Tag Archives: Investment

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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Interview: Can China’s Luxury Brands Compete At Home And Abroad?

NPR Interview With Nicholas Lardy Of The Peterson Institute for International Economics Discusses How To Make “‘Made In China’ Mean Luxury”

High-end fashion brands like Shanghai Tang are part of the first wave of Chinese luxury brands from the mainland and Hong Kong

High-end fashion brands like Shanghai Tang are part of the first wave of Chinese luxury brands from the mainland and Hong Kong

We’ve written before about domestic Chinese luxury brands, and the way these brands are working to appeal to luxury consumers in that country by resonating on a cultural level rather than simply promoting their exclusive price-points. In the next few years, as Western luxury brands lose a little of their initial luster in top-tier markets, although they’ll probably maintain their draw in second- or third-tier markets, many analysts think there will be a great opportunity for Chinese luxury brands to squeeze into the luxury market.

In an interview with NPR today, Nicholas Lardy, “a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a non-profit, non-partisan group based in Washington, D.C,” discusses how China’s burgeoning middle class (which, at more than 200 million potential customers and growing, has the potential to revolutionize buying trends) — rather than the small proportion of “ultra-rich” — will be the customers who will lead to the ascendance of Chinese luxury brands.

SIMON: Now, some of us remember when the term made in Japan was synonymous with inexpensive, dare I say, cheap goods. And of course in our lifetime that’s changed entirely. Made in Japan now means quality, particularly in the car industry. Is China trying to expand in the manufacture of high-quality items itself?

Mr. LARDY: It’s not only trying, I think it’s succeeding and it’s succeeding much earlier than Japan did for the simple reason that they’ve allowed foreign firms to play a much bigger role. We buy computers that say Dell or Toshiba and so forth – they’re all made in China. They’re made by foreign companies operating in China, assembling all the parts and components there.

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Hong Kong Apartment Is World’s Most Expensive

Five-Bedroom Luxury Duplex In City’s Mid-Levels Area Sells for US $57 Million

The world's most expensive apartment was recently sold in this building for 57 million US dollars

The world's most expensive apartment was recently sold in this building for 57 million US dollars

We’ve written before about the Hong Kong real estate market’s relatively fast rebound in the face of the global economic downturn, with exclusive properties like The Masterpiece attracting the attention of well-heeled mainlanders and Hong Kong residents alike. This week, an apartment in Hong Kong’s Mid-Levels area sold for a record-breaking HK$439 million,  or around US$57 million, and analysts expect a continued flow of money into the city’s luxury real estate markets as cash-rich individuals look to take advantage of the Hong Kong government’s recently lowered interest rates and the city’s appeal as an investment  haven.

Today, the AFP writes on the recently sold duplex, noting that the massive flood of mainland money coming into the market is exciting developers but worrying some economists who think this year’s 40% leap in the luxury property sector portends that a property bubble could be forming:

“You may see some more record-breaking prices in the luxury segment,” said Buggle Lau, chief analyst for Midland Realty.

“We have all the ingredients for a bubble coming up… With low interest rates and ample liquidity people are inclined to put their money into real estate.”

Demand from mainland Chinese investors looking to diversify their new-found wealth and snap up trophy property assets was also likely to buoy the market, said Savills’ head of research Simon Smith.

“There is quite a lot of momentum out there. If you look ahead there’s a chronic undersupply of residential units for luxury and the mass market,” he added.

Bugatti Opens First Showroom Outside France In Beijing

Luxury Carmaker Builds Showroom On Jinbao Street In Response To Growing Chinese Demand

Bugatti's choice to open a showroom in Beijing shows the company's intention to expand in the China market

Bugatti's choice to open a showroom in Beijing shows the company's intention to expand in the China market

China’s growing automotive demand has been great for automakers of all stripes, from up-and-coming budget domestic brands to the world’s most expensive and exclusive marks. Already this year, companies like Japan’s Mitsuoka Motor Co have announced their intentions to build showrooms in China, Porsche debuted its Panamera Turbo at the Shanghai Auto Show, Ferrari created a China-only version of its 599 GTB Fiorano, and Rolls Royce received 20 orders for its $250,000 Ghost after presenting the automobile in Hong Kong.

Now Bugatti, the high performance French automaker, has opened its first-ever showroom outside of France, located on Beijing’s swanky Jinbao Street. From Alibaba News:

“The opening of the show room, the first one in the world, shows Bugatti’s confidence in China‘s luxury carmarket, “said Mr Kuo-chung, President of Bugatti China. 

Kuo-chung said backed by sustained economic boom, China now has a significant number of billionaires, pointing to the annual Hurun Report which said China now has more known dollar billionaires than any other country bar the United States.

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.

China’s Rural Areas Show Potential To Drive Future Economic Growth

“Seeds Of Change” Starting To Appear In Formerly Destitute Areas, Motivating Entrepreneurs To Develop Remote Countryside

China's rural areas remain far behind the wealthy east coast in terms of economic development. If entrepreneurs have their way, this will change over the next few decades

China's rural areas remain far behind the wealthy east coast in terms of economic development. If entrepreneurs have their way, this will change over the next few decades

For years, China’s hinterlands have benefitted little from the huge economic growth that has transformed the country’s prosperous east coast, remaining underdeveloped and relying mainly on agriculture mainly as a result of their remoteness and often harsh terrain. If an article in today’s Financial Times is accurate, though, the next few years may be seen as a turning point for the mainly rural provinces in China’s interior. As much of China’s future growth will (or should) depend on domestic consumption and investment rather than foreign exports, the country’s interior — with its plentiful and comparatively cheap land and labor and delayed development (making it something of a “blank slate” for business) — should, if development is done correctly, make it one of China’s main engines of economic activity for decades to come. While this is obviously easier said than done, a number of motivated Chinese entrepreneurs have set out to do everything possible to make rural China prosperous, and — given the right mix of time and incentive — they might just be successful.

From James Kynge in today’s FT:

Reforms in rural finance, the monetisation of agricultural land and social welfare appear poised to turn China’s countryside from an indigent backwater to a driver of national economic growth over the next five to 10 years…Goldman Sachs has invested successfully in a leading sausage-maker. Wahaha Group, China’s biggest beverage company, owes its buoyant earnings performance largely to the rural market, where it commands a 60 per cent share. Rural China has also been a main force this year behind the surging sales of cars with a capacity of under 1.6-litres.

The fact that China’s second- and third-tier cities are the country’s major hope for sustainable business is well established. But what about the country’s fifth- and sixth-tier cities? With the sweeping changes already brought about by land privatization (perhaps downplayed by Chinese media, but a revolution in itself) and rapid commercialization of rural areas like Hubei, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shandong, Henan and Shanxi (as designated by the FT), still relatively impoverished and underdeveloped areas, the next 10 to 20 years could prove a windfall as companies invest in large-scale infrastructure projects (wind & hydro power plants), rail, housing, farms and heavy industry. The effect on common people’s lives could (hopefully) be dramatic.

Much like America’s continued economic strength was built largely on the development of its interior, China’s best option for growth based less on exports will be to lift its central and western provinces out of the centuries-old poverty that remains a plague in many areas.

Luxury Car Sector Continues To Thrive in China

New Models, Stimulus Package Continue To Drive Growth In World’s Top Automotive Market Despite Global Woes

China is one of Audi's most reliable and profitable markets; As Chinese luxury auto brands emerge, will they retain their dominance?

China is one of Audi's most reliable and profitable markets; As Chinese luxury auto brands emerge, will they retain their dominance?

The sustained growth seen in the Chinese automotive market over the last year has shown that the vast Chinese market — vast both in size and in potential customers — still has plenty of room to grow. For luxury carmakers, who’ve had a tough year in markets like North America and Europe, recent figures that show Chinese buyers are still motivated to part with their cash are welcome, to say the least, as formerly reliable customers in the US and other major economies think twice before signing on the dotted line.

According to this Wall Street Journal Asia article, growth in the Chinese market has been unprecedented in recent months for foreign luxury automakers, and with the stimulus package — aimed at infrastructure projects — taking effect, companies like Audi (a favorite of China’s government elite), BMW (the flashy entrepreneur’s choice) and Mercedes (the mark of a true “sophisticate” in China) expect to see their fortunes continue in the years ahead:

Audi’s sales in China rose 37% in September from a year earlier to more than 15,000 cars, marking a new record level in terms of monthly vehicle sales, the Ingolstadt, Germany-based auto maker said.

In the January-to-September period, Audi’s sales totaled 108,859 vehicles in China, up 20% from a year earlier.

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