New York and London, my identity is more like that of a consumer with a dash of journalistic observation. People usually say Hong Kong is a shopping paradise but in my view, Hong Kong is no longer my favorite city for shopping. For U.S. fashion brands such as Cole Haan or Banana Republic, prices are much cheaper in New York. It’s the same for London if you’re a big fan of Burberry or Paul Smith.

The American people I know complain far less about the financial crisis than two or three years ago. Instead, some of them say they actually enjoy some of the benefits. Rents are cheaper. Food is cheaper. Transport companies are unable to raise ticket prices.

Is China Inc still credible?

George Chen
Jun 9, 2011 03:19 UTC

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

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao once said there’s something even more important and precious than gold — people’s confidence.

In recent weeks, I’m afraid global investors have been losing confidence in Chinese stocks from the New York to Shanghai markets. Sino-Forest Corp became the latest victim of a slump in overseas-listed Chinese companies. The company earlier this week accused short-seller and research firm Muddy Waters of defamation for alleging in a report that it had fraudulently exaggerated its Chinese forestry assets.

Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of the hit to confidence over Chinese stocks, especially small caps listed at home or abroad, for example in Hong Kong, Singapore, New York and even on the second-tier board of the London Stock Exchange.

Is there really a China story?

George Chen
May 26, 2011 05:09 UTC


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

I remember a veteran trader once told me of the three scenarios under which one should sell stocks.

First, sell when you start to sense the government is beginning to tighten market liquidity, indicated for example by a sudden influx of IPOs or a tougher monetary policy. Second, sell when you see almost everyone, from monks to neighborhood grandmothers, is buying. Third, when you see big banks such as Goldman Sachs downgrade their economic forecasts, which basically means they know they misunderstand something and have to fix the misunderstanding, sell.

So, this week Goldman Sachs trimmed its economic growth forecasts for China to 9.4 percent this year, from 10 percent previously, citing a recent run of surprisingly weak data, high oil prices and supply constraints. Goldman’s report created a buzz in the market, pushing some investors to sell further amid already weak sentiment. More banks are expected to follow Goldman’s move to trim their China forecasts in coming days and weeks.

Could Strauss-Kahn’s successor be Chinese?

George Chen
May 20, 2011 02:06 UTC

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

So, Dominique Strauss-Kahn has resigned with immediate effect. But to the International Monetary Fund it’s hardly the end, just a new beginning.

So who will be the new leader of the IMF? In Beijing, there’s growing ambition and confidence that a Chinese candidate should be appointed, or at least considered.

Zhu Min, a native of Shanghai who experienced the horrible Cultural Revolution and then managed to be admitted into the prestigious Fudan University after the political movement ended, is widely considered and promoted by domestic media as a strong Chinese candidate for the top IMF post.

Is Beijing brewing something?

George Chen
Apr 27, 2011 04:57 UTC

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

There are growing signs that something is brewing in relation to China’s foreign exchange rate regime.

When Hong Kong traders returned from the Easter break, many were surprised to be told by their mainland colleagues about growing market speculation that Beijing might be planning a one-off deal to lift the value of the yuan — some say by as much as 10 percent.

Others are more cautious. They say a one-off revaluation sounds unlikely although Beijing may relax foreign exchange controls by setting new “game rules” around the upcoming Labour Day holiday in the first week of May. The Financial Times yesterday ran a nice scoop about sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp being set to win new funds, likely $100-200 billion, as Beijing seeks to diversify its massive foreign exchange reserves, now exceeding $3 trillion.

Is China exporting a dotcom bubble?

George Chen
Apr 21, 2011 08:28 UTC

youku

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

“Will you marry me, Nasdaq?” that may be the message Jiayuan.com is keen to send to the Nasdaq and potential investors.

Jiayuan.com, an online dating service founded by a student of the Journalism School of Fudan University in 2003 and whose name means “a good destiny of love” in Chinese, today applied for an initial public offering in the United States. It’s the latest in a series of Chinese Internet technology and social networking companies to apply for a U.S. listing in recent months.

Now, I’m not a chartered financial analyst or Internet industry expert, so I just want to look at this wave of IPOs from a more personal perspective. First of all, I do believe there’s a reason behind the current rush of listing applications; it’s not mere coincidence!

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