Tag Archives: Economy

Emerging-Market Investors Bullish On China’s Middle Class

Rapid Growth Of Still-Nascent Middle Class Signals Opportunity For Investors And Family Offices In China

Many investors are banking on the prospects for Chinese middle class consumption

Many investors are banking on the prospects for Chinese middle class consumption

We’ve kept a close eye on China’s burgeoning middle class, which — despite its recent appearance on the world stage — already numbers in the hundreds of millions, presenting a vast and unique potential consumer base for companies selling everything from cars to jewelry, household goods to fashion. While the Chinese middle class is expected by many to play a major role in the global economic recovery, their buying (and saving) habits, investment strategies, and long-term financial goals by and large remain poorly understood. Today, the Wall Street Journal looks into emerging market investors who eschew the popular financial planning target customer — the wealthy or ultra-rich — to serve the Chinese middle class, and investors in the West who are banking on the continued growth of this consumer class.

In coming years, it seems inevitable that the increased consumption of China’s hundreds of millions of middle class investors will affect, in some way, investors and money managers in other countries. If that is indeed the case, it pays to read up on this subject now, when the market is just starting to be defined and more fully understood:

Encouraged by the steps the Chinese government has taken to boost consumption, some equity-fund managers are putting money into sectors related to domestic demand, such as retail, automobiles and financials.

Chinese industrialization in recent years has lifted the average income of millions, propelling them into the ranks of a swelling middle class some say could grow to be the largest in the world.

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WSJ: Only China Can Save Luxury Sales

Spending On Everything From Luxury Cars To Private Jets Shows Ultrarich Chinese Are Unleashing Their Inner Conspicuous Consumer

The exclusive club of "ultra-rich" in China are splurging amid the ongoing global economic doldrums

The exclusive club of "ultra-rich" in China are splurging amid the ongoing global economic doldrums

An interesting blog post today at the Wall Street Journal, where Robert Frank points out that the global economic downturn has turned a new spotlight onto a once-unlikely savior — the Chinese [ultrarich] consumer. While this group is exclusive to say the least, particularly in terms of the miniscule percentage of the Chinese population that can live up to this title, the staggering dropoff of the once mighty American, Japanese and even Russian luxury showoff has pushed the Chinese super-spender into the leading role.

Though Frank’s potential nicknames for this ultrarich group of big spenders — “Deng Xiaoblings,” for one — are a humorous take on the subject, the repercussions of an Eastward shift of conspicuous consumption and luxury shopping sprees could mean a great deal for established western luxury brands. Just as the increased buying power — and desire for diversification — seen among Chinese buyers of everything from gold to real estate to luxury cars to Chinese antiquities and contemporary arts has affected those markets and caused everyone from Bugatti to Sotheby’s to focus far more strongly on the China market than ever before, this China-bound luxury shift could very well change the nature and corporate strategies of the global luxury industry.

From the WSJ:

Purveyors of posh have a new mandate: Go East!

An updated forecast from Bain & Co. out this morning shows a stronger-than-expected rise in luxury sales for Asia–especially China. It said it expects luxury-goods sales in mainland China to jump 12% this year.

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Chinese Buying Drives Sotheby’s Hong Kong Sale To $170 Million

Bidders From Mainland China Dominate As Expectations Are Surpassed In Landmark Autumn Auction

Chinese contemporary artist Liu Ye's "Portrait of L" sold in Hong Kong for $209,000 over its high estimate

Chinese contemporary artist Liu Ye's "Portrait of L" sold in Hong Kong for $209,000 over its high estimate

Over the last week, we’ve followed the Sotheby’s autumn auction in Hong Kong, which included sales of everything from fine wine to antiquities to contemporary Chinese and Asian art, noting that sales were well above estimates and sell-through rates were promising. Today, in a wrap-up of the sales, Le-Min Lim of Bloomberg illustrates how this series of auctions, led by Chinese rather than American buyers, represents a major shift in auction buying trends:

The total beat both the presale estimate of HK$950 million and last year’s auction, which raised HK$1.1 billion ($141.7 million at that time), half its forecast, three weeks after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s September 2008 failure.

“The bidding was intense,” auctioneer Henry Howard-Sneyd said in an interview after the auction. The mood in the saleroom was “electric” when Emperor Qianlong’s throne came on the block yesterday, he said: “This shows when the right item comes along, the money is there — especially from China.”

Chinese collectors have come out in force over the last year, recognizing quality lots and quickly developing a sophisticated eye for collection-worthy wines and paintings. In terms of antiquities, an area in which Chinese collectors have more experience, however, they seemingly can’t be beat:

The strength of Chinese bidding at the antiques sale defies a decade-old trend of Western dominance at the priciest end of the market. As recently as June, Sotheby’s rival, Christie’s International, said Americans were its top clients in this category, followed by the Chinese and Hong Kongers. Of the 2,400 lots offered this week, 88 percent found buyers.

The Chinese also bought the priciest wines and oil paintings by masters and contemporary art. Over the weekend, a Chinese buyer paid a record $94,000 for a 6-liter bottle of Chateau Petrus 1982; another spent HK$7.3 million for a 1984 oil-and-color on paper by Li Keran at the auction of classical Chinese paintings; while a third spent HK$36.5 million on a mid- 1950s oil-on-board painting, “Lotus et Poissons Rouges” (“Lotus and Red Fish”) by deceased Chinese master Sanyu.

While this article claims contemporary art underperformed, I think the sell-through at the contemporary Asian art auction speaks for itself. If lumping together all of the pieces at the contemporary auction — which included Chinese, Japanese and Korean artists in one large sale — I would say the final tally is brought down significantly by the Japanese and Korean artists, who sell, on the whole, for significantly less than quality Chinese contemporary artists.

In terms of the Chinese artists up for grabs in the contemporary sale, selling rates were excellent, with 5 of the 6 Zeng Fanzhi paintings up for auction going for well above than their high estimates, Yue Minjun’s “Hats Series – Two Lovers” selling for $372,000 over its high estimate, and works by top Chinese artists like Liu Ye, Wang Guangyi, and Huang Yongping destroying pre-sale estimates.

Reaching China’s Emerging Luxury Class: 2 Brands’ Strategies

Middle Class Estimated At Upwards of 150 Million And Growing; Consumers Hungry For Entry-Level Luxury Products That Offer Status As Well As Quality

China's middle class is expected grow exponentially in the next 20 years. Graphic © Foreign Policy magazine

Spending by China's middle class is expected to grow exponentially in the next 20 years. Graphic © Foreign Policy magazine

It has become a well-established fact that companies of all stripes are looking at the Chinese market as a source of sustainable revenue over the long term, as the country’s growing middle class increasingly becomes a consumer class on par with many more established markets. However, as many brand marketers — particularly from western countries — have found, reaching the Chinese consumer can be a complicated task, as the Chinese market differs greatly from other developing and developed markets…another well-established fact.

Today, Investopedia examines two strategies that have been adopted by western brands like Luxottica and Coach in their quest for market share in China’s huge, competitive entry-level luxury market. While it will be incredibly difficult for ambitious brands to unseat luxury powerhouses like Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Porsche in China, as this article notes, brands that adopt a specifically China-centric strategy when dealing with the middle class may create a strong foundation for future growth:

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Shanghai’s Property Market Continues To Grow

Real Estate Prices Have Fluctuated In China’s Metropolitan East, But Signs Of Recovery Are Starting To Surface

Higher-end apartments in Shanghai appear to be resisting the global economic downturn, increasing in demand and price in the last several months

Higher-end apartments in Shanghai appear to be resisting the global economic downturn, increasing in demand and price in the last several months

Although news coming out of emerging markets seems to be more rosy than that of their more developed counterparts, China itself has not been unaffected by the global economic downturn. Prices of hard assets like real estate have been hit particularly hard in some cities, like Beijing and Shanghai, where strong demand over the last several years has created something of a “bubble,” yet not as severe as those found in California or Florida. However, as China’s economy begins to head north again, several real estate experts have written on the resiliance of the real estate markets in China’s most important economic centers. In Shanghai alone, Shanghai Uwin has put out a study indicating that more than 1 million sqm of new homes, excluding those designated for relocated residents due to urban redevelopment projects, were sold across the city during the first 15 days of this month, up 12 per cent from the same period in May. This indicates that the city’s real estate market is, gradually, gaining steam again.

The important thing to keep in mind when trying to conceptualize the Chinese market is that many of the buyers in cities like Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, or Beijing are first-timers, and tend to be on the cautious, young side. Since China’s economic power centers are concentrated on the east coast, in only a handful of huge metropolises, real estate is virtually always going to be in relatively short supply and relatively high demand. The population size — and economic and employment realities — guarantees this. So even in a comparatively sluggish market, when many younger people are finding it harder to settle down, real estate in Shanghai and Beijing is still going to perform pretty well.

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Is China Recession-Proof?

An excellent video on China’s ability to resist the global economic downturn, from the McKinsey Quarterly.

Transcript after the jump:

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The Rising RMB And You: What Does It Mean For Art Collectors?

As China’s Currency Becomes Increasingly Global, Will Collectors Of Chinese Art Benefit?

As the RMB appreciates and becomes more convertible, Chinese assets like art look to be a smart hedge. Painting: Chinese contemporary artist Qi Zhilong's "A Chinese Girl In Male Military Uniform No. 2" (2006)

As the RMB appreciates and becomes more convertible, investing in Chinese assets like art looks like an even better option. Painting: Chinese contemporary artist Qi Zhilong's "A Chinese Girl In Male Military Uniform No. 2" (2006)

In recent months, a number of high-profile Chinese and world economists have increased their calls for the creation of a truly “global currency,” which would diminish the US dollar’s role as the de facto international currency sooner rather than later. Although this concept is still far off, as these economists concede, definitely within the next 10-20 years the dollar’s primacy will be challenged, if not completely nonexistent.

Although this is not some kind of dollar apocalypse, but rather a readjustment of the global economy based more on a realistic global picture. In the post-Cold War, post-BRIC-growth world, we are seeing the world economy pluralize rapidly. So a global currency will require an accurate portrayal of this multipolarity — thus, it is unlikely that the next global currency will be “from” one country. Rather, it is likely to be a multi-currency basket, or “supracurrency” — as the governor of the People’s Bank of China, Zhou Xiaochuan, himself called for in March.

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