Monthly Archives: September 2009

Shanghai Developer Plans Luxury Home Furnishing Store “With A Twist”

Ausen Real Estate Development Set To Invest US$22 Million In Luxury Home Furnishing Retail Complex, Due To Open Next Year

Ausen World will bring a Western-style furniture shopping experience to Shanghai

Ausen World will bring a Western-style furniture shopping experience to Shanghai

While announcements of new large-scale real estate projects in China are nothing new, nor are they particularly exciting on the whole, Ausen Real Estate Development Co.’s recently-announced plans to open a massive home furnishing retail complex near Shanghai next year stand out. Set to be located in Xinbang, in Shanghai’s Songjiang District (less than an hour’s drive southwest of downtown), the austerely named Ausen World Brand Home Furnishings Center will include features not often seen at furniture stores, including a hotel and restaurant for shoppers who prefer to make a weekend out of their shopping trips. Although slapping a hotel onto a massive furniture store isn’t exactly unheard of, it most certainly is unusual.

According to company spokespeople, Ausen World‘s main focus will be on American and European furniture, popular but often poorly understood by Shanghai-area residents. The center will also include Premium home furnishing areas designed to emulate “DIY” stores like the Home Depot. From Furniture Today:

Another unusual feature for a Chinese retail center will be the presence of on-site interior designers, who can help consumers with home design and product choices.

In a statement, Ausen said it intends to be a door to the Chinese market for Western brands. It will offer help with operating in the country, including support of import entry, logistics and storage.

Zhang said he believes the center will offer a “family feel” that is missing from most Chinese retail spaces, with a rewarding consumer experience for shoppers and their children. An Australian company will design the “eco-garden” look of the complex, including outdoor leisure areas.

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BBC: “Art & Politics In China”

The BBC has posted a great slideshow on the intersection of art and politics in China from 1949 to the present day, looking at the remarkable transition of art in China over the last 60 years from social realism and propaganda of the 1960s to the internationalized contemporary Chinese art of today.

See the slideshow here.

Bombardier Awarded Contract For 80 “Super High Speed” Trains In China

Implications For Second- And Third-Tier Cities, Consumers Immense As High Speed Rail Set To Increase Connectivity

Bombardier's ZEFIRO technology features maximum operating speeds of 380 kph (Image courtesy Bombardier)

Bombardier's ZEFIRO technology features maximum operating speeds of 380 kph (Image courtesy Bombardier)

China’s already extensive, but in some places aging, rail system has benefitted greatly from the government’s massive stimulus spending over the last twelve months. Earlier this year, the New York Times noted that the Chinese stimulus plan — which targeted, among other infrastructure projects, highways and railroads — could likely be a key part of the development of China’s interior cities, many of which have yet to reap the same benefits of the country’s economic growth as their much larger, east-coast counterparts like Shanghai:

The [Chinese] stimulus plan, one of the world’s largest, promises to carry the modernity of China’s coasts deep into the hinterlands, buying the kind of great leap forward it took the United States decades — and a world war — to build, and priming China for a new level of global competition.

China will spend $88 billion constructing intercity rail lines, the highest priority in the plan. It spent $44 billion last year and just $12 billion as recently as 2004, said John Scales, the transport coordinator for China at the World Bank.

As 2009 nears its end, China’s investment in rail infrastructure has not slowed, and in fact remains relatively sustained, due to the size both of the stimulus package and the country itself. Recently, Bombardier Sifang — Bombardier’s Chinese joint venture — nabbed an enviable contract to sell 80 “super high speed” trains to China, a contract worth an estimated US$4 billion (27.4 billion yuan). From China Daily:

CSR Bombardier Sifang (Qingdao) Transportation Ltd, a joint venture of Canadian train maker Bombardier and CSR Sifang Locomotive and Rolling Stock Ltd, signed a 27.4 billion yuan contract with the Shanghai Railway Bureau, under which the company will build 80 high-speed trains.

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Chinese & Cuban Developers Plan Luxury Hotels Targeting “Future American Tourists”

“Hemingway Hotel” Set For Groundbreaking This Year, With A Distinctively US-Focused Target Consumer

Chinese construction firms have big plans for luxury developments in Cuba, as they foresee huge potential for American tourists in the future

Chinese construction firms have big plans for luxury developments in Cuba, as they foresee huge potential for American tourists in the future

Chinese investment in Cuba has largely flown under the radar in the last several years, mainly because China, unlike the former Soviet Union, has not cornered the market for foreign investment in the island nation. Large-scale construction projects have been undertaken by companies from a number of EU countries as well as Canada, but in the last few years there has been a push by Chinese state-run developers to get more market share as many see a (very) gradual thaw in relations between Cuba and the United States in coming years (and huge potential for the US tourism buck).

This week, Reuters reported that a Cuban-Chinese venture is set to break ground on a new luxury hotel focused primarily on the future American tourists that both countries assume will be eventually arrive, ready to splurge on a five-star long-verboten vacation spot:

State-run Suntine International-Economic Trading Company of China and Cuba’s Cubanacan hotel group are partners in the project, which will be a 600-room luxury hotel, the sources, who asked not to be identified, said over the weekend.

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Chinese Auction Buyers Find “Treasures For The Taking”

High Proportion Of New Chinese Collectors Boosting Sales As Economic Mood Remains Relatively Tepid In More Mature Markets

Up for auction in Hong Kong on October 6: Ai Weiwei's “A Gift from Beijing (set of three works)”

Up for auction in Hong Kong on October 6: Ai Weiwei's “A Gift from Beijing (set of three works)”

Next week, Sotheby’s will hold one of the most anticipated auctions of the season, its autumn auction of contemporary Chinese and other Asian art, in Hong Kong. For this closely-watched sale, the location is no coincidence. According to recent stories in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, The Economist and dozens of art blogs, mainland Chinese buyers have rapidly become one of the fastest-growing buyer and collector groups in the world. Considering art collection was virtually nonexistent for much of the last 60 years in China (and probably significantly longer than that), many newly wealthy Chinese are taking advantage of the readjustment in prices of pretty much anything up for grabs at auction to bring home everything from Chinese antiquities to contemporary art by living artists.

Whether they are doing this more for personal reasons (decorating their house while holding on to something of great financial value which is expected to grow along with the Chinese yuan) or for patriotic reasons remains to be known. My assumption is that there is a little bit of both involved.

In the run-up to the October 6 auction in Hong Kong, a spate of auctions of Chinese art have taken place over the past few weeks, with Chinese bidders going far beyond the estimates and shocking many observers. The new Chinese collector has, in many ways, signaled his arrival by the manner in which he’s seemed completely impervious to either the global economic slowdown or auction trends, and is quickly building a reputation as willing to spend, brash, motivated and savvy.

This week, on, the Chinese collector’s knack for repatriating Chinese art is examined, with the writer concluding that auctions — as a buyer’s game — are all about who brings the money and who’s willing to spend it. At recent auctions (and, I would have to assume, future auctions) many of these individuals are mainland Chinese:

Anyone who believes the art market has been felled by the financial crisis should have been in New York earlier this month for the seasonal auctions of Chinese bronzes, furniture and ceramics. The salerooms at Sotheby’s and Christie’s were overflowing with bidders, more than three-quarters of them from Hong Kong, mainland China and Taiwan. Extra Mandarin-speakers, all of them fluent and young, had been taken on specially to handle additional telephone bidding from Asia.

Auction Houses Taking New Approaches In Asian Markets

Auction Houses Combining Popular Lots To Attract Even More New Chinese Collectors

Up for auction next month at Borobudur's Singapore auction of contemporary Asian art and fine wine: Xu Bing's "Free Bird"

Up for auction next month at Borobudur's Singapore auction of contemporary Asian art and fine wine: Xu Bing's "Free Bird"

With emerging bidders like the New Chinese Collectors, seen in action at recent auctions of Chinese antiquities (and by other auction attendees throughout the summer), taking the spotlight and garnering the attention of major auction houses like Sotheby’s, smaller auction houses have taken the buying trends of these new bidders to heart and retooled their Asia strategies to appeal to these buyers and drive growth in the region.

In recent auctions, Indonesian auction house Borobudur has combined two of the Chinese buyers’ favorites — contemporary art and fine wines — into combination lots at their Singapore auctions. By undertaking this kind of Asia-centric initiative like combination auctions, Borobudur is likely to attract more mainland Chinese buyers, hoping to double up on good art and wine and bring back a decent-sized haul from Southeast Asia.

Peoples’ Daily: China Outbound Investments to Eclipse Inbound for First Time

Chinese Firms, Sovereign Wealth Fund Taking Advantage Of More Affordable Investments Overseas In Wake Of Economic Slowdown

Graphic by Erik Bethel

Graphic by Erik Bethel

Chinese investment overseas has been one of the major news developments of the last year. Although Chinese outbound investment is nothing new, particularly after the country joined the WTO in 2001, falling asset values abroad — along with a gradually strengthening yuan — have made overseas investment a major priority for the government (and its state-owned enterprises) as well as private Chinese companies.

If a recent article by China’s Peoples’ Daily is, indeed, true, it looks like outbound investments, at nearly US$150 billion, nearly triple last year’s amount of US$52 billion, will continue the dramatic upward trend we’ve seen them follow over the last 5 or 6 years.

As Erik Bethel (an excellent source on investing in China and Latin America) writes in Seeking Alpha, the People’s Daily article highlights some quotes by Fan Chunyong, the standing director of China Industrial Overseas Development and Planning Association, in which he says that the sheer volume of year’s outbound investments by China — which are, at nearly US $150 billion, for the first time higher than inbound investments — indicate that China is already  making a shift from a “manufacturer” to a “capital exporter.”

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