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Asia News Bulletin - Mar 26


Hong Kong’s benchmark stock gauge slumped into a technical correction as the city ordered a temporary suspension of BioNTech vaccinations due to packaging defects. While the HKEx has seen an active week, companies are pulling planned IPO applications in China due to tightening regulations. European companies in Korea are generally satisfied with their business performance but point out increasing difficulties due to the legislative environment and discretionary enforcement of regulations.


MAJOR HEADLINES IN ASIA

This section tracks major political, economic and business news from the key economies in Asia.

  • The Hong Kong export index, a gauge of the short-term export prospects for exporters in the special administrative region, gained for the fourth consecutive quarter in the Q1, demonstrating that confidence is on the rise. However, it remains below the threshold of 50, meaning contraction, indicating that the road to full recovery is still long.

  • European companies operating in Korea are generally optimistic over Seoul’s growing importance as a business venue, according to the Business Confidence Survey 2020 by the European Chamber of Commerce in Korea. While 63% of the respondents expressed overall satisfaction with their business performance in Korea, they also pointed out that doing business in Korea has become difficult over the past two years, citing the legislative environment and discretionary enforcement of regulations.

  • Malaysia and Singapore are preparing for mutual recognition of Covid-19 vaccination certificate in an effort to revive travel, the two countries’ foreign ministers announced. Yet the details of the bilateral program have not been ironed out. The joint statement said details such as requirements for mutual recognition, health protocols and application procedures will be further deliberated and finalized by the two countries.

  • China will continue to reform its personal income tax system in the 14th Five-Year Plan that runs through 2025, with earnings from property and other assets expected to be added to comprehensive income along with cuts to the top tax rate. Analysts predict that regulators may cut the top rate to 35%, or even 25%, from the current 45%.

EQUITY AND DEBT CAPITAL MARKETS

This section highlights the biggest ECM and DCM developments in China and Hong Kong which are moving markets and grabbing headlines.

CHINA

  • Chinese firms have flocked to pull planned initial public offerings this year after regulators moved to tighten requirements to protect investors and safeguard financial stability. According to Bloomberg, a total of 84 companies have withdrawn their IPO applications this year, compared with 9 in the first quarter of last year and the most in three years. The technology-focused Shanghai Star and Shenzhen ChiNext markets are seeing the most cancellations.

HONG KONG

  • Baidu started trading in Hong Kong this week, with less than 1% premium after completing its US$3.05 billion stock offering, underperforming recent big technology listings in the city. Baidu’s listing comes at a time when sentiment on technology companies has soured on valuation concerns.

  • Bilibili has also priced its shares at US$104 each on Tuesday, raising about US$2.6 billion from investors, slightly below its US$2.8 billion target flagged at the launch of marketing for its second listing.


PE/VC DEAL ACTIVITY

This section tracks the fundraising, deals and other activities conducted by the PE/VC funds in Asia.


CHINA AND HONG KONG

  • Shanghai Cell Therapy Group has secured nearly US$76.6 million in a Series D1 round of financing jointed led by Jiuzhou Venture, CCB International, and Sun Rock Capital. The fresh capital will be used to advance its R&D, talent recruitment, and clinical trials of product candidates.

  • Bain Capital Private Equity led a US$200 million investment in Newlink Group, operator of a platform that helps drivers in China locate the best value gas stations and charging piles. Joy Capital re-upped in the round.

  • Beijing-based intelligent robotics developer ForwardX Robotics has garnered over US$38 million in a Pre-C round of financing led by the company’s long-term investor CDH VGC.

  • Sequoia Capital China has led a US$23 million Series B round funding in digital healthcare management platform Hangzhou Jianhai Technology.

  • Shanghai-based EpimAb Biotherapeutics has raised US$120 million in Series C funding led by CMB International and Korea’s Mirae Asset Financial Group. Hony Capital, Cormorant Asset Management, Yanchuang Capital, Octagon Capital, ShangBay Capital, and Adrian Cheng of New World Development also took part.

JAPAN AND KOREA

  • CLSA Capital Partners has reached an agreement to acquire Japanese wedding service providers Dears Brain and Planet Work. The acquisition will be made through a special purpose vehicle Dears Brain Holding.

  • Japan’s Kintetsu Group Holdings will sell eight hotels to Blackstone Group for an undisclosed amount. Kintetsu said it would continue to operate the hotels, which have a book value of US$385 million and are part of a portfolio of 24 hotels.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

  • Purplle, an e-commerce platform for beauty products in India, has raised US$45 million in a new financing round from Sequoia Capital India, Verlinvest, Blume Ventures and JSW Ventures, as it looks to expand its presence in the world’s second-largest internet market.

  • Singapore’s Quadria Capital has paid an undisclosed sum for a minority stake in Hermina Hospitals, one of the largest hospital chains in Indonesia.


REGULATORY UPDATES

This section highlights the major regulations, policy changes and political developments in China and Hong Kong that have implications for the business environment.

CHINA

  • The China Securities Regulatory Commission issued revised rules to lower the threshold for investing in brokerage businesses while broadening the definition of major shareholders. Under the new rules, major stakeholders of securities businesses would no longer be required to be industry leaders, have experience in related financial business or maintained sustained profitability for the past three consecutive years. The asset requirement is also lowered to US$7 million.

HONG KONG

  • The National People's Congress Standing Committee will meet early next week to discuss and amend annexes one and two of the city’s Basic Law, which cover the method to select the Chief Executive and form the Legislative Council, as well as its voting procedures. The meeting is also expected to nail down specifics on the qualification review committee and give guidance on who can and cannot be nominated as candidates. Once the NPCSC completes its work, the Hong Kong Government will table the bills to the local legislature to amend related laws. The Legislative Council has already established a special committee to fast-track the amendments.


ONE FOR THE WEEKEND

Each week we will select one or two articles which have caught our attention – long reads, institutional outlooks, analysis or interesting viewpoints


Some Chinese Netizens have responded with fury after comments made last year by H&M and Nike regarding cotton sourced from Xinjiang Province which were unearthed. Mainland newspapers have denounced the brands and H&M products were removed from all major Chinese e-commerce platforms, including JD, Taobao, and Pinduoduo. While this is not the first time a western brand has provoked ire in the mainland for a perceived insult, they are amongst the largest, and part of a trend which leaves western brands treading a very fine line between their domestic governments and audiences and China.



THE WEEK AHEAD

Korea, Japan and Thailand will report industrial production numbers next week, while Malaysia releases trade data. Korea and Indonesia will be announcing consumer price data, which analysts predict that there will not be much inflation.



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