Schlagwort-Archive: China

China’s booming fintech sector

The fast and furious growth of the country’s Internet finance industry will inevitably slow. Companies need to begin positioning themselves for sustainable success.

Download the full report here: Disruption-and-connection-cracking-the-myths-of-China-internet-finance-innovation

China’s Internet finance industry has boomed in recent years. The country leads the world when it comes to total users and market size; financial-technology (or fintech) start-ups are mushrooming, as are company valuations; capital markets are aggressively pursuing the Internet finance industry; and consumer behavior is altering dramatically. By the end of 2015, the market size of the country’s Internet finance sector was more than 12 trillion renminbi ($1.8 trillion), dominated by the payments sector (exhibit).

Four factors are driving this rapid growth. First, China has an open, supportive regulatory environment. In fact, in 2013 the People’s Bank of China explicitly expressed support for tech companies to promote Internet finance. Second, China has a highly developed e-commerce sector, with more than 30 percent of the Chinese population already using Internet payment systems. Third, there is enormous latent demand for inclusive finance. Due to historical protection and strict regulation, traditional players are moving slowly to meet underserved customer segments, opening the door to disruptors. And finally, the strong profitability of traditional banks has underwritten a strong trial-and-effort culture, facilitating aggressive investments in innovative digital services.

The Internet finance sector’s torrid growth will inevitably slow. This will present challenges and opportunities for companies, especially as more mature regulations are imposed and a degree of consolidation takes place. As outlined in our new report Disruption and connection: Cracking the myths of China Internet finance intervention, surviving and thriving in this changing environment requires companies to take steps now. That means understanding not just the trends likely to shape the sector but also the kind of companies that have evolved in recent years.

China’s three types of fintech players

Numerous players from various industries have rushed to stake a claim to China’s Internet finance sector. We’ve identified three distinct types of companies that are taking the lead, each with distinctive value propositions:

  • Internet attackers, or ‘barbarians from the outside.’ China has a uniquely competitive digital landscape dominated by a few digital companies that have established comprehensive multilicensed financial ecosystems. They differ from each other by core businesses or target groups. As one of the largest e-commerce companies globally, for example, Alibaba used its e-commerce business as a foundation of its financial empire, first entering into the payments sector before expanding into financing and wealth management, with an emphasis on hundreds of millions of individual and small- to medium-enterprise (SME) customers. Tencent took another route, expanding beyond the powerful social nature of its WeChat platform to build a consumer-oriented financial network that taps into its huge user base. These entrepreneurial attackers form the largest group and the most prolifically and wildly innovative, offering local products and expanding aggressively by taking full advantage of the customer insights at their disposal.
  • Traditional financial institutions. Incumbent financial institutions are accelerating their push into the Internet finance sector. They don’t want to just witness this wave—they want to ride it. Yet strict regulations and relatively conservative mind-sets mean they are typically followers rather than leaders, at least compared with Internet attackers. That said, institutions such as Ping An Insurance Group are strategically entering the sector through subsidiaries including Lufax, Pinganfang, and Ping An Puhui. In addition, large commercial banks are acting: for example, China Construction Bank and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China are now building their own e-commerce platforms. Others will inevitably follow. Traditional players also have several strengths that should not be underestimated: a legacy of strategic partnerships, comprehensive product offerings, professional risk-management expertise, and physical branches.
  • Nonfinance companies. Although small in number, companies with no experience in either finance or the Internet are joining the sector. Examples include retail companies Gome and Suning, and real-estate group Wanda Group, which are marrying extensive offline resources such as customer leads with data mining to design new financial products. In doing so, they threaten to undermine banks’ control over key business customers.

Six emerging fintech trends

In the near future, we believe China’s Internet finance players will enter a “warring stage” that results in consolidation. Regulations will be updated to account for new companies and products, and growth will become more orderly. In next five years, we see the enormous potential of six developing trends being gradually unleashed. Players should act quickly and firmly, strengthening skills and capabilities to take advantage of fintech’s global emergence.

Mobile payment and wealth management

Payment is the most mature sector in Internet finance, but growth in the payments industry is far from slowing. Consumer engagement and affinity are increasing, and online-to-offline mobile payment via smartphones has become a new battlefield where companies are already starting to compete fiercely for market share. Traditional financial institutions, in cooperation with mobile-hardware manufacturers, are also starting to adopt near-field communication payment. At the same time, China’s capital market is opening up. As they accumulate more wealth, Chinese consumers are hunting for higher investment returns—meaning that all investment products, except savings, are expected to maintain rapid growth. That provides opportunities for Internet-based wealth-management businesses.

Online consumer and SME finance

As China’s economy seeks to evolve from investment led to consumer led, demand for financial services among Chinese households will only increase. Younger Chinese consumers are early adopters and keen drivers of innovation, more open to online personal-finance products, and have both a higher propensity to spend and a higher tolerance for financial risk. Indeed, as more advanced application of data enables quick and remote decision making, the full range of conventional consumer-financing products—such as credit cards and consumer loans—can be offered online, further broadening the industry’s potential scope. In addition, there remains a large gap between the needs of SMEs and traditional banking products. SMEs in China contribute a significant share of GDP and employment (nearly 80 percent and 60 percent respectively), yet their development has been beset by a shortage of funds. As the country’s economy slows, banks are becoming more reluctant to address this issue—presenting a huge opportunity for the highly efficient, low-cost fintech sector.

B2B Internet finance

In the next five years, companies will still contribute the majority of banking revenue in China—and the long business-to-business value chain will generate both opportunities and innovation. Chinese companies are shifting from simply borrowing to having more complicated needs, such as transaction banking and asset management. In transaction banking, Internet finance can provide time-effective supply-chain financing solutions and digitized cash-management systems to support high-quality management of corporate finance and capital for large companies. In asset management, Internet finance can better address increasingly complex customer needs by providing quick, customized, and differentiated product matching, especially when high-quality assets are difficult to find. Internet channels are also well suited to marketing and customer expansion.

Financial cloud and infrastructure

Unlike the traditional model, where financial institutions operate their own data and IT centers, cloud-based services allow customers to be served remotely based on demand, paying for that usage. Cost effectiveness is a major advantage, with the cloud allowing customers to easily access information with minimal up-front and overhead spending. It also allows customers to retain flexible infrastructure that can be quickly scaled up or down. That’s especially important for small players who need to rapidly build IT capabilities to serve explosively growing user bases and fluctuating volumes. Many IT companies such as Alibaba, Huawei, and IBM are already providing cloud solutions and platforms. We believe cloud-enabled innovation in the Internet finance sector will only increase.

Big data application

Big data allows financial institutions to collect and analyze customer data, providing more tailored products and services through a personalized marketing experience. In risk management, big data allows players to use advanced statistical models to better understand the correlation between factors and risks, based on both internal and external data. Combining this with cloud services facilitates real-time credit investigation and decision making at a low cost. Financial institutions that master these data-driven advantages will enjoy increased operational efficiency and business performance. It’s perhaps no wonder that there’s a huge unmet need forbig data analytics in China—and more and more companies are emerging to serve financial institutions unable build this capability in-house.

Disruptive technology

Blockchain and related disruptive technologies have drawn close attention in the financial industry. Blockchain, the technological base of Bitcoin, is characterized as being safe, transparent, and unmodifiable—however, blockchain has much greater potential than digital currencyalone. It enables point-to-point transactions without a clearing intermediary, substantially reducing transaction time and cost. Further, if combined with smart contracts, blockchain makes it possible to automatically issue digital securities and trade financial derivatives. More broadly, the insurance sector will also provide new opportunities for the application of blockchain.

All of this isn’t to suggest there aren’t nonexposed risks, uncertainties, and challenges associated with China’s booming Internet finance industry. These include consumer irrationality, product defects, and even fraudulent activity, and require careful maneuvering. Players also should cautiously deal with the implicit credit risk and liquidity risk, and be aware that regulators are determined to strengthen the management of Internet finance.

Yet we believe China’s fintech sector will inevitably embrace fiercer competition and further industry integration, with true winners emerging through selection and elimination as they navigate the developing trends we have identified. No matter which element of the Internet finance industry they are in, and whatever their business models are, players must keep evolving to survive and realize a sustainable stake in the sector’s future growth.


Bitcoin is soaring due to China and Brexit

Bitcoin is on a tear.

The price of bitcoin has jumped 42 percent since the beginning of June. It hasn’t been this high since early 2014. It’s moved from a total market capitalization of US$8.3 billion, to nearly US$12 billion. It’s unheard of for a currency – digital or otherwise – to skyrocket this quickly.

Bitcoin Price

China has played a big part in this rally. As The Wall Street Journalrecently reported, two Chinese exchanges, Huobi and OKCoin, now collectively account for 92 percent of global trading in bitcoin.

In February, we explained that bitcoin is “cryptocurreny,” or a form of digital money. It’s created and stored electronically through a blockchain database.

Like dollars or yen, you can use bitcoin to buy goods and services. But, unlike paper currencies, which governments can create and print at will, no single entity controls the bitcoin network. Its mathematical rules limit the maximum number of bitcoin units to 21 million.

A network of “miners” digitally secures bitcoin transactions. When a miner completes the complex process of mining a block, he’s paid a fee – in bitcoin.

Every time 210,000 bitcoin blocks are mined, the value of mining new bitcoins is cut in half. There’s only been one “halving” since bitcoin was created eight years ago. It happened in November 2012.

Miners expect the next halving to happen in July. This is one explanation for the recent price surge. Some investors see the imminent halving – which will cut the mining fee from 25 to 12.5 bitcoins – as a reduction in supply. That’s why they’re bullish on bitcoin.

Another explanation is that blockchain, the technology at the heart of bitcoin, is gaining traction in a growing number of commercial applications, stoking investor interest.

Also, concerns over “Brexit” are adding to bitcoin demand. Some investors are worried about the financial fallout if the U.K. leaves the European Union. So they’re turning to bitcoin as a safe haven asset – treating it like a digital alternative to gold.

Yuan, china currencyReuters/StringerDamaged 100 yuan banknotes are seen on a table at a branch of China Bank in Foshan, Guangdong province, June 5, 2013. A woman brought about 400,000 yuan ($65,200), which she had kept at home, to the bank for replacement after most of the notes were bitten by white ants. Her notes were exchanged for new ones but for 60,000 yuan ($9,780) which the bank assessed and declared to be unchangeable. Picture taken June 5, 2013.

That said, the yuan is a much bigger player in this bitcoin rally.
China’s currency has been weak in recent months. It’s down 6.1 percent against the dollar since August.

Investors in China are selling yuan-denominated assets in favour of other currencies, particularly the U.S. dollar. In 2015, Chinese citizens and corporations moved an estimated US$1 trillion in capital out of China. The capital flight has slowed this year. But renewed weakness in the yuan may reaccelerate it.

China’s government wants this to stop. This is part of the reason why it prohibits individual citizens from moving more than US$50,000 per year out of the country. Even so, Chinese citizens have a variety of ways to bypass these capital controls – including bitcoin.

Bitcoin is gaining popularity as a method to quietly and anonymously move money out of China. Basically, a Chinese investor can deposit yuan in a bitcoin account and exchange the bitcoin overseas for some other currency. Fees range from one to two percent.

The price of bitcoin is volatile. So there’s a risk it might change while the transaction is being processed, causing the investor to lose money. Otherwise, it’s a relatively simple way to skirt the rules.

Still, the main reason for bitcoin’s price surge is even simpler: Good old-fashioned speculation.

In recent months, speculation driven by Chinese money has resulted in short-lived bubbles in assets as diverse as iron ore, steel rebar, cotton, and eggs – as well as in bitcoin.

All of these Chinese-driven speculations have the same basic lifeline. Whatever the explanation – lack of alternative investments, a deep-rooted gambling culture, investing naiveté, easy-money loans – each of these market booms played out the same way. Prices shot up in a speculative frenzy, and crashed once the mania faded.

Bitcoin shows all the signs of another Chinese-driven financial bubble.
That’s not to say the price of bitcoin won’t go higher. Bitcoin’s 2013 price surge, as shown above, is the stuff of legend. At the start of 2013, you could purchase a single bitcoin for around US$12. On November 29, you could sell that same single bitcoin for US$1,100.

That’s more than a 9,000 percent gain.

If the yuan starts to freefall, it’s certainly plausible that bitcoin could blast as high as it did in 2013, which would be about a 50 percent gain from current levels.

Keep in mind that China’s economy dwarfs the bitcoin market. Chinese financial deposits total over US$22 trillion. The country experienced capital outflows of US$45 billion in April alone, according to RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland). And by recent standards that’s considered moderate.

If the yuan starts a correction in earnest, and just a portion of the fleeing capital flows into bitcoin, it’s anyone’s guess how high the price of bitcoin might fly.

Nevertheless, buyer beware. When this bubble pops (as they all do), many speculators will wish they had never heard of bitcoin.

This is why China’s investors are crazy about bitcoin

China is close to having its own Silicon Valley

The headline data out of China hasn’t exactly been comforting of late. The country is grappling with the challenges of slowing GDP growth, rising debt levels, and volatile stock markets, to name just a few. But if the macroeconomic statistics seem bleak, the picture is brighter among the country’s entrepreneurial class. The quality of Chinese innovation is increasing, the funding environment is improving, particularly for early-stage companies, and the Chinese government is doing everything it can to make China Inc. a force to be reckoned with.

It should come as no surprise that a large portion of recent Chinese startups is aimed squarely at the country’s rapidly expanding middle class. The number of middle-class adults in China has grown by more than half since 2000, to a total of 109 million, more than the 105 million in all of North America, according to Credit Suisse’s 2015 Global Wealth Report. And their spending power has increased even more: Middle-class wealth jumped more than seven-fold during that time, from $1.7 billion to $7.3 billion. What Chinese people eat, drink, and wear, where they travel, and what they do for entertainment “will be the driving force of consumption in the next decade,” Michelle Leung, founder and CEO of Xingtai Capital Management, said at Credit Suisse’s 2016 Asian Investment Conference (AIC) in April.

Internet giants Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent were at the head of the first generation of Chinese startups to successfully target the country’s burgeoning middle class. All three continue to build their businesses by rolling out new e-commerce, social media, and mobile payment products and services to middle-class consumers. While their size and momentum make them formidable adversaries to any startup seeking to compete with them, their collective success has also made it easier for startups when it comes to one key variable: capital. Whereas the Internet pioneers had to go overseas to scrounge up funding, today’s Chinese entrepreneurs are awash in both foreign and domestic capital. That kind of change brings its own challenges, including rising concern about high valuations and liquidity risk, but those are high-class problems when compared to no capital whatsoever.

Signage for Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. covers the front facade of the New York Stock Exchange November 11, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermidThomson ReutersSignage for Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. covers the front facade of the New York Stock Exchange

Early-stage funding has never been anywhere near as plentiful in China as it has been in the U.S. or Europe. A decade ago, it was positively scarce. Ramakrishna Velamuri, professor of entrepreneurship at the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai, says that when he first came to China in 2007, many so-called venture capital firms acted more like private equity firms, buying out companies instead of taking minority stakes. But that’s changing. While there is still more capital seeking to fund later-stage companies, a slew of domestic and foreign investors at the seed and angel stages has begun to emerge. “It’s been like a gold rush,” says Velamuri. “Lots of people who made money in real estate investments or in businesses have decided to become investors.”

Wu Yibing, head of the Singaporean sovereign wealth fund Temasek’s China business, says the fund believes strongly in Chinese innovation and has begun investing more aggressively in the country’s startups as a result. “Increasingly, to capture the China innovation theme, we are moving to earlier stages,” he says. By investing earlier on, he said, “you will be there with them when they become Didi Chuxing (a ride-sharing service) or Alibaba – and when that happens, they’ll be very expensive.”

The Chinese government has played an important role in the changes in the funding environment. Some 780 state-backed venture capital funds raised $231 billion in 2015, tripling the amount of assets under management in just a single year, to a total of $338 billion. While that money is also available for later-stage financings, such as a $4.5 billion fundraising round for Ant Financial, Alibaba’s financial services spinoff, the funds are squarely aimed at shoring up seed-stage and angel investing in China. And there’s even help before the money comes: Since it began its campaign to support entrepreneurship in 2014, the government has also opened 1,600 high-tech incubators for startups.

The flood of investor interest in Chinese startups has pushed up valuations to a degree that has begun to concern some investors, however. At the Credit Suisse 2016 Asian Investment Conference (AIC) in April, Wu compared China’s frothiness to that of Silicon Valley. At the same time, he noted a concurrent consolidation trend that has helped justify at least some of those valuations. The 2015 merger of ride-sharing apps Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache into Didi Chuxing, for example, positioned the company to receive a $1 billion investment from Apple in May.

Didi taxi driverReuters/Jason Lee

If the funding environment has improved dramatically, the same cannot yet be said for its flipside: liquidity. Stock markets have been volatile over the last 12 months, and the Chinese government has repeatedly banned IPOs for extended periods. December 2013 marked the end of a 15-month freeze, while 2015 saw a five-month shutdown between July and early November. Zhang Yichen, Chairman and CEO of China-focused private equity fund CITIC Capital Holdings, said at the AIC that his company focuses on buyouts primarily to control the exit strategy. When firms the company invests in do go public, Zhang said, CITIC typically tries to sell enough stock to pre-IPO funds before the offering to make back their money – just in case. Velamuri also points out that liquidity has been helped by China’s hot M&A market. In 2015, the Internet conglomerates Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent invested $29 billion between them to acquire or take minority stakes in 134 firms.

For public-market equities investors seeking a piece of the startup action in China, the primary and secondary markets each present their own challenges. In the primary market, the number of promising startups is growing, but it’s still exceedingly difficult to pick winners and losers in a market as brutally competitive as China’s. And in the secondary market, it’s the usual story—too much money chasing too few success stories. Vincent Chan, Credit Suisse’s Head of China Research, notes that traditional industries such as banks and commodities companies still dominate Chinese public markets, while newer, high-growth sectors such as technology, communications, and media are tiny by comparison. “You end up with people paying a very high multiple for companies with a relatively small earnings base,” he says.

When the amount of capital available to fund promising startups shifts from not enough to more than enough, the challenges shift too. Today, liquidity and valuation risks are increasing for entrepreneurs and investors alike in China. But that’s also better than the alternative, which is no money available at all. For the time being, money is flowing, the Chinese government has committed to innovation as a national policy, M&A provides a viable exit route, and Chinese consumers are eager for the next, new thing. Whether this will prove another golden era for entrepreneurialism in China, only time will tell, but in the meantime, China’s startups are too busy figuring out new ways to cater to a fast-growing consumer base to worry about it. To find out more about China’s increasingly innovative startups, read our companion story here.

Apple’s Chinese Miracle Is Over


Perhaps the most important number in Apple’s quarterly release on Tuesday came from China, and it’s not the good news Apple makes out. The company’s over reliance on the Chinese market is starting to hinder its progress despite management’s attempts to give it a positive spin.

During Tuesday’s earnings call, Apple chief executive Tim Cook sang the praises of the Chinese market, saying it will one day be Apple’s largest. In fiscal 2015, which ended for Apple on Sept. 26, Greater China provided 25 percent of the company’s revenue, for the first time overtaking Europe, responsible for just 21.6 percent of Apple sales. An economic slowdown? Not according to Cook, who is worth quoting at length here:

Frankly, if I were to shut off my web and shut off the TV and just look at how many customers are coming in our stores regardless of whether they’re buying, how many people are coming online, and in addition looking at our sales trends, I wouldn’t know there was any economic issue at all in China. And so I don’t know how unusual we are with that. I think that there’s a misunderstanding, probably particularly in the Western world, about China’s economy, which contributes to the confusion. That said, I don’t think it’s growing as fast as it was; but I also don’t think that Apple’s results are largely dependent on minor changes in growth.

The statistics Cook cites in support of this view are impressive: 87 percent growth in iPhone sales year-on-year in Greater China (which includes Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau) despite the entire market’s 4 percent growth; revenue almost twice as high in the last quarter as a year ago; and the iPhone 6 now the bestselling smartphone in China, with the iPhone 6 Plus at number three. These numbers are less relevant, however, than two others: a drop in quarter-on-quarter sales in Greater China and an erosion of Apple’s overall market share there.

In the last quarter of fiscal 2015, Apple made $12.5 billion in revenue in Greater China, a 5.4 percent drop compared to the previous three months, despite the inclusion of the first weekend of iPhone 6s sales in the fourth quarter, 2015 data. In 2014, the new iPhone 6 wasn’t immediately available in China, so the fourth quarter didn’t benefit from the new product boost — and still sales were higher than in the previous three months.

Apple in China

Cook is wrong to say the Chinese slowdown isn’t affecting his company’s sales. The effect has been immediate and quite obvious. But Apple’s market share in the Asia Pacific region, which includes China, wasn’t growing even before it manifested itself.

According to data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence, in the second quarter of this year, Apple’s market share of smartphone unit shipments in the region dropped to 7.7 percent from 10.8 percent in the previous quarter as Chinese leaders Huawei and Xiaomi increased their shares. Apple is the Asian smartphone market leader in terms of value, but its share by that measure also dropped in the second quarter — to 34.1 percent from 42.7 percent in the previous three months. Again, Huawei and Xiaomi posted gains, although Korean producers such as Samsung and LG also managed to pick up some of Apple’s losses. As Apple’s revenue in the region dropped, it was unlikely to have made share gains in the last quarter.

Cook is banking on the future growth of the Chinese middle class, and that’s an obvious long-term bet to make, but under the current economic conditions, this growth is not likely to be explosive. Besides, Apple won’t even be able to grow its sales at the same rate because many Chinese consumers will opt for better-value devices from local producers, as they’re already doing, judging by the market share data.

Improving distribution in China yielded strong revenue gains for Apple this year. Greater China accounted for 53 percent of the company’s revenue growth in fiscal 2015. Unless China’s economic troubles are miraculously cured over the next year or Huawei and Xiaomi stop making cutting-edge devices for a fraction of Apple’s prices, this growth engine has stalled. Nor does Apple have any comparable opportunities for extensive growth anywhere else in the world.

Cook’s bet on China was, of course, no mistake: It would be a crime for a device producer not to develop a strong presence in the world’s most populous country. Focusing on China was a business decision that produced gains comparable to a ground-breaking product launch, especially in 2015. There are no more miracles coming out of China, however, and no more technological rabbits coming out of Apple’s hat. It’s time for some stagnation and retrenchment — at least by this company’s remarkably high standards.


Chinesischer Chemiekonzern ChemChina kauft italienischen Reifenhersteller Pirelli

Mit der Übernahme erhält ChemChina Zugang zur Technologie für die Herstellung von Premium-Reifen.

Der staatliche chinesische Chemiekonzern ChemChina will den italienischen Reifenhersteller Pirelli komplett übernehmen. In einem ersten Schritt haben sich die Chinesen für knapp 1,9 Milliarden Euro 26,2 Prozent der Anteile gesichert. Das Paket wurde dem Mehrheitseigner Camfin abgekauft. Der Preis je Aktie beträgt 15 Euro.

So viel wird auch den anderen Aktionären geboten. Gelingt die Komplettübernahme, müssten die Chinesen 7,1 Milliarden Euro auf den Tisch legen.

Die Italiener erhoffen sich von dem neuen Großaktionär einen besseren Zugang zum asiatischen Markt. So soll das Geschäft mit Lastwagen-Reifen mit Teilen von ChemChina zusammengelegt und so das Volumen in dem Bereich von 6 auf 12 Millionen verdoppelt werden.

Pirelli hostesses take pictures as drivers compete
Pirelli ist mit seinen Reifen auch in der Formel 1 vertreten

Pirelli erzielte im Vorjahr in 160 Ländern mehr als sechs Mrd. Euro Umsatz und ist damit der weltweit fünftgrößte Reifenproduzent. Der Firmensitz soll in Mailand bleiben. Auch die Produktion soll in Italien weitergeführt werden. Die Übernahme soll bis zum Sommer abgeschlossen sein.Die Pirelli-Aktie legte am Montag mehr als vier Prozent zu.

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