ChemChina’s takeover of Syngenta

August 22, 2016 7:21 am

ChemChina clears hurdle in $44bn takeover of Syngenta

People take an elevator outside the headquarters of China National Chemical Corporation in Beijing...People take an elevator outside the headquarters of China National Chemical Corporation in Beijing, February 4, 2005. China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina) agreed on March 22, 2015 to buy tyre maker Pirelli in a 7.1 billion euro ($7.7 billion) deal that will place one of the symbols of Italy's manufacturing industry in Chinese hands. Picture taken February 4, 2005. REUTERS/Stringer - RTR4UFNQ©Reuters

Shares in Syngenta jumped 11 per cent on Monday after a US committee scrutinising national security concerns approved ChemChina’s $44bn takeover of the Swiss agribusiness.

The two companies said on Monday they had received clearance from the US Committee on Foreign Investment for the deal, which was first announced in February, clearing a significant hurdle for the takeover.

Investors had seen US worries about the potential national security concerns in a strategically important sector as the main obstacle to execution of the transaction — leading to Syngenta’s shares trading at a significant discount to the offer price.

ChemChina’s bid for Syngenta, a Basel-based company that employs 28,000 people in more than 90 countries, is part of a wave of overseas acquisitions by Chinese companies searching for high quality corporate and real estate assets.

ChemChina’s acquisition of Syngenta would be China’s biggest outbound transaction.

In February, Michel Demaré, Syngenta chairman, said he was “convinced there was no security issue to be concerned about”. However, a month later Chuck Grassley, the US Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, warned he was concerned that ChemChina’s bid would give Beijing ownership of a vital part of the US’s agricultural infrastructure.

“Because the food and agriculture sectors are part of the nation’s critical infrastructure this merger raises questions about the potential national security implications,” the veteran senator told an Iowa radio station.

CFIUS has the power to review and block any transaction that may concern US national security.

ChemChina offered to acquire Syngenta at $465 per share plus a special dividend of SFr5. However, investor scepticism over completion of the deal kept the Swiss company’s share price significantly below that level; on Friday the shares were trading at SFr380.80 ($395).

Syngenta’s shares rose 11.3 per cent to SFr423.80 in early Monday trading.

Monday’s announcement takes state-owned ChemChina closer to completion on schedule by the end of the year, although Monday’s statement said this remained “subject to antitrust review by numerous regulators around the world and other customary closing conditions”.

“Both companies are working closely with the regulatory agencies involved and discussions remain constructive,” the statement added.

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Delisting

 

“上市难”必然导致“退市更难”

2016年08月22日 11:39 来源于 财新网

  【财新网】(专栏作家 董登新)总有人误以为,要推行注册制,必须首先改革退市制度,这是一种因果颠倒、本末倒置的看法。事实上,垃圾股死不退市的原因就是核准制。因为“上市难”,所以“退市更难”。因此,要想退市制度发挥功效,就必须首先实现IPO注册制。换句话说,没有注册制,退市制度就只能是摆设。二者的逻辑关系无法改变、也不可能颠倒。

NASDAQ作为世界上最成功的创业板,我们曾经看到如此壮观的景象:20世纪90年代中期之前,NASDAQ每年IPO的家数可达500至700家,同时每年退市家数可达300至500家,1996年底,NASDAQ上市公司总数约为5600家。然而,此后,NASDAQ每年退市多达500至700家,而每年IPO则降为300至500家,结果导致NASDAQ上市公司总数出现了下降,曾经一度不足3000家。这就是NASDAQ的“大进大出”的生命力,这是大浪淘沙的博大胸怀与摧枯拉朽!不仅如此,NASDAQ还构建了“亏损上市”的IPO机制,鼓励新业态、新技术发展壮大,它的大气与包容创造了历史,并培育出了一批世界级的伟大企业,例如微软、苹果、因特尔、百度、新浪、搜狐等。

再看中国创业板,2009年创设,至今走过7个年头,其上市公司总数才达到500家,创业板总市值占中国股市总市值的比重仅有10%!它远无法满足中国股民偏好炒小、炒新的巨大需求,在供求关系严重扭曲的背景下,即便大熊市平均市盈率也能高达100倍,目前仍接近80倍。创业板股价普遍严重高估值,至今更没有一家公司退市,这就是中国股市的“上市难、退市更难”的最真实写照!中国股民最爱打新、炒新,却又十分害怕新股扩容,这就是核准制的扭曲。

其实,中国A股退市制度在设计理念和方法上,已经十分先进,比方,市场化程度最高的“1元退市标准”、成交量退市标准,以及防止利润操纵的总资产退市标准、净资产退市标准都已纳入A股退市制度,然而,为什么如此先进的退市制度仍成摆设?为什么垃圾股总是死不退市?因为我们没有注册制,只有行政审批的核准制。

实际上,退市制度是寄生在发审制度上的一个联体婴儿,二者不能分割。因为“上市难”,所以“退市更难”,这是因果关系、无法颠倒。A股现行IPO核准制的实质是行政审批制,它是指令性计划管制,是过度行政干预,也是“饥饿式”计划配给制,因此,企业要想拿到IPO批文和指标,确实比登天还难,因为IPO排长队有的要长达两、三年,这是最大的时间成本和不确定性,由于“好中选好、优中选优”的选美机制,再加上行政审批,成功过会的风险更大,这就是IPO的惊魂一跃!一旦成功过会,企业身价百倍,当然,它也会带来IPO身价百倍,因为我们的核准制让IPO成为了一种极其稀缺的珍贵资源,它让企业可以不择手段地去公关争夺,这样,就会有巨大的圈钱机会,当然,这也为监管者留下了权力寻租空间!

尤其是对于企业而言,一旦IPO成功,也就万事大吉。这与成熟市场的情形完全相反,比方,在美国股市,IPO很容易,然而一旦IPO后就会十分难受,因为政府监管、市场监督太严厉,它让许多中资企业倍感压力和不安,因此,不少中资概念股最后选择回国或私有化,甚至主动退市。这就是两类IPO体制下的两重天!因为中国企业将IPO看作是“毕业典礼”,而成熟市场的企业却将IPO看作是“开学典礼”。

既然A股IPO如此艰难、成本高昂、风险巨大,那么,与其排队两、三年,将时间和金钱都赔给了时间和券商,倒不如到二级市场寻找一个肮脏的“壳”公司,只要振臂一呼、股民就会奋勇参与共同炒壳重组,结果就是皮包公司买壳上市、股民买单的不归路。这样的曲线上市,谁也管不着,谁也不用求,只要率领股民共赴垃圾股赌博,就有可能操作成功、一夜暴富!这样的A股市场,还哪有什么垃圾股退市?因为垃圾股都成为了皮包公司的抢手货、股民的香饽饽!于是全民流行暴炒垃圾股,一起参赌破产保壳重组游戏,享受赌博的过程,或许还能实现发财梦,何乐而不为?这也是人生的一种刺激体验。

其实,有什么样的制度和市场,就一定会有什么样的投资者。核准制就是不让投资者独立判断、自担风险,而是由监管者辛苦代劳或越俎代庖,美其名曰:保护中小投资者。在核准制下,一些发行人为了拿到IPO批文,甚至甘冒犯罪风险,与保荐人、承销商合谋,不择手段包装,甚至信息造假,它们一旦IPO,圈钱到手,也就万事大吉。同样,投资者打新、炒新根本不需要自己判断,闭着眼睛就敢参与,因为所有新股上市都要连拉N个涨停板,有些新股若不能一口气拉升至200元是不会罢休的。这就是糟糕透顶的、行政审批的核准制!

因此,只有IPO注册制,才能拯救A股市场。只有注册制,才能让监管者成为真正的市场监管者,而不再是IPO审批者;只有注册制,才能让股民成为真正的投资者,而不再赌博;只有注册制,才能让发行人与证券中介承担连带的法律责任,并有效威慑证券犯罪与信息造假活动。

只有注册制,才能让IPO身价暴跌,才能让“新股不败”变成“新股破发”;只有注册制,才能让垃圾股的壳资源变得分文不值,因“上市易”导致“退市更易”,“死不退市”变成“高效退市”,并让1元股成为垃圾股的代名词。到那时,A股市场将会是“大进大出”的大格局。在所有退市公司中,将有一半是自动退市或主动退市,而在另一半强制退市中,又将有一半是因为1元退市标准而退市。这就是IPO注册制的未来,这就是A股市场明天的希望:慢牛短熊时代将会到来!

最后说明:监管者与投资者大可不必谈虎色变,似乎一提注册制就会心脏骤停。其实,IPO注册制更适合在市场低位推出。可以断定,IPO注册制落地之日,就是A股市场结束调整、向上攀升之时。注册制实施已无退路,证监会也无其他选项。

作者为武汉科技大学金融证券研究所所长

本文网址: http://opinion.caixin.com/2016-08-22/100980166.html
国企改革:员工持股

 

国企混改,应该期待怎样的员工持股方案

2016年08月22日 09:00 来源于 财新网

  【财新网】(作者 郑志刚)日前国资委、财政部和证监会联合下发了《关于国有控股混合所有制企业开展员工持股试点的意见》(以下简称《试点意见》)。作为国有企业混合所有制改革的重要配套措施,理论和实务界对《试点意见》充满期待。那么,我们应该期待什么样的员工持股方案呢?

首先,员工持股方案应该鼓励持股员工通过适当的公司治理制度安排成为公司真正的“主人翁”。我们知道,员工持股计划与传统绩效工资等薪酬激励相比的优势是将员工的回报与企业的长期发展捆绑起来,使员工更加关注企业长期绩效,避免追求短期利益而损害企业的长期利益。员工在多大程度上可以决定他未来对企业长期绩效的分配很大程度与公司治理制度安排有关。例如,员工持股达到一定比例后是否可以具有推荐董事的权利。特别地,是否允许以累积投票权的方式选举代表自己利益的董事。如果推荐的董事不能保护持股员工的利益,如何罢免并选举新的董事。然而,从目前的方案看,对这一至关重要的问题《试点意见》却语焉不详。特别是,管理层由于往往被上级任命,按照《试点意见》不属于员工持股的对象,而允许持股的员工却没有相应的公司治理制度安排来保障自己的权益,如同把自己的命运交给未必真正关心自己利益的其他人一样。我们看到,对上述公司治理制度缺乏明确表述,不仅有违员工持股计划推出的本意和初衷,而且适得其反。这不能不说是《试点意见》的重要缺憾。

其次,员工持股方案应该鼓励社会资本愿意参与国有企业的混合所有制改革。受到(员工持股计划)充分激励的员工当然是吸引社会资本参与国企混改的原因之一。但毫无疑问,员工持股后将使社会资本陡然间增加了不得不面对的股东,何况这些股东并非普通的财务投资者,而是十分重要的利益相关者。因此,员工持股计划是在已经实行混改后,由代表不同股东利益的董事会根据员工激励现状(例如,董事会经过科学评价认为传统的基薪+与绩效挂钩的绩效薪酬不足以向员工提供充分的激励)的需要推出,还是首先推出员工持股然后再引进社会资本进行混改值得商榷。一个可能的结果是,由于员工持股计划的推行使得很多原来准备进入国企的社会资本望而却步。除非持股员工本身就是国企混改方案设计者心目中理想的混改对象。

第三,员工持股方案标的的重点应该是国企存量部分。众所周知,国企具有吸引力和存在潜在问题的地方主要集中在存量部分。而这次《试点意见》一方面强调增量引入,主张采取“增资扩股和出资新设”方式开展员工持股;另一方面却强调员工持股不是无偿获得,“员工入股应主要以货币出资,并按约定时间及时缴纳”。同时规定,试点企业“不得向持股员工提供垫资、担保、借贷等财务资助”。容易理解,一个需要“出资新设”的项目未必是员工感兴趣的项目;同样重要的是,是否有必要通过员工持股来将并非项目实施人员的员工与公司新投资项目的股东的利益捆绑在一起本身值得怀疑。因为如果员工对某一项目感兴趣,完全可以通过资本市场直接购买类似项目的股票即可。我们同样担心的是,如果上述方案做实,最终可能出现的结局是,员工感兴趣的标的(例如国企存量部分)不允许持股,而允许持股的标的员工却未必感兴趣。这使得员工持股变为国企混改方案设计者“一厢情愿”的事。

第四,员工持股方案应该改善传统薪酬分配方案的激励效果。理论上,员工持股方案既可能成为传统薪酬方案的补充,但也可能成为具有一定替代性的方案。这意味着在推出员工持股方案之前我们需要审慎地评价目前实行的员工薪酬方案。例如,目前的员工薪酬是否已与绩效密切挂钩,是否实现多劳多得,少劳少得和不劳不得? 如果目前差的绩效表现仅仅由于传统激励方案设计不合理和冗员过多,这显然并不能构成就此推行员工持股计划的充足理由。

第五,员工持股方案应该具有合理的退出机制。我国国企改革历史上曾经推出的职工股份合作制就是由于无法合理解决职工持股的退出问题而无疾而终。除了允许激励对象以规定的价格购买公司股票,标准的股权激励计划往往规定,在锁定期结束后,激励对象有权力将股票在市场上出售。员工之所以愿意持有本公司的股票正是看到了分红,特别是锁定期结束后变现的权力。这使得股票具有良好流动性的公众公司成为推行雇员持股计划的主体。《试点意见》规定,“持股员工因辞职、调离、退休、死亡或被解雇等原因离开本公司,应在12个月内将所持股份进行内部转让;转让给持股平台、符合条件的员工或非公有资本股东的,转让价格由双方协商确定”。同时规定,“转让价格不得高于上一年度经审计的每股净资产”。这意味着,持股的员工未来可能会在给定的有限“市场”,以并没有太多议价空间进行股份转让。这使得员工持股对于部分由于外部原因不得不进行工作转换的员工而言变得并没有太多的诱惑力。更加糟糕的是,这一政策的执行甚至会出现一定程度的逆向选择效应:真正有能力的人害怕被绑定而不愿意接受员工持股计划,而接受员工持股计划的往往是能力不强的人。

刚刚出台的《试点意见》由于上述以及其他本文没有提及的不尽如人意之处必将饱受争议相信同样在政策制定者的预料之中。我们理解,政策制定者之所以在正式政策的出台之前强调必须经过试点阶段,其初衷正是在于在问题大规模暴露之前发现苗头,及时总结经验和教训。希望我们对员工持股计划《试点意见》的上述期待和担忧能够提醒相关政策制定者及时发现问题,推出切实有效可行的员工持股方案来,以扎实推进我国的国有企业混合所有制改革。

作者为盘古智库学术委员、中国人民大学金融学教授

本文网址: http://opinion.caixin.com/2016-08-22/100980071.html
Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect: Several Reports

The South China Morning Post (SCMP)

 

The Wall Street Journal

China Approves Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Link
Stock-trading link’s opening date hasn’t been announced

China’s Shenzhen market, already the world’s seventh-largest, could prove attractive to foreign investors because it is where fast-growing Chinese companies that operate in sectors such as technology, pharmaceuticals and clean energy often list. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG NEWS
By GREGOR STUART HUNTER and CHAO DENG
Updated Aug. 16, 2016 5:42 p.m. ET

SHANGHAI—China is opening the doors to its tech-heavy Shenzhen exchange and scrapping important limits on how much foreigners can invest in the country’s stocks, to entice more global players into its markets.

The moves are a milestone in the decadeslong opening up of China’s financial markets and could mark a return to liberalization after a year in which regulators have tried to clamp down on the country’s notoriously volatile stock trading.

They could help also attract foreign investors, who have avoided Chinese stocks amid a surge in emerging-market investment this year. They could persuade MSCI Inc. to finally add China to its emerging-market indexes, after snubs in the last three years, a step which could see billions of dollars pour into Chinese shares. MSCI declined to comment.

Chinese stock markets—and particularly the Shenzhen exchange—retain a reputation for casinolike behavior. Not all curbs are being lifted. Daily trading inflows into both Shenzhen and Shanghai, China’s other main market, will remain capped at 13 billion yuan ($1.96 billion) a day, and many Shenzhen-listed companies will still be off limits.

Chinese regulators have shown a tendency to reverse course on market changes and crack down on free trading when stocks plunge. The moves to encourage money into Chinese stocks comes as authorities there have been grappling with heavy capital outflows.

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5 Things on the Stock Connect Plan
“It’s just another milestone in terms of reiterating Beijing’s intents on opening China’s markets to international investors,” said Monique France, senior vice president at Mirae Asset Global Investments (USA) LLC. Mirae has invested in China through shares listed in Shanghai and Hong Kong and is likely to add some stocks from Shenzhen once the program begins, she said.
But the $3.2 trillion Shenzhen market, already the world’s seventh largest, could prove attractive to foreign investors because it is where fast-growing Chinese companies that operate in sectors such as technology, pharmaceuticals and clean energy often list. By contrast, Shanghai, which foreign investors can already access via a trading link with Hong Kong, is dominated by less-vibrant state-owned banks and oil companies.

“Shenzhen is widely regarded as being a bit like the Nasdaq in its characteristics,” said Mark Tinker, head of asset manager AXA Framlington Asia. “People looking to participate in the growth of China are looking more keenly to Shenzhen, and if this gives easier access to participate in that market, then it’s going to be regarded as another positive step in the integration of China with the rest of the world.”

The start date for the so-called Shenzhen-Hong Kong Connect is still unclear, although the statement announcing the launch said it should now come by the end of this year.

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“Preparation work for the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Connect is basically done,” China’s State Council, the country’s top policy-making body, said Tuesday.

The move will place some 880 Shenzhen-listed stocks, representing more than $1 trillion in market capitalization, onto the menu of global investors. The ChiNext, a listing board focused on fast-growing startups, will also be opened up, though limited to professional institutional investors.

Regulators also said there would no longer be an upper limit on the total amount of Chinese shares foreigners can hold. Currently, global investors can buy up to 300 billion yuan worth of shares in more than 500 Shanghai companies.

Still, foreign investors used to trading mostly on major Western markets will find plenty of oddities trading in Chinese stocks, including rules that prohibit day-trading of stocks, market holidays that fall on different days on each side of the border, and regulatory restrictions that make it virtually impossible to short stocks.

“I don’t think it’s crucial for people to be invested in Shenzhen at this point, but longer term there will be opportunities,” said Ilya Feygin, managing director at brokerage WallachBeth Capital. “For me, Shenzhen is like the Nasdaq was in the 90s and 80s—it had a few bubbles but risk also represents opportunity.”

When the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Exchange opened in late 2014, it led to predictions that billions of dollars would flow into shares of companies in China, where growth, while faltering, is still far higher than in most major economies.

But the launch was marred by regulatory and tax issues, and foreign interest was further chilled by the collapse in Shanghai stocks last summer that shook global markets. Beijing’s attempts to stem the slide included introducing a circuit-breaker mechanism at the start of this year. The new system was scrapped after just four trading days when shares continued to slump. The head of China’s market regulator resigned in February.

Such missteps have deepened skepticism about Beijing’s desire to develop truly free markets. Recently, the existing Shanghai-Hong Kong trading link has been used more heavily by Chinese investors wanting to buy shares in Hong Kong.

“Last year’s stock market rout and bungled policy response have hurt overseas demand for mainland stocks—foreigners have been net sellers of Chinese equities in recent months,” Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics in London, said in a note.

The Shenzhen market opened in 1990, when the city was spearheading some of the country’s most far-reaching economic overhauls.

Today, trading remains volatile, driven by retail investors and subject to heavy government intervention. Shenzhen lost 50.2% of its value from peak to trough from last June to September, compared with the 45.1% slump in Shanghai stocks during roughly the same period. Both markets are down about 12% year to date.

Investors have been anticipating the opening of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Connect for nearly two years, since the earlier Shanghai-Hong Kong link started. Traders say the announcement has been delayed because Beijing’s priority has been to stabilize domestic stock markets.

“Considering the number of fires they’ve had to put out this year, it makes sense for authorities to try to do this in a methodical way,” said Bill Bowler, an equities trader at Hong Kong-based Forsyth Barr Asia Ltd.

Among the well-known companies listed in Shenzhen are telecoms equipment manufacturer ZTE Corp.; China Vanke, the country’s biggest residential real-estate developer; and TCL Corp., a consumer electronics company that bought the Palm brand from Hewlett-Packard Co. in 2015.

However, few expect to see an immediate influx into Chinese markets. Many foreign investors have become skeptical of China due to the recent disappointing flow of economic data and lack of structural reforms the government had pledged. As of early August, China-focused stock funds have posted outflows of nine consecutive weeks, making it one of the worst performing emerging markets, according to EPFR Global.

This addition access to the Chinese market “is not going to have any impact on the fundamentals of Chinese companies, which continue to be quite poor,” said Andrey Kutuzov, an associate portfolio manager at Wasatch Advisors, a Utah-based asset manager specialized in emerging markets. He said that earnings growth in China still lags behind markets such as India, Mexico and the Philippines.

But for some investors, the opening up of the Shenzhen market allows them to invest in the parts of a Chinese economy that are set to benefit from slower industrial and manufacturing growth. Nearly three quarters of Shenzhen-listed companies are in the “new economy” sectors, including service and technology, according to David Semple, who runs the $1.1-billion VanEck Emerging Markets fund. “There’re a handful of stocks that we have identified that are interesting,” he said.

—Carolyn Cui, Yifan Xie
and Dominique Fong contributed to this article.

Write to Gregor Stuart Hunter at gregor.hunter@wsj.com and Chao Deng at Chao.Deng@wsj.com

 

5 Things on the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect Plan
Stock-trading link will unlock access to a new territory of Chinese tech shares
ENLARGE
The Shenzhen Stock Exchange has 1,790 listed companies, more than the 1,110 listings in Shanghai. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG NEWS
By DOMINIQUE FONG and GREGOR STUART HUNTER
Aug. 16, 2016 7:17 a.m. ET
0 COMMENTS
A stock trading link between Shenzhen and Hong Kong will unlock access to a new territory of Chinese tech stocks that global investors can’t easily get anywhere else.

ENLARGE
The link gives investors another trading channel to the world’s seventh-largest stock market. As of May, the Shenzhen Stock Exchange had a market capitalization of $3.16 trillion, according to the World Federation of Exchanges. That’s a bit larger than Hong Kong’s $3.10 trillion exchange, but smaller than Shanghai’s $3.87 trillion.

Shenzhen has 1,790 listed companies, more than the 1,110 listings in Shanghai. That compares to the 2,330 companies with shares listed on the New York Stock Exchange as of May, according to the WFE.

ENLARGE
Some fund managers are hoping to buy into one of China’s hottest sectors: tech stocks. Nearly a fifth of Shenzhen’s stock market is tech companies, a much bigger proportion than that in Shanghai, where tech stocks make up just 4% of the market.

Chinese officials, such as Premier Li Keqiang, have stated that tech companies’ continued growth will help shift China’s economy from one led by debt-fueled investment spending—that had bolstered “old economy” state-owned companies in sectors such as steel and cement—to one driven by consumption and the burgeoning middle class.

ENLARGE
The Shenzhen Stock Exchange is the second-busiest world-wide, eclipsing even the Nasdaq and Bats Global Markets in the U.S.
In Shenzhen, the value of share trading was $1.2 trillion during July. That compares to the $1.27 trillion exchanging hands on the New York Stock Exchange and $713 billion trading in Shanghai during the month. High volumes mean there is ample liquidity, making it easier for investors to make the trades at the prices they want.

ENLARGE
Shenzhen is also a volatile market, which mirrored the astounding surge and tumble last year in the Shanghai Composite Index.

Retail investors dominate China’s stock markets, unlike more developed exchanges in Hong Kong and the U.S., where institutional investors comprise a much larger proportion of the market. Because long-term investors, such as pension funds, put in large buy and sell orders, they tend to take more time to react to news and are a stabilizing force in markets. Mom and pop investors in China, on the other hand, tend to be more sensitive to speculation, which can cause large swings in mainland stock markets.

The Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, which is what the Shenzhen trading link is being modeled after, has seen mixed activity from investors on both sides of the mainland China border.

Mainland Chinese investors have been far more active than global investors through the trading link. Since the Stock Connect’s inception in November 2014, mainland Chinese have bought 81.92% of their aggregate quota of 250 billion yuan allowed by Chinese regulators. On the other hand, global investors have used just 50.09% of their total quota of 300 billion yuan.

The relatively lackluster demand by global investors for Chinese stocks listed in Shanghai so far has raised questions about the success of the program, and whether foreign demand for Shenzhen stocks would be any greater.

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Write to Dominique Fong at Dominique.Fong@wsj.com and Gregor Stuart Hunter at gregor.hunter@wsj.com

 

5 Things on the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect Plan
Stock-trading link will unlock access to a new territory of Chinese tech shares

The Shenzhen Stock Exchange has 1,790 listed companies, more than the 1,110 listings in Shanghai. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG NEWS
By DOMINIQUE FONG and GREGOR STUART HUNTER
Aug. 16, 2016 7:17 a.m. ET
0 COMMENTS
A stock trading link between Shenzhen and Hong Kong will unlock access to a new territory of Chinese tech stocks that global investors can’t easily get anywhere else.

ENLARGE
The link gives investors another trading channel to the world’s seventh-largest stock market. As of May, the Shenzhen Stock Exchange had a market capitalization of $3.16 trillion, according to the World Federation of Exchanges. That’s a bit larger than Hong Kong’s $3.10 trillion exchange, but smaller than Shanghai’s $3.87 trillion.

Shenzhen has 1,790 listed companies, more than the 1,110 listings in Shanghai. That compares to the 2,330 companies with shares listed on the New York Stock Exchange as of May, according to the WFE.

ENLARGE
Some fund managers are hoping to buy into one of China’s hottest sectors: tech stocks. Nearly a fifth of Shenzhen’s stock market is tech companies, a much bigger proportion than that in Shanghai, where tech stocks make up just 4% of the market.

Chinese officials, such as Premier Li Keqiang, have stated that tech companies’ continued growth will help shift China’s economy from one led by debt-fueled investment spending—that had bolstered “old economy” state-owned companies in sectors such as steel and cement—to one driven by consumption and the burgeoning middle class.

ENLARGE
The Shenzhen Stock Exchange is the second-busiest world-wide, eclipsing even the Nasdaq and Bats Global Markets in the U.S.
In Shenzhen, the value of share trading was $1.2 trillion during July. That compares to the $1.27 trillion exchanging hands on the New York Stock Exchange and $713 billion trading in Shanghai during the month. High volumes mean there is ample liquidity, making it easier for investors to make the trades at the prices they want.

ENLARGE
Shenzhen is also a volatile market, which mirrored the astounding surge and tumble last year in the Shanghai Composite Index.

Retail investors dominate China’s stock markets, unlike more developed exchanges in Hong Kong and the U.S., where institutional investors comprise a much larger proportion of the market. Because long-term investors, such as pension funds, put in large buy and sell orders, they tend to take more time to react to news and are a stabilizing force in markets. Mom and pop investors in China, on the other hand, tend to be more sensitive to speculation, which can cause large swings in mainland stock markets.

The Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, which is what the Shenzhen trading link is being modeled after, has seen mixed activity from investors on both sides of the mainland China border.

Mainland Chinese investors have been far more active than global investors through the trading link. Since the Stock Connect’s inception in November 2014, mainland Chinese have bought 81.92% of their aggregate quota of 250 billion yuan allowed by Chinese regulators. On the other hand, global investors have used just 50.09% of their total quota of 300 billion yuan.

The relatively lackluster demand by global investors for Chinese stocks listed in Shanghai so far has raised questions about the success of the program, and whether foreign demand for Shenzhen stocks would be any greater.

Advertisement

Write to Dominique Fong at Dominique.Fong@wsj.com and Gregor Stuart Hunter at gregor.hunter@wsj.com

 

FT:China’s State Council approves Shenzhen-HK market linkup

http://www.ft.com/fastft/2016/08/16/chinas-state-council-approves-shenzhen-hk-market-linkup/

Beijing has just signalled that a long-awaited trading link between Shenzhen stocks and Hong Kong’s market is set to open before the end of the year – roughly two years on from the milestone launch of a link with Shanghai.


The so-called “Connect” will for the first time allow international investors to trade stocks listed in the southern city, home to many more tech and start-up enterprises than Shanghai, which is known for hosting a greater proportion of state-owned enterprises and banks – neither of which are particularly popular with international investors just now.

“Preparatory work related to the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock connect is basically completed, and the State Council has approved a ‘Draft Plan for Implementation of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect’,” Premier Li Keqiang said in a statement.

The Shenzhen link has long been expected by the market, with Hong Kong regulators and the exchange saying they are ready. Final testing and preparatory work is expected to take roughly another three months. That would allow the link to open as soon as November.

China economist Chen Long at Gavekal Dragonomics said “appetite will only be gradual” for Shenzhen shares, pointing out that, by his estimate, only half of the Shanghai Connect’s quota had been used in the more than two years since its launch. But he added that investor appetite would be better than it has been for Shanghai because Shenzhen’s small-caps have historically given better returns.

Hao Hong, chief strategist and co-head of research at Bocom International, noted the latest statement was short on key specifics. “Hopefully we’ll see more details in the coming days regarding the quota, daily limits, who can participate, etcetera,” he said.

Mr Hong said the linkup was another significant step in connecting three exchanges from two parts of China, but cautioned that “short term, there could be profit taking based on the news once all the details come out.”

Hong Kong stocks have rallied in recent days in hope that an announcement was imminent. The Shanghai Connect works in both directions, providing mainland investors with their only direct access to an international market as well as allowing foreign money to flow north.

Both southbound and northbound flows are subject to quota caps, but neither requires individual approval of each investor, as previous investor schemes, such as QFII, have.

“[The Shenzhen-Hong Kong connect] has two positives: the first is it shows that this period of worry in Beijing about currency outflows has passed,” said Erwin Sanft, a regional strategist at Macquarie. “But in a more practical way, it opens up increased access to the China market.”

In the official statement Mr Li said the Shanghai-Hong Kong connect had “successfully laid the foundation for the rolling out of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong connect, signifying that China’s capital market has once more taken a substantial step forward in terms of legalisation, marketisation and internationalisation with many positive implications.”

As of market close the Shenzhen Composite Index’s market capitalisation stood at $3.33tn.

(Charts: Macquarie.)

 

Reading on Piercing Corporate Veil in China

Journal of Corporate Law Studies

Volume 15, 2015 – Issue 2

LIFTING THE CORPORATE VEIL IN CHINA: STATUTORY VAGUENESS, SHAREHOLDER IGNORANCE AND CASE PRECEDENTS IN A CIVIL LAW SYSTEM

Page 341-376 | Published online: 24 Jul 2015

This article surveys almost 300 court judgments in which shareholders have been sued for corporate debts under Article 20 of the PRC Company Law. The frequency of ‘veil-lifting’ can indicate how much weight is ascribed in China to fundamental corporate law principles such as limited liability, asset partitioning and the separate legal identity of the corporation. Our survey finds that shareholders were found liable for corporate debts in over 75% of cases, a significantly higher rate of veil-lifting than in jurisdictions elsewhere in the world. We challenge previous scholars’ explanations of this phenomenon. We also argue that statutory vagueness has led to unfair and inconsistent veil-lifting judgments in a number of cases. The current interpretative system of Supreme People’s Court Regulations and Guiding Cases needs modification to ensure that inconsistencies in adjudication are ironed out in a more timely manner.

Asia Pacific Law Review

The High Frequency of Piercing the Corporate Veil in China

Data gathered to date suggests that litigants seeking redress for company obligations from the company’s shareholders are far more likely to succeed in China than in other jurisdictions. This raises the question whether the different success rates are due to different law or different attitudes towards the sanctity of the corporate veil in a former socialist country which knew no private companies for its first three decades, leading to judicial interpretations in favour of creditors that are much broader than the text of the law and its intended scope.
CSR in China

Reading:

 

Research Notes:

  1. What is CSR? People, Planet and Profit.
    1. Provision of reliable, eco-friendly, safe products;
    2. Worker protection and welfare
    3. Corporate philanthropy, charities, and community development.
    4. CSR reports, etc.
  2. Why CSR? the debates.
    1. Nature of business
    2. Cover up
  3. CSR in China: Factors
    1. Growing environmental and safety concerns of the society.
    2. Rise of civil society
    3. Publicity.
    4. Government-driven projects: “For example, the Chinese government announced plans in 2009 to spend billions on tree planting and reforestation. In turn, many companies in China have launched tree-planting initiatives as part of their CSR efforts.”
    5. SOEs to repay the society. “The state-owned enterprise is the leading edge of corporate social responsibility at the moment.”
      1. 2007 SASAC’s Guidelines on Fulfiling Social Responsibility by Centra Enterprises.
    6. Rise of private philanthropy and volunteerism
    7. 2005 Company Law revision.
      1. State Grid was the only Chinese company to file an CSR Report in 2006. In 2012, 1,722 Chinese companies published CSR reports.
  4. Is Codification a Solution?
Two Rankings on Doing Business

The Open for Business Report by U.S. News and World Report

Link: http://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/overall-full-list

Overview

In deciding where to bring their business, companies must define their priorities by weighing multiple operating and human costs. National governments face a similar cost-benefit analysis in setting corporate tax rates and policy. The countries considered the most business friendly are those that perceived to best balance stability and expense.

The Best Countries rankings, conducted in partnership with brand strategy firm BAV Consulting and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, is based on a survey which asked more than 16,000 people from four regions to associate 60 countries with specific characteristics. The Open for Business subranking is based on an equally weighted average of scores from five country attributes that relate to how open for business a country is: bureaucratic, cheap manufacturing costs, corrupt, favorable tax environment and transparent government practices. The Open for Business subranking score had a 12 percent weight in the overall Best Countries ranking.

The World Bank’s Doing Business Reports

Link: http://www.doingbusiness.org/reports

Doing Business 2016

Measuring Regulatory Quality and Efficiency

Author: Doing Business

Published: October 27, 2015

Also available as mini book (PDF, 2.4MB)

(15460.3 KB PDF)

Download Now

Overview

Doing Business 2016: Measuring Regulatory Quality and Efficiency, a World Bank Group flagship publication, is the 13th in a series of annual reports measuring the regulations that enhance business activity and those that constrain it. Doing Business presents quantitative indicators on business regulations and the protection of property rights that can be compared across 189 economies—from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe—and over time.

Doing Business measures regulations affecting 11 areas of the life of a business. Ten of these areas are included in this year’s ranking on the ease of doing business: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency. Doing Business also measures labor market regulation, which is not included in this year’s ranking.

Data in Doing Business 2016 are current as of June 1, 2015. The indicators are used to analyze economic outcomes and identify what reforms of business regulation have worked, where and why. This year’s Doing Business report continues a two-year process of introducing improvements in 8 of 10 Doing Business indicator sets—to complement the emphasis on the efficiency of regulation with a greater focus on its quality.

Main Findings

  • Doing Business 2016: Measuring Regulatory Quality and Efficiency finds that entrepreneurs in 122 economies saw improvements in their local regulatory framework last year. Between June 2014 and June 2015, the report, which measures 189 economies worldwide, documented 231 business reforms. Among reforms to reduce the complexity and cost of regulatory processes, those in the area of starting a business were the most common in 2014/15, as in the previous year. The next most common were reforms in the areas of paying taxes, getting electricity and registering property. Read about business reforms.
  • Costa Rica, Uganda, Kenya, Cyprus, Mauritania, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, JamaicaSenegal and Benin are among the economies that improved the most in 2014/2015 in areas tracked by Doing Business. Together, these 10 top improvers implemented 39 regulatory reforms making it easier to do business.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa alone accounted for about 30% of the regulatory reforms making it easier to do business in 2014/15, followed closely by Europe and Central Asia. Members of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa were particularly active: 14 of the 17 economies implemented business regulation reforms in the past year—29 in total. Twenty-four of these reforms reduced the complexity and cost of regulatory processes, while the other five strengthened legal institutions.
  • This year’s report adds indicators of quality to four indicator sets: registering property, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity and enforcing contracts. In addition, the trading across borders indicators have been revised to increase their relevance. The underlying case study now focuses on the top export product for each economy, on a very common manufactured product (auto parts) as its import product and on its largest trading partner for the export and import products.
  • Seven case studies featured in the report: Five focus on legal and regulatory features covered by new or expanded indicators being introduced this year—in the areas of dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, trading across borders and enforcing contracts. The other two analyze other areas of interest in the historical data set. See all case studies.
Clinton opposes TPP

Hillary Clinton: I Oppose TPP Now, I’ll Oppose It as President

Hillary Clinton outlined her jobs plan and economic agenda in an address in Warren, Michigan, on Thursday. The Democratic nominee said she will stop trade deals that kill jobs, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

45 times Secretary Clinton pushed the trade bill she now opposes

 

Clinton calls for higher taxes, more regulations, new phase of Obamacare

Democratic nominee vows to kill Asia trade pact she helped negotiate

EU demands larger market access in China

EU says China needs to give EU companies fair market access

The European Union’s trade commissioner says China has to give European companies the same kind of market access that Chinese companies enjoy in Europe before discussions can start on a bilateral free trade agreement

July 11, 2016, at 5:09 a.m.

these a tags below are inline-block hence the stupid formatting to deal with inline-block margins MORE

工商总局局长接受凤凰专访 首谈商事制度改革之困

Phoenix TV’s Interview of Zhang Mao, Governor of the State Administration of Industry and Commerce.

Link: http://news.ifeng.com/a/20160810/49754041_0.shtml

This video is worth watching as it tells lots of stories which help us understand the legislative and regulatory intent behind China’s recent amendments to its Company Law with respect to company incorporation and registration.

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Transcript:

工商总局局长接受凤凰专访 首谈商事制度改革之困

2016年08月10日 21:38
来源:凤凰卫视

工商总局开展“红盾网剑”专项行动,矛头直指互联网电商售假贩假。张茅:我跟马云一再强调,你不是法外之地,首要责任是你。大学生“魏则西”之死,工商总局限期搜

核心提示:国家工商总局局长张茅日前在接受凤凰卫视《问答神州》栏目专访时,直面吴小莉就商事制度改革之问——“改革阻力和难度在哪里?”张茅谈到在广东调研时,听到最多的就是企业迫切地希望加快改革,但是呢,有些部门对此就有意见,不是政府部门,而是一些社会中介组织,觉得改掉一些环节,他们的奶酪就被动了。张茅也谈到,三证合一是改革中最难啃的骨头。  

一、问答国家工商总局局长张茅(上集

1.发起

吴小莉:商事制度改革,是一个普通人并不太熟悉的词汇。事实上,从2014年开始的商事制度改革,正在大刀阔斧地改变着中国原有的营商环境,激发了来自民间的创业引力波:2015年平均每天新登记企业1.2万户,比2014年提升了20%,更远高于改革之前的6900家。而截止到2016年的7月份,这个数据变成了每一天1.4万户,可以说极大地激发了市场活力。我们非常好奇,到底是一场什么样的改革,能够助推如此多的人投身到创业中?为此,前不久,我来到了主导此次商事制度改革的中国国家工商行政管理总局,与局长张茅有了一次相约问答。

小莉:局长好。

张茅:好,你好你好。欢迎你,欢迎你。

小莉:谢谢。我们来到这一栋楼其实是挺有历史的,而且工商总局对于国家来说非常重要。

张茅:我们现在形象地说嘛,我们国家只有两个执法部门深入到乡里了,一个叫派出所,就是警察,再一个就是工商所,叫经济警察,所以实际上大量的执法工作是在基层,在市、县、乡,所以国家工商总局就是制订这些具体的法规,指导、督促我们整个执法,有40万的执法队伍全国(工商系统)。

吴小莉:局长,这么多年,其实我们一直听到李克强总理说要简政放权,改革是最大的红利,那这个改革的结果是在您预料中,还是预料之外?

张茅:是这样,商事制度改革,是国务院简政放权,转变职能的一个重要举措。对这个深入认识我们还有一个过程,就是过去我们刚开始认识到,没有认识到会发生今天这样一个结果,因为刚开始我们觉得这个是一个具体的、微观的操作,你像对于一个企业注册登记,哪些手续,然后还有一些改变,还有一些其它的一些改变,觉得就是一个企业方便了。当时没有预料到,就是大幅度地激发了市场的活力,市场主体大量的增加。再一个呢就是就业,现在全社会都在关心就业,领导同志也在关心就业,就是经济下行压力加大,叫去产能、去库存,就业不减反增。2014年实际上从简政放权、转变职能,商事制度改革带动了1200万人就业。到2015年,大概就有1400万人。所以我们觉得,这个也是我们过去没有预料到的。

另外这里面呢,我觉得还有一个过程,就是我们以工商部门为主的政府自我革命的过程。因为过去社会上好像大家感觉到,工商部门是比较有权力的部门,掌握着企业的审批,包括吊销、包括年检、包括检查等等这些。那么这次商事制度改革呢,实际上是从我们企业的准入入手,减少了大量的行政审批,所以在开始的时候,我们一些同志,对这个有一些认识不清的、甚至思想抵触的情绪,因为我们失去了过去的权力。企业过去都要找我们,求我们来办事儿,那么现在呢,我们是要主动地去为企业服务,甚至有的同事当时讲过这样的话,就说你这个改革,把我们过去的传统思维和工作方法都颠覆了。

吴小莉:减少审批就会减少这个徇私舞弊。

张茅:(权力)寻租,对,这个也是对我们自身、对我们队伍建设起了一个很好的作用。

2013年3月,时任国家卫生部副部长的张茅调任国家工商行政管理总局任局长。而彼时,一场即将席卷中国的改革正在酝酿之中,试点地区只有深圳、珠海、东莞、顺德四地。直到8个月后,十八届三中全会正式提出对商事制度进行改革,改革的核心内容围绕着如何简化企业注册登记手续,变前置审批为事中、事后监管,为企业营造利于发展的营商环境。

吴小莉:您后来来了以后,感觉到第一个阻力和难度在哪里?

张茅:当时我来了以后,我记得我调研的第一站就是到了广东,到东莞、深圳了解情况,当时我们刚开始心里不太有底,因为这种改革,牵一发而动全身,过去我们的经验是,一放就乱,一管就死,所以是,放,到底能不能管得住,先不说能够激发多少市场活力,首先对于社会能不能承受你这种“放”,所以当时我到了广东,到了深圳、东莞这几个地方,听到他们这些经验的介绍。

吴小莉:听到最多的是什么?

张茅:听到最多的就是企业迫切地希望加快改革,但是呢,有些部门对此就有意见。当时在深圳就有一个例子,讲到这个实缴制变成认缴制,过去实缴制的时候要到注册会计师事务所去验资,验资就要收钱。这样改革之后,我们认缴制以后就不需要验资了,会计事务所就……

吴小莉:没有这份收入了。

张茅:没有这份收入了,所以当时深圳的会计师、注册会计师非常不满意,就提了很多意见,据说在人大还提了意见。当时政府部门的反对意见并不多,但是有些社会中介组织,觉得没有我们,包括其它的一些组织,觉得将来这个环节我们就没有了。

吴小莉:被动到奶酪了。

张茅:对对对,我们吃什么去?所以这个有一些,但是当时(阻力)并不大,当时主要企业的和试点的效果其实是比较好的,所以这个实际上也是按照试点先行吧,像这种改革确实得稳妥推进,要不然贸然的话就会引起很大的风险。

2.困难

一场发端于工商登记制度领域的改革,让经济的增速放缓的中国迸发出新的创业和就业的热潮,改革红利甚至超出了顶层设计者的预想。工商总局给出的数据是,每一天1.4万户新登记的市场主体,其中超过了60%保持着经营的活跃状态。但是要如何引导这些新生的企业活下去、活得好,则考验着中国的40万名“经济警察”。

吴小莉:我记得李克强总理来到工商总局考察的时候,问过你们一句,说现在的商事制度的改革过程中,最难啃的骨头是什么,你们的工作同仁就说是三证合一。

张茅:对,对。

吴小莉:三证合一是最难啃的骨头当时?

张茅:对对,因为原来在三证合一之前呢,主要的工作是在工商系统内部进行,所以我们能够掌握工作的主动权,这个能够直接地指挥。三证合一涉及到国家发改委,它管这个编码,统一的考虑。还有税务总局、质检总局,那么这三个部门呢各有各的困难。你比如说这个税务总局,就觉得我们刚开始改革以后,这个信息内部的沟通,这个你登记多少企业,它(企业的信息)能不能到税务总局去,税收怎么来跟进,它这套(信息)系统就需要改进。质检总局呢它那套的组织机构代码,它需要给你预拨。而且过去这个组织机构代码是收钱的、收费的,那么现在呢,国务院领导要求不能收费,所以这样呢给它(质检总局)的工作也带来很大的难度。所以当时我们说这个,是在我们注册局的那个办公室里面,具体管企业注册的同志给总理说的这句话,后来总理马上在会上说,这个问题要解决,多长时间?当时我们也没敢,我们说能不能年内?总理说那你们就年内吧,年内解决。后来经过大家的共同努力,10月1日,10月1号就全面推开了。

吴小莉:当时是给了什么尚方宝剑?

张茅:那就是总理的国务院的决定,国务院的决定。那时候以后大家的态度就变得非常积极了,现在我觉得我们的体制优势就是这样,只要是中央定的、国务院定的,那大家都会努力的实行。

吴小莉:但是确实像您说的,工商、税务或质检,都是职能单位,就算是有了尚方宝剑也需要协调。我们现在有没有一些联席的机制或者是协调的机制,能够确保这些部门都能够统一的进行?

张茅:现在这个转变职能,国务院有一个(职能转变)协调小组,由张高丽副总理当组长,杨晶、王勇同志做副组长,下设了六个小组。商事制度改革呢,中央非常重视,也是一个小组,就是商事制度改革小组,由我来做组长。这样呢,由发改委、由各个部门的同志,十几个部门组成吧,这样我们就便于协调、听取这些部门的意见。当然最后,实际上重要的决策可能还有一些分歧,那需要国务院的协调小组定,最后有些问题就是在国务院常务会议,总理拍板决定。

而且大概我记得每年开一次吧,从这一届政府开门,总理就开转变职能的工作会议,到今年又开了一次,那会上讲的话都是掷地有声的。你比如说今年讲的一个要把前置审批再砍掉三分之一,这个话就是给我们有了很大的压力,但是这个总理要讲出去,那到时候就是……

小莉:硬指标。

张茅:马上就督察,马上督察你怎么做的。

改革开放后的中国经济走上了市场化的道路,但却始终没有建立完整的企业诚信考核体系,在工商管理方面,曾经陷入“一管就死、一放就乱”的怪圈。因此商事制度改革提出左手简政放权、右手加强监管,由工商总局牵头建设的“全国一张网”,也就是国家企业信用信息公示系统,也在着力为中国企业打造全新的信用体系,强制企业重视诚信的力量。

吴小莉:很多的人觉得这个改革很难,但是下定决心要推动,啃下这个硬骨头,当时是不是确实改革的意见是不统一的?

张茅:是不统一的,因为这个这样的改革,你包括放、管;比如现在我们管,是成立了这个,过去我们管的办法主要是用审批,就是前置审批,审批完了以后就不管了,现在我们是加强事中事后的监管,就是国务院批准建立的国家企业信用信息公示系统。

吴小莉:一张网。

张茅:就这一张网,大家意见就很不一致。因为现在大家各自都有信息共享系统。大家各自都在做自己的信息共享系统,为什么要你工商总局还要做一个?这个工作,是不是重复建设?我的信息为什么要进入到你的里面?后来我们就反复给大家讲这个道理,就是我们这个系统跟其它系统是不一样的,它的特点在哪儿呢,就是把所有的企业的信息,所有的信息,包括它的基本情况,它受到处罚的情况、我们随机抽查的情况,全部归集到这个企业的名下,这个是除了工商总局以外的其它部门没有条件做到的,所以这个系统呢,现在非常受到欢迎。

吴小莉:就从出生证明到出生的履历。

张茅:对,履历,而且你做过什么,你做过什么我不是说你做的好事我不管,我这个榜没有红榜、只有黑榜。所以过去出现这个问题,免检企业,什么那个信誉好什么企业,这些话我个人认为,政府不用政府的信用给你背书,你企业信用好是你应该对社会的责任,但是你一旦信用不好,你欠税了……

吴小莉:要公示。

张茅:你欠贷款了,你有什么安全生产事故,我全部给你公示出来,这样一来,大家特别是银行现在非常关心,用户也非常关心。实际上我们现在这个网,说出来数字是比较惊人的,一天访问量达到3000万人次,而且发挥了重要的作用。举个例子,政府招标采购,有一家企业竞标了,成第一了,这个第二的企业告诉它(政府),在公示系统上它有,叫做经营异常名录企业,马上撤销了这个企业的资格。而且我们现在,去年是230多万家企业被纳入了企业经营异常名录的名单。现在你自己公示,你自己报自己公示,你自己掂量掂量,你公示的不准确,然后我双随机抽查。双随机什么意思呢,对企业摇号,3%。政府检查的人员也是随机的,不是说我今天的西城区工商所,可能是东城区工商所,所以你说我跟西城区所长熟,没用,也可能是朝阳区的。这样呢双随机,然后抽查结果公示。

就是轮到你了,每个企业头上吊着一把宝剑,不知道明天来不来,有震慑力,同时(监管)成本也低。现在这个影响挺大的。你比如说我们举个例子,有一次评劳模、五一劳动奖章,这个企业我去过,经营的非常好。但是它就是因为受过一次处罚,大概我记得就一万多块钱,最后省里领导来找我说,这个怎么各方面来说,后来我们说我们如实把结果报告给那个评选的委员会,最后人家“咔嚓”否掉。这就是企业信用实际上比生命还重要。

过去企业,你罚我二百万,没问题我给你,我就过去了。现在呢,我可能没罚你到二百万,但是我给你纳入这个记录,它就觉得影响它。信用叫守信企业处处畅通,失信企业处处受阻。就是你政府招投标也好,银行贷款也好,用户跟你签合同也好,都得先看看,所以说那么多人看呢,就看看你这个企业怎么样。现在当然经过国务院决定了,所以这个事(全国一张网)现在就推进的比较快,我们希望年底初步能够建立,当然这个信息的完善和运用,有一个认识的过程。

3.深化改革 简政放权

在工商总局走访的过程中,时刻能够感受到在这座有着三十几年历史的建筑里,正在酝酿和爆发的改革的力量。正如张茅所说,改革的过程是简政放权的过程,也是权力下放、从管理向服务转变的过程。中国国务院总理李克强也常用“让利于民,计利当计天下利”来勉励这些改革的参与者们。

小莉:局长,这个原本是什么?

张茅:这个原来是我们的工商总局企业注册大厅,在这里办注册、变更的都是央企,就国资委的央企,后来,我们就因为简政放权,我们就把这些央企、包括一些部队的企业下放到了地方,比如说你在北京市,你就到北京市,你在上海你在上海办……

小莉:他不用跑到北京来。

张茅: 你不用跑到北京来,好多,上海就很多嘛。广东也很多嘛,全国有一些省会城市也有很多央企,你不用跑到北京来了。

小莉:所以原本这个注册大厅挺大的,现在就不用这么多人了。

张茅:现在没什么人了。

吴小莉:您说以前有央企大概有两千多家在这儿,现在已经90%下放到地方了。央企的领导通常都是副部级的了,到了地方局里头去,会不会管不上啊?

张茅:对,是这样的,当时我提出这个,我们提出这个问题以后呢,不仅是央企,就我们自己的同志也有顾虑,一个是觉得咱们挺得罪人的,再一个就是说我们手里不掌握一些审批(权)好像,我们也有点不适应。

吴小莉:你说工商总局不掌握一些审批(权)觉得自己好像没权力了。

张茅:觉得我们的权力也没有了。当然后来我们开始逐渐统一思想,而且我这个事情也是跟国务院领导同志汇报了,国务院领导同志也支持。这个我们就做好央企的工作,你比如说是国资委的我们找国资委,包括有些部队的,我们就各方面做工作。刚开始大家不理解,通过各种关系也给我反映,说我们是国字头的,我们怎么能够跑到地方工商局去?后来我就跟他们讲,我说你们待遇根本没变,你是什么级别你还是什么级别,是吧。你方便了,你在上海你不用跑北京来了,你在广州你也不用跑北京来了。你在地方反正就是你的注册、变更,到时候有一些其它的手续,你就在那儿办是一样的。而且(工商总局)对地方进行了培训,档案资料的转移,这都是一个很长的过程。结果各方面都很支持,我没想到部队也很支持。过去部队的企业,军队现在也正在改革,原来我们顾虑人家正改革,人家能不能接受。但人家也能接受。所以现在基本上,我们手里还有很少几十家企业,也还要逐步地下放。而且工商总局我觉得应该更多的放在不是具体的审批,而是考虑大的政策,这个指导、改革,这方面上来。转变这个,从微观转变到宏观,从具体转变到长远。

《美国新闻与世界报道》在2016年初发表了“2016年最好国家的报告”,中国排在17位。同时该杂志还提到中国是全球最适合创业的地方。根据世界银行营商环境报告显示,商事制度改革这两年,中国营商环境排名每一年提升6位,2015年底,在189个经济体当中排名84位。同年,中国科协组织了第三方评估,显示2015年商事制度改革推动了GDP增长0.4%。

吴小莉:您刚才提到了,我们在商事制度的改革过程中已经得到了它的好处,那举个例子,比如说一个企业,以没有商事制度的这个改革之前,他要办一个企业,他会经过什么样的过程,那现在对他来说有什么样的好处?

张茅:这个确实是很大的一个便利吧,你比如首先我们过去办企业的门槛高,你比如说办一个独资企业,你要是三万块钱,假如起点,办一个股份制企业要二百万,而且这个钱呢,投资以后要放在那儿,等着验资,比如几个月。当时抽逃资金是很严重的、入刑的,说你要把钱拿出去干别的去了,你这叫抽逃资金,但实际上资金放在那儿是等待验资,你不可以动的,所以资金的门槛高,另外资金的利用效率低。现在我们降低门槛了,我记得当时有一次跟企业讨论,新闻发布会,有人问说一块钱(注册企业),后来我说一块钱理论上可以,但实际上你一块钱办公司没有人跟你做生意的,但是呢给这个资金少的,就是他能够跨越这个门槛。你比如我举个例子,是在湘西吧,第一次我们讨论会的时候有一个个体户,他就说要做这个肉食加工,他原来说门槛比较高,说现在是不是可以了,我说可以了。结果后来经过一年以后,他经营得挺好,完了以后呢,他想感谢我,给我寄了一个肘子吧,大肘子,就寄过来了,后来一看怎么办呢,我说这个来回寄也不好,后来给他一千块钱给他寄去了,然后搁食堂大家吃了。而且我们现在公司在这个经营场所方面的改革一个就是简化了,可以一址多照、一照多址。当然有些经过一定的手续,在北京、上海这种可能比较少(因为疏解城市功能),在其它地方住所可以开公司,什么车库、什么什么这些地方都可以开公司。这样他也省得我去租一个什么,非得租一个多大的门脸,这些方便的地方确实是激发了市场的活力,调动了企业积极性,特别是年轻人创业的积极性。

吴小莉:但是以前大家,政府部门担心的所谓的“一放就乱”这种情况有没有例子出现过?

张茅:应该说也有。为什么呢,因为我们当时是取消了前置,把前置审批一共226项取消了40项,移到后面152项,保留了34项。就是有些不用前置审批直接拿照了,但拿照的时候我们通知你如果需要后置审批的你去,(企业)还得后置审批,你不可以办的。但是有些人呢,他在后面他又办不下来,或者时间比较长,他就自己开业了。

吴小莉:证还没拿下来,有照就开业了。

张茅:有照就开业了,当然这个监管我们也做了规定,具体哪些部门监管,这是一个比较复杂的过程。有一度这种情况还是比较多的,现在(国务院)不是确定了一个原则,就是谁审批谁监管,谁主管谁监管。很多部门不适应,过去我审批完了我不监管,都是工商局的事儿。现在我们说那我们管不了,就是你审批你要监管,你主管你要监管。很多过去的业务主管部门他说我也没有力量,过去我也没做过监管的事儿,我就是审批。现在就是要求政府转变职能,减少审批,把力量转到事中、事后监管。所以总理讲的这个转变职能、简政放权,刚开始觉得有那么两三年是不是就可以实现了。现在看来不行,起码这届政府我觉得可能都,最后也是一个比较长的过程。

二、问答国家工商总局局长张茅(下集

对淘宝叫板工商、商标局没纸门、魏则西之死等事件,国家工商总局局长张茅在接受凤凰卫视《问答神州》栏目吴小莉专访时首次作出回应。

1.马云

小莉:我还看到了好多互联网大佬的书在这边?

局长:对对,互联网大佬,我认真研究互联网大佬,在这儿呢。

小莉:是吧?

局长:《穿布鞋的马云》、《李彦宏的坎》、刘强东、周鸿祎。

小莉:周鸿祎。

局长:这些人都是我天天工作要接触的对象。所以我一本一本逐个研究。

小莉:你最早研究的是哪个?

局长:马云。

小莉:《穿布鞋的马云》?

局长:《穿布鞋的马云》,后来他来了以后,第一次见我穿着皮鞋来了,我穿一个布鞋,我说你为什么穿布鞋的马云不穿了?他说我今天见你来,我有点紧张。

小莉:有点发怵?

局长:正式的拜见。

小莉:你觉得他们两个有什么不同?做事风格?

局长:我觉得马云他经常会说出一些出人意料的东西,让你想不到他讲的那些话,他不是有个绰号叫什么令狐冲吗?

小莉:他是风清扬。

局长:他是风清扬,对,那我记错了。反正他们就是,武侠小说那种印象比较深,就是突然剑走偏锋。就是我突然提出一个概念来,然后让你觉得,提得也对,好像很新颖。强东呢,我觉得特点是比较务实,就是我扎扎实实地做。所以两个企业其实走不同的路。

说起当今中国的互联网产业,张茅滔滔不绝。事实上,他与“穿布鞋”的马云不打不成交。当时,工商总局与阿里巴巴正陷入一场口水战之中,事件的起因是缘于工商总局公布的一份网络交易商品定向监测结果,该结果显示2014年的下半年网络交易的正品率为58.7%, 其中阿里巴巴旗下的购物网站的样本数量分布最多,正品率却最低,仅为37.25%。正是这份监测结果,引发了阿里巴巴方面的强烈抗议。最终工商总局给出了书面回应,题为:《关于对阿里巴巴集团进行行政指导工作情况的白皮书》。《白皮书》一出,阿里的股票大跌,损失惨重。就在这个时候,张茅与马云有了一次会面。如今虽然已经是事过境迁,但是在与张茅的问答当中,他首次对当时的情况作出了回应。

吴小莉:感觉上好像阿里巴巴跟工商总局要吵架了,那个时候你跟马云又见了面?

张茅:对,我们事先实际上是约好了的,提前约了起码有半个月,马云说要来,要跟我谈谈他们企业的情况。

吴小莉:这是第一次他说要来?

张茅:第二次了吧,第二次见我了,第一次是他带着几个人到我办公室来,第二次他是要单独跟我谈一谈,当时时间很紧张。我们约定在食堂吃个饭,在我们这食堂吃个饭。结果在之前就发生了若干的事情,就很巧,结果那天我们双方就把这事谈了一下。马云表明了他的态度,后来我就讲到了工商总局处理这些问题的态度,各自把各自的情况进行了一个交流。后来呢,这事态发展的就比较大了,特别是美国方面,对中国概念股出现了一些所谓的调查。

当然,后来晚上我们经过商量,就还是实事求是的,我把事情经过说清楚,一个我们负有监管责任,这个你不能说我们不能监管你,是吧?另外在打假方面,要政府跟企业合作,共同打假。大概那天就达成这么几个共识。

吴小莉:那么对于“红盾网剑”的这个报告,互相又达成了什么样的共识呢?

张茅:后来那就是一次抽查的结果,马云认为样本不够,但是后来我说样本就是百分之百,你也是不合格,对吧?对这个抽查结果最后马云没有再坚持什么,他主要对那个《白皮书》有点意见,说怎么原来一次内部谈话的记录,你们怎么变成《白皮书》了?就这个意思,这一点我觉得确实我们工作有瑕疵,所以我觉得这不是《白皮书》就不是《白皮书》。

吴小莉:那一段就是内部谈话,是什么样的场景之下出现的这个内部谈话?

张茅:就是之前几个月,工商总局去的一个调研组到阿里巴巴督促他们打假,是这么一个工作会谈,这个内容后来就变成《白皮书》。所以后来美国方面说阿里巴巴上市之前,你们这些怎么没披露啊?你们这不是政府和企业合伙来骗我们?就成这么一种局面了。所以后来我觉得我必须澄清这个事实,就没有中国政府和企业合伙骗你们这事,只是一次普通的工作会谈,不存在什么叫《白皮书》,不存在什么要你们公开的事情。

吴小莉:所以我们把这份记录后来就从网上撤销了?

张茅:对。

当时工商总局与阿里巴巴握手言和:工商总局称此前公布的《白皮书》只是工作会谈记录,并无法律效力;马云则说要配合工商总局,全力以赴地解决假货难题。2015年双十一的前夕,张茅在杭州开展商事制度改革调研期间,专门到阿里巴巴视察,马云带他参观了公司内部的打假直播大屏幕,再次表明打假的诚意和决心。

吴小莉:马云是不是特别还带你去看了他们的打假中心?

张茅:他特别叫情报什么中心,大屏幕,他说一年他打了多少假,而且好像有派出所驻在那儿,他直接把一些打假线索告诉派出所,就破案了。杭州的工商局跟他关系也很密切,他确实打假,他自己称也是花了十亿人民币,组织了多少人,我相信他也是这样。如果他再这样发展下去,他根本就不行了,他自己要不解决的话,搞了这么大规模确实有好多矛盾他自己克服不了。我也承认,客观上说他在打假上也做了很大的努力。但还有大量的问题没有解决。再一个就是,第三方平台,我跟马云一再强调,你不是法外之地,首要责任是你。

吴小莉:打假的责任。

局长:因为那些小店没登记,在你这个网站上面卖东西,那你就要承担责任。再一个就是要加强政府的抽查、监管,还有保护好消费者的权益。总之就是这个问题现在确实比较突出,由于网络购物的特点。但是网络购物现在占了我们国家消费比零售总额的百分之十了。

小莉:不是个小数了。

局长:这个东西将来怎么来规范,它确实也是一个社会共识,关键你企业要自律,建立企业自律信用的信用体系。另外现在也讨论,网上的店要不要注册,这也是讨论的一个问题。

2016年4月7日,《北京晚报》报道了“国家工商总局商标局7个月没有发出一张商标注册证,导致了企业错失商机”,而工作人员回应说是因为商标注册的纸一直没有到货。报道后的第二天,工商总局新闻发言人就出面回应并致歉,但一时间“商标没纸了”依然成为网络上的热门话题。

吴小莉:今年上半年,您为了一件事情跟公众道歉了,在今年4月份的时候因为商标注册的纸没了。

张茅:对对对。

吴小莉:有半年拿不到,您当时听到这个是不是还挺诧异的。

张茅:我是4月7号,《北京晚报》公布以后我才知道这个消息,当天晚上我就觉得很诧异。晚上我在这儿,马上召集大家进行研究,因为也是我们内部信息的不通畅,所以我觉得作为局长我自己应该负主要的责任,这么大的事情我都不知道。

当天晚上我们进行研究,第一就是要迅速向社会发布信息。第一,认错,这个确实是我们的错,就像社会说的缺的不是纸,是责任心,我觉得无言以对。第二,道歉,我们向这些没有拿到以及没有及时拿到商标注册的企业道歉。第三,表态,我们在5月底以前,那时候是4月7号,5月底以前加班加点、拼死拼活也要把所有的商标注册补上。其实公布的时候,我们纸已经供应上了,后来我们就在夜里发出了一个信息。

我觉得政府工作就应该这样,对就是对,错就是错。这个一定要尽快发声,同时我也给巡视组报告,给国务院领导、给总理报告,造成这样的影响。所以这还是我们一个是责任心不强,再一个是招标采购的手续确实是比较繁琐,这一点确实也得承认,也得改革。这确实也让我们感到吃惊,就是我们机关有些作风,大家都说我们有些工作都做得很好,但这个事是太低级的错误了。

2.竞价排名

2016年5月,大学生魏则西之死引发了人们关于“搜索竞价排名”的集体讨论。直到7月4日工商总局出台了《互联网广告管理暂行办法》,才给这场讨论画上了句点。这部将于9月1日起生效的管理办法明确规定:付费搜索属于互联网商业广告。按规定,搜索引擎服务商要对广告的内容负有审查的义务,否则将可能遭受到相应的处罚。

吴小莉:谈到另外一位互联网大佬李彦宏,我也看到他的书在您的办公室。今年的3月份您去看了百度,但是您调查没多久,5月就出了百度搜索引擎竞价排名的这个问题,您觉得工商总局在这个方面,应该怎样去加强监管?

张茅:关于搜索引擎竞价排名,无论是理论界还是法律界,一直有不同的看法。不知道你注意过没有,出了这个问题以后我就了解了一些材料,法律界的判决两种都有,包括北京高级人民法院,也曾判决过这个不是广告。国外的对于这个情况也有不同的做法,所以对这个问题,一直存在争论。但我个人认为,竞价排名,高价者得,这种做法存在问题,对于企业的信用没有考虑。

另外特别是医疗卫生、医药行业,涉及到人民健康的问题。我在卫生部搞医改的时候,有一个美国哈佛大学公共卫生的教授,叫萧庆伦,这个人很有名,据说包括香港台湾的卫生制度他都帮着设计过。他在我们宁夏的一个村子里试点搞医改,然后他回来跟我说,你们这有个问题,农村的老百姓看病吃药不是靠家庭医生,而是靠广告。所以我从卫生部到工商局,对这个医疗卫生广告,都觉得要特别严格地限制,通过这种看广告去治病,去吃药,确实对人的危害比较大。

目前百度的整改主要也要求它减去这方面的内容,因为在这之前我们就讨论过,包括李彦宏。我说你这个竞价排名到底是怎么?当时他解释说,我这是一种价值,不是价格,说我有个什么公式,反正我也不知道。另外我就劝他这个互联网企业,你们都离医疗卫生远一点,因为这个东西不是虚拟的,这种要靠大夫直接给人看病的。

所以我们在《互联网广告管理暂行办法》里明确规定,然后加以管理。但是这个管理起来也需要先进的手段,因为互联网广告现在简直太厉害,你看一个什么东西,一会儿出来一个,一会儿又出来一个。这个东西怎么监管,这确实是个新问题。反正总的来说,对互联网购物和互联网广告,我觉得都是新事物,对它存在的问题,就是在规范中发展,发展中规范。

“魏则西”事件之后,由国家网信办、工商总局会同国家卫计委和北京市有关部门成立了联合调查组进驻这家搜索引擎公司进行调查,5月9日公布了调查结果。调查组认为,搜索竞价排名客观上对魏则西选择就医产生了影响,该公司必须立即整改。

吴小莉:工商总局提出的整改要求是什么?

张茅:就是要求它自己把这些互联网竞价排名进行清理。

吴小莉:就是完全取消?

张茅:基本上,它现在做的就是这样。

吴小莉:有没有一些国外的经验可以参照,比如说谷歌。

张茅:谷歌,谷歌曾经被罚过这方面,但是我看了一些其他国家的材料,也有不同的做法,关键点就是认为它是不是广告。所以竞价排名一般的理解,比如高价者得,你不好说它不是广告。但这种推广,有说它是一种推广,具体这概念到底怎么界定,反正到现在,国内外据我了解认识都不是一致的。

吴小莉:它不论是一个互联网推广,或是互联网广告,它都有一些禁区是不能使用的,比如像您提到的关乎到人的生命的。

张茅:对。

吴小莉:比如说这些是不可能在推广、或是广告的范畴之内。

张茅:我觉得法律法规永远跟不上实践,比如说我们当时做这个《广告法》的时候,当时对这个医疗卫生限制处方药,就只能在专业医疗杂志上,就不许在其他的地方来做广告。但现在这次出现了一种治疗方法,这到底算什么,应该禁止在哪儿做,就是说我们制度永远跟不上现实的发展。但是出了问题以后,我们赶紧研究解决,它可能又出现新的问题,它太复杂。所以医疗卫生方面,我觉得确实得严,涉及到人民生命财产安全,宁可严一点。

张茅:微软也有这种团队,一来开会带着七八个律师。

吴小莉:全都是顶级的。

张茅:全在研究,包括《反垄断法》怎么修改,人家都要提一提,说道说道。因为美国人管的事,他老觉得他管得比较多。

3.市场监管

促进跨境电子商务的发展也是张茅关心的工作之一。他经常与人说起在国外免税店参观的经历,感叹中国消费者在外国的消费热度。事实上如何把境外的消费带回国内也是李克强总理的一块心病。随着4月8日跨境电商税改新政的实施,人们越来越多的关注国内的消费市场会出现何种转变。

吴小莉:李克强总理多次提到了中国人外出旅游的消费热潮,能不能把它转变为在国内消费的趋势和动力,您也到韩国的免税店看过,人山人海也都是中国人。

张茅:那个化妆品店里就像不要钱一样,都挤满了,买些化妆小盒之类的。

吴小莉:那您觉得工商总局的立场,怎么可以让这种消费能够转向,或者是能够在国内有更多的这种高质的消费。

张茅:我觉得这是一个消费环境的问题,这里应该包括几个问题,因为现在消费拉动经济成为一个大头,最终消费拉动生产,生产的目的就是消费。而且在这个新的经济发展时期,消费发生了很大变化,过去是排浪式的,你买我买他也买,三大件,然后汽车,然后房子。现在就是个性化、多样化,咱们需求不一样。所以我觉得这是因为我们的产品质量,一个是假冒伪劣多,再一个就是对于这种个性化需求的供给侧还没有,做得不好。据我了解,到国外采购的不仅是奶粉,有些很小的居家生活用品,有人还买指甲刀,说它那个生产的比较好。

吴小莉:好用。

张茅:比较方便,像这种东西,我觉得我们在生产上……

吴小莉:我们完全能做到。

张茅:我们就对这个重视的不够。再一个就是价格,有些同等的消费品,在国外价格便宜,对中国实行另一种价格政策,这个是很明显的,所以我就感觉有价格歧视。

吴小莉:它进入中国的时候加价了?

张茅:加价了。

吴小莉:不是因为我们的税加上去了?

张茅:加价了,不是因为我们的税务,我们现在海关税很低。上次3.15对苹果公司讲的保修期就是,在你这儿保修期不一样,那就是一种歧视,对中国市场的歧视,这是一个价格的问题。

再一个就是消费者权益保护不一样,我们最近的新《消费者权益保护法》规定的是七天无理由退货,现在也落实得不太好,由于企业各种名目,就说这个那个不行啊。但在国外,我听我们一个专家那天跟我讲,他在美国留学,他刚开始买了一个相机,用了半个月,他觉得不好用,觉得不合适,他去商店退货,说我买了半个月,就给退了。那商家跟他说,你还可以再用半个月,一个月之内都可以退,后来他说我不用了,你拿走吧。就是这种,我们消费者权益保护还跟不上。

所以我觉得我们下一步如何改进这个问题?从工商总局的角度来说,第一个就是要落实好《消费者权益保护法》。再一个就是从我们产品质量方面,确实解决供给侧改革,有很多高精尖产品我们都能研究出来,但我们的日常用品并不方便。比如说菜刀,可能他觉得别人的菜刀质量做得比较好。除了指甲刀以外,我看他们去买那个小刮刀,觉得这个做得挺好。但在国内我没比较过,有些比较熟悉的女士觉得我们的厨房用品这些东西要进一步改进,提倡工匠精神,把这些东西做精。在这些方面我觉得要不断地改进,但现在我觉得也是一个必然的阶段,就跟我们刚改革开放初期,到国外总要背个什么彩电、冰箱回来,那时候免税,看什么都好,我们什么都没有。

现在我觉得经过新的经济常态,就出现了这个问题,就是我们的供给侧和产品有问题。当然对于假冒伪劣,大家的信心有所下降,公信力就下降,老怕什么都不行。所以要通过我们自己的努力来改进,我觉得政府在这方面下的决心应该还是很大的,但这也是有过程的。

持续了两年多的微软反垄断调查最近有了新的进展。与以往中国政府展开的反垄断调查不同,此次关于微软的调查并不是由国家发改委主导,而是由工商总局主导。7月1日,工商总局专案组打破持续了半年多的沉默,要求微软公司针对搭售及兼容性等问题作出书面说明。而张茅也向我们透露了调查的幕后细节。

吴小莉:这次在微软,我们是从2014年就开始立案了吧,但是到了2016年又重启了,情况如何?

张茅:这个反垄断,国家有一个国务院反垄断委员会,由汪洋副总理负责,这个委员会办公室设在商务部,然后委员会由发改委、商务部和我们三家参加,我本人就是这个委员会的副主任。它是这样分工的,国家发改委是管价格垄断,商务部是管这个市场并购的,你比如说企业太大了,它全面控制市场了,像微软在欧洲就被起诉过,比如说你占了市场份额的70%,这个就要把你拆解。国家工商总局管的这块我认为是最复杂的,就是它利用一种市场垄断地位影响正当的竞争。像微软,我们实际上反垄断立案是61件,只有2件是外国企业。就利用这个技术垄断地位以后,强制搭售一些产品,强制搭售配件。

吴小莉:捆绑。

张茅:这样一来,这个认定是很难的,为什么微软的事有一阵炒得很厉害,我一见记者就问我这个事,有一阵连续报道得比较多以后,外企就引起反应了,就说你发改委又打,这个工商局又弄微软,反垄断专门针对微软,你们到底是怎么个意思?后来我记得我还讲了一次,我说我们对外开放的大门是敞开的,我们一视同仁,我们查的案子有多少个是国内的,只不过你们都不听。

吴小莉:都不关注。

张茅:都不问,有一两个外企的你们就来问。后来微软的老总也来跟我谈这个事,后来我就给他讲这个情况,我说我们为什么炒你呢……

吴小莉:你大嘛。

张茅:因为你大嘛,所以人家就很关心你,其实你在欧洲你已经多次被罚了,中国要调查你。

吴小莉:它在美国也被查啊?

张茅:被查过,但是这种反正垄断案难度非常大,因为第一取证难,都是电子信息时代,你怎么取证,怎么认定,认定它是不是利用垄断地位干涉不正当的竞争了。这个往往举报的都是中小企业,有些中小企业还不敢拿出证据来,又怕这些大企业。像国家工商总局这种反垄断案件它的过程确实比较复杂,需要各方面的专家,技术专家、法律专家,都是那种律师,那种非常高素质的人才。微软人家也有这种团队,一来开会带着七八个律师。

吴小莉:全都是顶级的。

张茅:全在研究,包括你《反垄断法》怎么修改人家都要提一提,说道说道。因为美国人他管的事,他老觉得他管得比较多。所以这个工作实际上还在进行,我们到一定阶段我们会发出一些声音。

Economist: China’s Mobile Internet

WJY: No doubt WeChat is many times better that WhatsApp, so is Weibo than Twitter and Facebook combined, in terms of the many very useful features they have. However, those advantages could easily be defeated by one shared defect: the Chinese government’s paranoid tight control of the contents transported through WeChat and Weibo.

===================

China’s mobile internet

WeChat’s world

China’s WeChat shows the way to social media’s future

Time for a shot of WeChat

YU HUI, a boisterous four-year-old living in Shanghai, is what marketing people call a digital native. Over a year ago, she started communicating with her parents using WeChat, a Chinese mobile-messaging service. She is too young to carry around a mobile phone. Instead she uses a Mon Mon, an internet-connected device that links through the cloud to the WeChat app. The cuddly critter’s rotund belly disguises a microphone, which Yu Hui uses to send rambling updates and songs to her parents; it lights up when she gets an incoming message back.

Like most professionals on the mainland, her mother uses WeChat rather than e-mail to conduct much of her business. The app offers everything from free video calls and instant group chats to news updates and easy sharing of large multimedia files. It has a business-oriented chat service akin to America’s Slack. Yu Hui’s mother also uses her smartphone camera to scan the WeChat QR (quick response) codes of people she meets far more often these days than she exchanges business cards. Yu Hui’s father uses the app to shop online, to pay for goods at physical stores, settle utility bills and split dinner tabs with friends, just with a few taps. He can easily book and pay for taxis, dumpling deliveries, theatre tickets, hospital appointments and foreign holidays, all without ever leaving the WeChat universe.

As one American venture capitalist puts it, WeChat is there “at every point of your daily contact with the world, from morning until night”. It is this status as a hub for all internet activity, and as a platform through which users find their way to other services, that inspires Silicon Valley firms, including Facebook, to monitor WeChat closely. They are right to cast an envious eye. People who divide their time between China and the West complain that leaving WeChat behind is akin to stepping back in time.

Among all its services, it is perhaps its promise of a cashless economy, a recurring dream of the internet age, that impresses onlookers the most. Thanks to WeChat, Chinese consumers can navigate their day without once spending banknotes or pulling out plastic. It is the best example yet of how China is shaping the future of the mobile internet for consumers everywhere.

That is only fitting, for China makes and puts to good use more smartphones than any other country. More Chinese reach the internet via their mobiles than do so in America, Brazil and Indonesia combined. Many leapt from the pre-web era straight to the mobile internet, skipping the personal computer altogether. About half of all sales over the internet in China take place via mobile phones, against roughly a third of total sales in America. In other words, the conditions were all there for WeChat to take wing: new technologies, business models built around mobile phones, and above all, customers eager to experiment.

The service, which is known on the mainland as Weixin, began five years ago as an innovation from Tencent, a Chinese online-gaming and social-media firm. By now over 700m people use it, and it is one of the world’s most popular messaging apps (see chart). More than a third of all the time spent by mainlanders on the mobile internet is spent on WeChat. A typical user returns to it ten times a day or more.

WeChat has worked hard to make sure that its product is enjoyable to use. Shaking the phone has proven a popular way to make new friends who are also users. Waving it at a television allows the app to recognise the current programme and viewers to interact. A successful stunt during last year’s celebration of Chinese New Year’s Eve saw CCTV, the official state broadcaster, offer millions of dollars in cash rewards to WeChat users who shook their phones on cue. Punters did so 11 billion times during the show, with 810m shakes a minute recorded at one point.

Most importantly, over half of WeChat users have been persuaded to link their bank cards to the app. That is a notable achievement given that China’s is a distrustful society and the internet is a free-for-all of cybercrime, malware and scams. Yet using its trusted brand, and putting to work robust identity and password authentication, Tencent was able to win over the public. In contrast, Western products such as Snapchat and WhatsApp have yet to persuade consumers to entrust them with their financial details. Japan’s Line (which recently floated shares on the New York and Tokyo stock exchanges) and South Korea’s KakaoTalk (in which Tencent is a big investor) have done better, but they cannot match the Chinese platform.

One app to rule them all

How did Tencent take WeChat so far ahead of its rivals? The answer lies partly in the peculiarities of the local market. Unlike most Westerners, many Chinese possessed multiple mobile devices, and they quickly took to an app that offered them an easy way to integrate them all into a single digital identity. In America messaging apps had a potent competitor in the form of basic mobile-phone plans, which bundled in SMS messaging. But text messages were costly in China, so consumers eagerly adopted the free messaging app. And e-mail never took off on the mainland the way it has around the world, mainly because the internet came late; that left an opening for messaging apps.

But the bigger explanation for WeChat’s rise is Tencent’s ability to innovate. Many Chinese grew up using QQ, a PC-based messaging platform offered by Tencent that still has over 800m registered users. QQ was a copy of ICQ, a pioneering Israeli messaging service. But then the Chinese imitator learned to think for itself. Spotting the coming rise of the mobile internet, Tencent challenged several internal teams to design and develop a smartphone-only messaging app. The QQ insiders came up with something along the lines of their existing product for the PC, but another team of outsiders (from a just-acquired firm) came up with Weixin. When Tencent launched the new app, it made it easy for QQ’s users to transfer their contacts over to the new app.

Another stroke of brilliance came two years ago when the service launched a “red packet” campaign in which WeChat users were able to send digital money to friends and family to celebrate Chinese New Year rather than sending cash in a red envelope, as is customary. It was clever of the firm to turn dutiful gift-giving into an exciting game, notes Connie Chan of Andreessen Horowitz, a VC firm. It also encouraged users to bind together into groups to send money, often in randomised amounts (if you send 3,000 yuan to 30 friends, they may not get 100 yuan each; WeChat decides how much). That in turn led to explosive growth in group chats. This year, over 400m users (both as individuals and in groups) sent 32 billion packets of digital cash during the celebration.

The enthusiasm with which WeChat users have adopted the platform makes them valuable to Tencent in ways that rivals can only dream of. After years of patient investment, its parent now earns a large and rising profit from WeChat. While other free messaging apps struggle to bring in much money, Duncan Clark of BDA, a technology consultancy in Beijing, estimates that WeChat earned about $1.8 billion in revenues last year. By the reckoning of HSBC, a bank, according to current valuations for tech firms, WeChat could be worth over $80 billion already.

Over half of its revenues come from online games, where Tencent, the biggest gaming firm, is extremely strong. E-commerce is another driver of the business model. The firm earns fees when consumers shop at one of the more than 10m merchants (including some celebrities) that have official accounts on the app. Once users attach their bank cards to WeChat’s wallet, they typically go on shopping sprees involving far more transactions per month than, for instance, Americans make on plastic. Three years ago, very few people bought things using WeChat but now roughly a third of its users are making regular e-commerce purchases directly though the app. A virtuous circle is operating: as more merchants and brands set up official accounts, it becomes a buzzier and more appealing bazaar.

Users’ dependence on the portal means a treasure-trove of insights into their preferences and peccadilloes. That, in turn, makes WeChat much more valuable to advertisers keen to target consumers as precisely as possible. There are few firms better placed to take advantage of the rise of social mobile advertising than WeChat, reckons Goldman Sachs, an investment bank. When BMW, a German carmaker, launched the first-ever ad to appear on the WeChat Moments page (which is akin to a Facebook feed) of selected users, there followed nothing like pique at the commercial intrusion, but rather an uproar from people demanding to know why they had not received the ad. Even though Tencent has deliberately trodden carefully in introducing targeted ads on users’ Moments pages, its official corporate accounts enjoy billions of impressions each day.

For Western firms, the most telling lesson from WeChat’s success is that consumers and advertisers will handsomely reward companies that solve the myriad problems that bedevil the mobile internet. The smartphone is a marvellous invention, but it can be frustrating. In much of the world, there are too many annoying notifications and updates and the proliferation of apps is baffling. WeChat provides an answer to these problems.

Better-known rivals in the West regard WeChat’s rise with more than a tinge of jealousy. One executive, David Marcus, who runs Facebook Messenger, a popular messaging app run by the social network, is willing to talk about it openly. He calls WeChat, simply, “inspiring”. His plan, to transform Messenger into a platform where people can communicate with businesses and buy things, sounds familiar.

Even enthusiasts acknowledge that the mobile ecosystem is different in the West and that WeChat’s reach and primacy in the eyes of consumers will not be easily replicated. It took off in China well before the app ecosystem had taken hold, as it has now in America and Europe. Western consumers are accustomed to using many different apps to access the internet, not just one. It would require a lot of nudging to encourage use of a single, central hub.

Nor is there much chance that Facebook could make a significant dent in WeChat’s dominance in China. The Silicon Valley darling enjoys incumbency and the network effect in many of its markets. That has sabotaged WeChat’s own efforts to expand abroad (despite splashy ad campaigns featuring Lionel Messi, a footballer). But the same rule applies if Facebook enters China, which could happen this year or next. “We have the huge advantage of incumbency and local knowledge,” says an executive at Tencent. “Weixin is quite simply more of a super-app than Facebook.”

Indeed, WeChat has already proved itself in the teeth of competition. Many Chinese champions have succeeded only because the government has hobbled domestic rivals and blocked foreign entrants. Here, too, Tencent breaks the mould. It has withstood numerous attempts by Alibaba, a formidable local rival, to knock it and its creations off their perch. And it is Facebook’s WhatsApp that is WeChat’s most obvious rival. Unlike Facebook itself, and Twitter, both of which are blocked on the mainland, WhatsApp is free to operate. WeChat has flourished for simple, commercial reasons: it solves problems for its users, and it delights them with new and unexpected offerings. That will change the mobile internet for everyone—those outside China included, as Western firms do their all to emulate its success.

 

Economist: China’s Tech Trailblazers

WJY: Several commentaries published by the Economist recently show that, contrary to popular belief, Chinese tech firms are innovative and competitive in their own ways, especially in the Chinese market. Their competitive advantages benefit from combined factors including consumer-friendly innovations, knowing better of China’s commercial culture, and, of course, the Chinese government’s unintended protection through blocking out some of the foreign tech firms which the Party-State believes are hostile to its authoritarian rule.

===================

Technology in China

China’s tech trailblazers

The Western caricature of Chinese internet firms needs a reboot

GOOGLE left. Facebook is blocked. Amazon is struggling to make headway. And if further proof were needed that China’s tech market is a world apart, this week seemed to provide conclusive evidence. Uber, a ride-hailing service that is the world’s most valuable startup, decided to sell its local unit to Didi Chuxing, a Chinese rival (see article). Its China dream, like those of so many before, is dead.

For many, the lessons of this latest capitulation are clear. China is a sort of technological Galapagos island, a distinct and isolated environment in which local firms flourish. Chinese firms are protected from external competition by government regulation and the Great Firewall. And that protection means that they need not innovate but can thrive by copying business models developed in the West. In short, China is closed, its firms are cosseted and their talent is for mimicry.

At first sight, Uber’s retreat appears to fit this damning profile. The startup has ceded China to Didi: it will concentrate on its home market and elsewhere. Uber’s surrender was caused partly by regulations, issued at the end of July by the Chinese authorities, that in effect outlawed subsidies—Uber spent $1 billion a year in incentives to Chinese drivers and riders. Now Didi, whose forerunner firms were founded in 2012, three years after Uber introduced ride-hailing, can make hay. But look more closely and a more positive picture emerges—not just of Didi, but of China’s technology firms as a whole.

Getting the message

The usual story about the isolated nature of the Chinese market is that foreign firms are either blocked altogether or hobbled by regulators. The government has indeed restricted competition in some areas—which is why China has subpar clones of Western firms, such as Baidu in search or Renren, an ailing knock-off of Facebook. But China is not as impenetrable as its critics suggest. WhatsApp, the world’s most popular messaging app, which is owned by Facebook, is freely available in China; yet it is dwarfed by WeChat, China’s leading app (which has also fought off Alibaba, a formidable local internet giant). China is the largest market for Apple’s iPhone. And Uber made a valiant effort to establish itself in China, the world’s largest ride-hailing market: a 17.7% stake in Didi is not a bad consolation prize. Nor are Chinese tech giants walling themselves off from the rest of the world. They have invested in American startups, including Snapchat and Lyft, and bought mobile-gaming firms like Supercell of Finland and Playtika of Israel.

Being present in the Chinese market is all very well, comes the retort, but not if you are stopped from winning. That gives too little credit to China’s tech leaders. Ride-hailing, like many online businesses, is a cut-throat, winner-takes-all market: Didi itself is the product of a 2015 merger of two local firms. Uber was outcompeted. Globally, Uber arranged its billionth ride at the end of 2015, after five years in business; Didi arranged 1.4 billion rides in 2015 alone, just in China. Uber struggled to raise its market share in China above 10%. Didi understood the local culture, integrated better with social-media platforms and got taxi drivers onside by incorporating them into its app from the beginning. In outlawing subsidies, the regulators called time on a fight the American firm had already lost.

Similarly, whatever the settings of the Great Firewall, there is nothing outside China that offers WeChat’s combination of features. It has over 700m monthly users, and combines messaging, voice calls, browsing, gaming and payments (see article). It can be used for everything from paying parking tickets to booking a hospital appointment, ordering food or paying for a cup of coffee. WeChat is not so much an app as an entire mobile operating system, and accounts for more than one-third of all time spent online by Chinese mobile users; HSBC, a bank, values the app at over $80 billion. To Chinese users, Western apps look hopelessly backward.

WeChat is the best riposte to the condescending, widely held belief that Chinese internet firms are merely imitators of Western ones, and cannot innovate themselves. But it is not the only example. Alibaba kick-started Chinese e-commerce with the clever trick of holding payments in escrow, helping buyers and sellers establish trust. It now offers services that exploit its vast customer database, including credit-scoring, digital marketing, and vetting visa applicants and users of dating sites. Didi’s ride-hailing app includes novel features such as on-demand bus services and the option to request a test-drive of a new car. Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, has a built-in payments system and supports premium content, both features that Twitter lacks. With revenue from payments, virtual goods and gaming, Chinese internet firms are also much less dependent on online ads than Western rivals.

As a result, the flow of ideas between China and the West is now two-way. Facebook’s efforts to incorporate payments and commerce into its Messenger app are inspired by WeChat, as is Snapchat’s expansion from a messaging app into a media portal, and the sudden enthusiasm of Google, Facebook and Microsoft for bots (smart software that chats with customers). Western consumers are having their experience of the mobile internet shaped by a Chinese success story. Companies that want a glimpse of the future of mobile commerce should look not just to Silicon Valley but also to the other side of the Pacific.

Digital dragons

Policymakers should study China, too. No other place will reveal more about the advantages and drawbacks of winner-takes-all digital markets. As WeChat shows, a single dominant app, particularly with a payments system included, is amazingly convenient for users. But monopolies can also spell danger. Now that Didi has a 90% market share and no serious rivals to speak of, riders can expect to pay more and drivers to be paid less. How to strike the balance between convenience and dominance is the great question for regulators in the digital age. One lesson is already clear: compared with Renren and Baidu, Didi and WeChat were strengthened by fierce rivalries. If China’s tech trailblazers aim to become truly global champions, then competition is their friend. Watch closely, world.

WTO & RTAs

The WTO is talking about its public enemy no. 1, RTAs, again. If TPP dies, then the WTO might still have some hope.

 

WTO: 2016 NEWS ITEMS

27 June 2016

REGIONAL TRADE AGREEMENTS

Several members back talks on impact of regional trade deals on global system

A discussion on the proliferation of regional trade agreements (RTAs) and their impact on the broader global trading system has drawn support from most WTO members, the chair of the Committee on RTAs said in a meeting on 27 June. He noted that some WTO members have suggested taking note of these deals’ provisions on e-commerce, rules of origin, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary standards, fisheries, and more.

Ministers had instructed the committee in the Nairobi ministerial declarationlast December to discuss the systemic implication of RTAs for the multilateral trading system and their relationship to WTO rules. Besides instructions for holding these discussions, the ministerial declaration also called on members to work towards the transformation of the provisional Transparency Mechanism, which is used to review RTAs, into a permanent one without prejudice to questions related to notification requirements.

Discussions on systemic implications of RTAs are more of a priority for most members than transforming the Transparency Mechanism into a permanent one, committee chair Ambassador Daniel Blockert (Sweden) said at the meeting, reporting on his previous consultations with around 25 members.

“This systemic discussion is high on the agenda for members with possibly one or two exceptions,” the chair said.

“In terms of substance, there are different suggestions with some based on specific themes: e-commerce, rules of origin, technical barriers to trade, and fisheries. The idea would be to exchange experiences,” Ambassador Blockert said. “One way is to have a few delegations provide information on their own free trade agreements and the Secretariat will supply background information,” he said.

The chair clarified that there are few  concrete ideas on how to hold the discussions. He called for written proposals and encouraged members to discuss ideas in groups ahead of the next committee meeting on 27-28 September, where he plans to take the matter up again.

Several delegations then took the floor. Australia reiterated its long-standing support for a discussion of the effects of RTAs on the multilateral system, encouraging the chair to start a process for interested members to construct a framework for the discussion. The US said if members wanted to discuss RTAs’ systemic effects, it was necessary to have transparency on all RTAs, including non-notified RTAs. The US added that it could not agree to a standing item on systemic issues on the committee’s agenda; if members wanted to submit a paper on any issue dealing with RTAs, they could request an agenda item. Japan, Chinese Taipei, Canada, China, and the European Union were supportive of such a discussion, with some drawing attention to the need to address transparency issues too. The EU said it would support presentations by members on specific topics backed by input from the Secretariat. Brazil and India repeated their view that the committee did not have sole competence to discuss RTAs as the Committee on Trade & Development also had a role. South Africa supported a systemic discussion as long as it did not lead to new rules or benchmarks.

The chair said he will continue consultations with delegations before September.

Consideration of three RTAs

Members also discussed three RTAs as part of the regular work of the committee:

  • Free Trade Agreement between the Republic of Korea and Australia, goods and services WT/REG359/1
  • Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Honduras, goods and servicesWT/REG364/1
  • Free Trade Agreement between the Russian Federation and Serbia, goodsWT/REG326/1

The EU said that the Korea-Australia FTA was one of the most comprehensive RTAs in Asia Pacific and contained several commitments beyond WTO agreements. Some questions were raised on all three RTAs and the parties agreed to provide responses in writing.

Consideration of such agreements is based on a factual presentation prepared by the WTO Secretariat as well as written questions and responses exchanged among WTO members in advance of the meeting.

Backlog in RTA notifications

Seventy-two RTAs that are currently in force have not been notified to the WTO, members were informed at the meeting WT/REG/W/104. Many of these RTAs involve members of the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA). LAIA members are of the view that the LAIA agreement itself has been notified to the WTO, and subsequent LAIA agreement notifications had been made in biennial/annual reports, thus such deals should thus be removed from the Secretariat’s list of non-notified RTAs. The US disagreed and reiterated that the LAIA as an entity was not a WTO member and that notification obligations rested with individual WTO members. The US also indicated it could not support the consensus to invite the LAIA to the next meeting of the committee as an ad hoc observer. Uruguay on behalf of LAIA had issued a communication ahead of the meeting, which the EU said was a good start to addressing the backlog and on which it requested a number of clarifications. The chair encouraged more consultations among members to find a way forward.

The Chairman also said he had continued consultations with those delegations for which the RTA factual consideration was delayed due to lack of comments from parties involved WT/REG/W/106. The chair further reported that end of implementation reports were due for 129 RTAs. A further 11 RTAs will see the end of their implementation this year, thus adding to the backlog. Only six implementation reports had been received to date.

Next meeting

The next committee meeting has been scheduled for September 27-28.

A rare takeover battle that is full of inside trading and irregularities

Somebody must be doing something illegal.

万科否认泄密 恒大称不存在同盟者

2016年08月10日01:31 上海证券报

⊙记者 覃秘 ○编辑 孙放

万科A(21.570, -0.40, -1.82%)今日披露了对深交所关注函的回复,称公司不存在提前私下向特定对象单独披露、透露或泄露中国恒大持股比例的情况。中国恒大也表示,其未接受过任何媒体采访,从未发布过否认购买万科股份的消息;此外,中国恒大称,与万科一季报中列示的前十大股东及其一致行动人之间不存在协议及其他安排,也不构成一致行动人。

回溯事件始末:8月4日下午开盘后不久,某财经媒体网站挂出“恒大买入万科股票或达2%”的报道,万科A的股价随即快速拉升;其后,又有报道称前一消息为假消息,但万科A的股价在略微回撤后再度扬起,收盘时封于涨停。当日晚间,中国恒大公告已买入4.68%的万科股份,耗资逾91亿元。昨日,万科A又公告确认中国恒大方面已完成举牌,持股比例升至5%。

由此,是谁泄露了中国恒大已入股万科的重大信息并导致万科A的股价异动,成为市场高度关注的话题,深交所也就此事件发出关注函。

而据万科A的回复公告,公司表示,其根据相关规则从中登公司深圳分公司、香港中央证券登记有限公司获得股东名册后,按照公司信息保密制度,由公司证券事务代表将上述股东名册存放于专门的计算机保管。公司员工或向公司提供服务的第三方如因信息披露、召开股东大会、分红派息等事务需要使用股东信息的,经董事会秘书批准,可以获得基于股东名册整理的股东持股信息。

万科方面表示,公司股东可根据《万科企业股份有限公司章程》提出查询公司股东名册的申请,公司在核实股东身份,对提出查阅申请的股东进行登记,并经董事会秘书确认后,在符合相关法律法规的前提下向提出申请的股东提供有关信息。不过,在7月至8月4日(含当日),公司并未收到股东查阅公司股东名册的申请。自8月5日起,陆续有部分投资者致电公司董事会办公室,咨询查阅公司股东名册事宜,截至目前,公司并未收到股东正式提出的查询公司股东名册的申请。

另一方面,据公告披露,中国恒大在回复万科的函询时表示,“公司(中国恒大)或公司董事、监事、高管或发言人从未接受过任何媒体采访,也从未授权任何人以任何方式向市场发布过‘否认公司或许家印以个人名义购买万科股份’的言论或消息。”

此外,经中国恒大自查,公司及其一致行动人与万科《2016年第一季度报告》中列示的前十大股东及其一致行动人之间,不存在通过协议、其他安排等形式共同扩大所能够支配万科股份表决权数量的行为或事实,亦不构成一致行动人。

文章来源: http://finance.sina.com.cn/roll/2016-08-10/doc-ifxutfyw0989788.shtml
Vanke by Baoneng: Rare Takeover Battle in China?

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/be7ae1da-4424-11e6-9b66-0712b3873ae1.html#ixzz4GpEpfGxy

July 10, 2016 12:07 pm

Rare governance and takeover battle breaks out in China

Insurer Baoneng takes aim at residential developer China Vanke
A woman walks past a Vanke Service Center in Beijing on July 6, 2016.
Shares in China's biggest property company, China Vanke, plunged this week as it returned to trading after a six-month suspension engineered by bosses trying to fight off what would be the country's first hostile blue-chip takeover. / AFP PHOTO / STR / China OUT / TO GO WITH China-economy-stocks-property-Vanke,FOCUS by Fran WangSTR/AFP/Getty Images©AFP

The truce is over. Last week a privately held insurance group bought additional shares in one of China’s largest property developers after a six-month hiatus, setting the stage for a final showdown that is ostensibly a simple morality tale about shareholder rights.

Baoneng Group started buying shares and battling the leadership of China Vanke last December. Its first approach provoked an angry reaction from Wang Shi, the residential developer’s founding chairman, who called the group a “barbarian” that would wreck Vanke’s corporate culture.

Now the fight has been rejoined. After a six-month suspension, Vanke’s Shenzhen-listed shares started trading again last Monday. Baoneng dove in and raised its stake from 24 to 25 per cent, touching a regulatory threshold. It will test whether there are limits to the ruling Communist party’s pledge to allow market forces a “decisive” role in the world’s second-largest economy. And Baoneng’s aggressive use of leverage is raising questions about the role the country’s credit bubble may be playing in an unprecedented Chinese corporate showdown.

Hong Hao, head of research at Bocom International, says the battle for Vanke heralds the arrival of investor activism in China. “It also shows how leverage can level the playing field, although with significant risks,” Mr Hong adds. “In this regard it’s similar to the “Barbarians at the Gate” era in the US, when companies with good and stable cash flows were bought with junk bonds.”

Financial conglomerate Baoneng, founded as a property developer by entrepreneur Yao Zhenhua, first emerged as Vanke’s largest shareholder in early December. Its presence raised concerns for a group built by an independent management team that has never had to answer to a controlling shareholder.

“We’ve never seen a hostile takeover like this in China,” says Rupert Hoogewerf at the Hurun Report, which tracks the fortunes of the country’s billionaires. “One of the reasons it’s such a big deal is that you’re talking about one of the highest profile, most respected entrepreneurs in Wang Shi. To try to take him out of a company that has performed well for many years is unprecedented.”

Before Mr Yao’s raid, which sent Vanke’s share price soaring, the group’s largest shareholder had been China Resources, one of country’s biggest state-owned enterprises.

China Resources is controlled by the central government. But when Mr Wang started looking for a white knight, he turned instead to Shenzhen Metro Group, a rail developer owned by the Shenzhen municipal government. So private enterprise, the central government and a prominent local government are now all represented in the unusual takeover battle.

Baoneng raises stake in Vanke with $223m sneak attack

China Vanke President Yu Liang attends a news conference following the company's annual results in Hong Kong, China March 14, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

Group seizes opportunity to raise holding as Vanke’s Shenzhen shares fall following six-month halt

Vanke proposed making Shenzhen Metro its largest shareholder, diluting Baoneng, China Resources and minority shareholders in the process. Not surprisingly, Baoneng and China Resources both expressed their opposition to the deal.

Vanke, Baoneng and China Resources all declined interview requests.

On June 26, however, it emerged that Baoneng had increased the pressure by demanding a shareholder vote to sack Vanke’s board, which it argued overpaid Mr Wang during years in which he took long sabbaticals to study overseas. Mr Wang denied that he had shirked his responsibilities.

“Baoneng has only been a major shareholder for a few months, and now they want to recall the entire board of directors and expel the entire management team. Do they really have the ability to manage this company?” Mr Wang told the official Xinhua news agency in an interview published on Friday.

In taking on Mr Wang and the entire Vanke board, on which China Resources has three seats, Baoneng appears to have underestimated the counter-reaction. With Vanke’s “stability” under threat, wagons began to circle around Mr Wang and his management team.

China Resources said it did not support Baoneng’s demand. Fu Chengyu, head of one of China’s largest state energy companies, praised Vanke as “a rare example of a well-managed and transparent listed company in China” and urged regulators to protect it.

Echoing Mr Fu’s concerns, Standard & Poor’s said the dismissal of Vanke’s board could lead to financial instability and affect the developer’s credit rating.

Then Huang Qifan, mayor of China’s most populous city, entered the fray. Speaking at a government meeting in Chongqing, Mr Huang suggested that Baoneng’s funding sources for its share purchases should be examined. He added that if the private sector was left to its own devices in such situations, the result would be “a pot of mixed-up soup”.

Wang Shi, President of Vanke, one of Chinas largest property developers, at China Vanke Co. Ltd head office in Shenzhen Southern China.

Vanke founder Wang Shi reacted angrily to Baoneng’s stakebuilding, calling the group a ‘barbarian’

After Mr Huang’s comments appeared in local media, some of the reports were expunged by censors. But his intervention was significant. Mr Huang played a key role in Shanghai’s development in the 1990s and has long been tipped for greater things in Beijing, giving him a national profile that most Chinese mayors lack.

He also appeared to be echoing earlier concerns that Baoneng was relying on costly borrowing to fund its financial investments. Baoneng’s life insurance unit, Foresea, has sold high-yielding wealth management products to drive premium growth.

Founded just four years ago, Foresea quickly scaled the rankings of Chinese life insurers at a time when the industry was already booming. It rose from 53rd by premiums in 2012 to 11th in 2015. Most of its growth has come from the sale of “universal life” products, which combine a death benefit with an investment component that guarantees a payout after a fixed maturity. For many such products, the protection element comprises only a small fraction of their value.

“I’ve been joking recently about how the insurance sector is typically quite boring, but in China it’s one of the most electrifying sectors to watch,” says analyst Mr Hoogewerf.

Foresea’s premiums soared exponentially, from Rmb272m in 2012 to Rmb78bn in 2015. It collected another Rmb56bn through the first five months of this year alone. Sam Radwan at Enhance, a consultancy that advises several Chinese midsized insurers, says 98 per cent of Foresea’s sales are through banks, which typically only market high-yielding products.

“If you truly wanted to sell traditional insurance protection products, you’d have to make a huge investment in building and training an agency force as well as call centres,” says Mr Radwan. “That takes time and a lot of upfront investment — something they have not done.

“Regulators hate these type of companies that are running themselves more like private equity firms,” he adds. “That is why they are under scrutiny.”

In addition to sales of wealth products, Baoneng Group companies, often referred to as the “Baoneng clique”, have funded purchases by borrowing in China’s shadow banking system. In December, Baoneng affiliate Shenzhen Jushenghua was asked by the Shenzhen Stock Exchange to explain how it had funded almost Rmb10bn in Vanke share purchases. The affiliate said sales of asset management plans, which promise fixed returns, accounted for about two-thirds of its investment capital.

Baoneng affiliates have also applied for — or received approval to — issue Rmb28bn in bonds on the Shenzhen stock exchange, according to recent filings. That would provide the group further ammunition. Yet the recent tumble in Vanke’s share price, in line with a broader decline in mainland property stocks, highlights the risk of this investment strategy. Much of Baoneng’s investment in Vanke is underwater.

For his part, Mr Yao has tried to frame his raid on Vanke as in line with government policy promoting investment, citing last year’s stock market collapse.

“Our investment in Vanke is both a response to the country’s appeal for help during last year’s stock disaster as well as the ‘10 national provisions’ calling for insurance funds to meet the needs of the real economy,” he told Xinhua.

Additional reporting by Luna Lin and Ma Nan

Twitter: @gabewildau

Baoneng: a history
Baoneng began as a property developer in the freewheeling Pearl River Delta in the 1990s, when founder Yao Zhenhua and his younger brother made their way to Shenzhen from the nearby Chaoshan region.

Like Wenzhou in eastern Zhejiang province, Chaoshan is famous for its hyper-aggressive business culture and being the ancestral home of many ethnic Chinese who settled in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Native sons include Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong’s most accomplished tycoon.

Chaoshan natives are also over-represented among the real estate tycoons that built Shenzhen from a fishing village into a sprawling metropolis beginning in the 1980s. The Chaoshan dialect, unintelligible to outsiders, is considered a passport into powerful Shenzhen business circles.

Mr Yao has a much lower profile than his current nemesis, China Vanke chairman Wang Shi. But his aggressiveness was on full display last Tuesday, when Baoneng launched a sneak attack on Vanke shares, spending Rmb1.5bn in a matter of minutes just before market close.

According to local media, Mr Yao started as a humble vegetable seller. In 1996, at the age of 25, he executed his first big real estate project, a 140,000 sq m vegetable market in Shenzhen.

“The property market in the Pearl River Delta region caught fire [in the early 1990s],” says Qin Shuo, a Chinese journalist who covered Shenzhen’s tycoons when Yao was just getting started. “At that time, the government didn’t sell land at open auction like today. There were a lot of ways to get land, which allowed a lot of people to get involved in property development.”

By 2015 Mr Yao had amassed a personal fortune of Rmb12.5bn, according to the Hurun Report.

Baoneng’s website boasts of residential and commercial projects in 13 cities. But as the golden age of China’s property boom winds down, Mr Yao is following the lead of other tycoons, such as Dalian Wanda Group’s Wang Jianlin, and diversifying into finance, logistics, tourism and other service industries.

His move into insurance puts him in the company of another tycoon, Wu Xiaohui of Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group, who hails from Wenzhou and is related by marriage to the family of Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China’s economic miracle.

Anbang, one of China’s most acquisitive companies, was also briefly a player in the Vanke drama. In December it increased its stake in the developer from 4.5 per cent to 7 per cent in a move welcomed by Mr Wang. Mr Wu, however, has since stayed on the sidelines.

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Vanke Takeover Case: Baoneng raises stake

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8289e2bc-4338-11e6-9b66-0712b3873ae1.html#ixzz4GpDIAGWX

July 6, 2016 8:18 am

Baoneng raises stake in Vanke with $223m sneak attack

China Vanke President Yu Liang attends a news conference following the company's annual results in Hong Kong, China March 14, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo©Reuters

Baoneng Group, the once-obscure property and insurance conglomerate, executed a daring raid on China Vanke in the final minutes of trading on Tuesday in the latest twist in the battle for control of China’s largest residential developer.

Continuing to nudge the group’s stake higher, Baoneng affiliates bought Shenzhen-listed shares in Vanke worth 0.682 per cent of the company, Vanke said in a stock exchange filing. Intraday trading records show a cluster of buying in the final minutes of trade, with the day’s final transaction a single order worth Rmb911m ($136m).

 ON THIS TOPIC

On Wednesday, Vanke’s Hong Kong-traded shares rose as much as 5.7 per cent in response to the developer’s disclosure that affiliates of privately owned Baoneng had aggressively raised their holdings.

Baoneng’s purchases on Tuesday raised the group’s total stake in Vanke to 24.972 per cent. Once Baoneng hits the 25 per cent threshold, regulations require it to file a disclosure and halt buying or selling of Vanke shares for at least two days.

Baoneng’s latest move showcased the company’s financial muscle: based on the closing price in Shenzhen, the group’s stakebuilding on Tuesday implies a total one-day investment of Rmb1.5bn ($223m).

The timing also showed considerable savvy. Baoneng made its purchases on a day when Vanke’s Shenzhen shares fell by the maximum 10 per cent daily limit for a second consecutive day. By waiting until the end of the trading session, Baoneng was able to take advantage of a deep pool of sell orders accumulated over the previous two days, ensuring its sudden buying would not push up the price, traders said.

China Vanke chief Wang Shi raises the stakes

Wang Shi - Chinese Banker (holding the flag) for Property

High drama in developer’s boardroom puts Beijing’s embrace of market forces to the test

“From a technical trading standpoint, It isn’t all that impressive. The main thing is they’ve got so much money,” said a hedge fund manager in China who previously worked at a major brokerage.

Before Monday, trading in Vanke’s Shenzhen shares had been halted since December 18 as chairman Wang Shi plotted a restructuring deal aimed at fending off Baoneng’s bid for control. Analysts said this week’s tumble was largely a catch-up move. An index of mainland-listed property developers has fallen 19 per cent over the same timeframe.

Vanke’s Shenzhen shares were down another 2 per cent on Wednesday afternoon.

Its Hong Kong-listed shares were up 0.5 per cent by midday, extending a combined 8 per cent gain over Monday and Tuesday.

Even after the recent decline, Vanke’s Shenzhen shares are still priced at a 36 per cent premium to those in Hong Kong. More than 90 per cent of Vanke’s outstanding shares trade in Shenzhen.

In addition, Baoneng affiliates are planning to sell up to Rmb28bn in fresh capital by selling bonds on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, according to recent filings. Market observers suspect the group may use the money for further Vanke share purchases.

Twitter: @gabewildau

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