China is under the spotlight this week as it kicks off its annual parliament session, to focus on how to rein in a post-pandemic economy. Hong Kong is planning to double the number of stocks in its benchmark index and allow SPACs to list in the Asian financial hub. South Korea announces investment plans to grow its digital retail segment, while China fines group-buying platforms over misleading price tactics.
MAJOR HEADLINES IN ASIA
This section tracks major political, economic and business news from the key economies in Asia.
The South Korean government plans to invest US$267 million over the next three years to speed up the growth of the digital retail segment, paving the way for online retailers to tap deeper into the overseas markets and helping them adopt state-of-the-art technologies. The government added that it will actively participate in the negotiations at the WTO on setting international rules on the e-commerce segment.
US think tank Heritage Foundation dropped Hong Kong and Macau from its 2021 Index of Economic Freedom after Hong Kong topped the list for 25 years until 2019. The foundation said that developments in Hong Kong or Macau that are relevant to economic freedom would be considered in the context of China's evaluation in the index.
Shanghai unveils the blueprint for opening up to the West in the form of the Hongqiao International Open Hub, a global central business district, international trade centre and major transportation hub spread over 7,000 square kilometres. Earmarked to be completed in 2035, the Hongqiao Hub will become the crossroad for global flows of freight, business, people and capital.
Starting from May 1, the Singapore government will require foreigners living as dependents in the city-state who decide to seek employment to obtain their own work passes, as the authority aligns their work arrangements with other foreign-worker requirements.
The Australian government announced a 10-year road map, the Modern Manufacturing Initiative, that includes US$1 billion of funding to help businesses capitalise on the country’s abundant natural resources and exploit opportunities in a de-carbonising world. It encourages growth in high-value products like batteries and solar cells, as well as technologies and equipment that make mining safer and more efficient.
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 issued local government bonds worth US$8.6 billion last month, a decrease of about 87% from the previous year and down about 85% from January. Industry insiders said that the main reason for the decline is that this year’s local government bond quota has not been released in advance and the bonds sold last months were all refinancing notes to repay old debts.
Hong Kong is planning to double the number of stocks in its benchmark index to improve the overall coverage and achieve a more reasonable representation for each industry. The Hang Seng Indexes will raise the number of constituent stocks from 52 to 80 by mid-2022, before ultimately raising the total to 100.
Hong Kong is considering whether to allow Special Purpose Acquisition Companies to list in the Asia financial hub. Financial Secretary Paul Chan said that the Government has asked the city’s exchange operator and the markets regulator “to explore suitable listing regimes to enhance the competitiveness of Hong Kong as an international financial centre, while safeguarding the interests of the investing public.”
Ping An Group-backed online car-selling platform Autohome is seeking to raise up to US$984 million through a secondary listing of its shares in Hong Kong. The public offering runs from this Thursday until next Tuesday, with trading on the mainboard scheduled to start on March 15.
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
Suzhou Medilink Therapeutics, a Chinese biotech company specialising in antibody-drug conjugates commonly used as targeted therapies for treating cancer, has raised US$50 million in Series A funding across two tranches.
See Fund, an investment firm established by the founder of Chinese AI chip start-up DeePhi Technology, has raised US$31 million for its debut fund.
Chinese biotech firm Biotheus has secured over US$100 million in its fourth funding round co-led by General Atlantic and IDG Capital. New investors include Kunlun Capital, CPE, and PE Cowin Capital.
Chinese biopharmaceutical firm Gensciences has raised a total of over US$123.6 million through its Series A and Series B rounds of financing as the life science sector is gaining more traction during the global health crisis.
Industrial software and systems developer Morewis has secured US$15 million in a Series B round funding to support its R&D capacity and market expansion exclusively from Qiming Venture Partners.
JAPAN AND KOREA
Japanese space robotics startupGitai has raised US$17.1 million in its Series B round led by SPARX Innovation for Future Co. Ltd. to accelerate its business and technology development.
Singapore’s Asia Partners has closed its debut Southeast Asia VC fund at US$384 million, describing it as the largest-ever first-time technology vehicle focused on the region.
Singapore-based Next Gen, which markets a vegetarian chicken brand called Tindle, has raised US$10 million in the largest-ever seed round in the food tech space.
This section highlights the major regulations, policy changes and political developments in China and Hong Kong that have implications for the business environment.
China's market regulator has levied fines against five community group-buying platforms owned and backed by Meituan, Pinduoduo, Tencent Holdings, Alibaba Group and DidiChuxing for engaging in improper pricing practices that threaten to undercut small businesses. The watchdog said that these platforms had issued since the second half of last year a large amount of price subsidies which disrupted market order, while some of them also used misleading price tactics.
Beijing is expected to unveil new political policies on Hong Kong at the “two sessions”. A detailed proposal will reportedly be communicated to the Hong Kong delegation. The plan will likely include changes to how the 70-seat Hong Kong legislature is elected and the composition of a committee that will select Hong Kong’s next leader.
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
China’s “two sessions” or Lianghui, the most important political gathering of the year, has kicked off in Beijing this week. Technology, economic growth and climate change are all on the agenda as well as electoral reform in Hong Kong. Due to Covid-19, this year’s session will be slightly different, and will also include the unveiling of China’s 14th five-year plan. The SCMP is covering it in-depth, with live updates throughout.
THE WEEK AHEAD
China and Taiwan will report trade figures for February which strong momentum is expected as the recovering global demand supports Asian exports. Malaysia and India are set to release their industrial production data.
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