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Peter Fuhrman
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Chairman, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at China First Capital (www.chinafirstcapital.com) , a China-based international investment bank and advisory firm for capital markets and M&A transactions. China First Capital was established in 2007 and has its headquarters in Shenzhen, China.... More
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China Private Equity, by China First Capital
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  • Neue Zurcher Zeitung Interview With Peter Fuhrman

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    Monday's "Neue Zurcher Zeitung" of Switzerland published an article based on the interview I gave last week while in London with the newspaper's financial editor Christof Leisinger. For those whose German is up to the task, click here to read the article in full.

    To get a flavor of what we discussed, here are some of the quotes, in English:

    "China has the world's second largest economy and capital market. GPD growth and corporate earnings are both growing far faster than in OECD countries. And yet, global institutional capital is in almost all cases seriously underweight China. How to explain this? Simple, there are just too few attractive and legal ways for international capital to invest in China.

    "The Chinese companies quoted in the US and Hong Kong mainly come from two unrepresentative pools: large, slower-growing Chinese state-owned companies, and internet and mobile services "concept" stocks often with limited revenues and profits. The powerful engine of long-term economic growth in China, its millions of successful private sector entrepreneur-founded businesses serving domestic market, are almost all off-limits to non-Chinese investors. To invest, you need state approval to buy Renminbi and later permission to convert back into dollars, Euros or other freely-tradable currencies.

    "China no longer especially needs or wants Western capital to finance its economic growth. The best way now to invest in China, to increase allocation there, is probably through M&A, by putting money into US or European companies that are aggressively acquiring good Chinese private sector ones."

    "Overall, the country is doing an excellent job managing the transition from export-reliance to domestic consumption, a economic challenge Germany is still struggling with. The Chinese economy has undergone enormous structure change over the last five years, most of it positive, with more and more of economic activity coming from the private sector, rather than state-owned one, from producing and selling products to satisfy the needs of China's 1 billion consumers rather than those of Wal-Mart shoppers in the US.

    "On the macro level I do not expect any big change anytime soon, no free convertibility for the Renminbi. But, more quietly and pragmatically, the Chinese government has solved a rather large problem related to this, by making it legal and simple now for every Chinese citizen to use Renminbi to buy up to $50,000 a year in dollars, to pay for travel, educating their children, or buy shares or other assets outside China. In other words, the capital account remains closed, but Chinese individually now have a lot of the benefits of free exchange between dollars and Renminbi. It's one of the reasons the Champs d'Elysees and Bond Street are jammed with Chinese tourists."

    Jul 10 10:07 AM | Link | Comment!
  • WH's Canceled IPO Shows Dangers Of Misjudging Demand -- China Daily Article
    By Michael Barris (China Daily USA)
     
     
     
     

    It could have been the largest IPO in a year. Instead the canceled initial offering of Chinese pork producer WH Group became an epic flop and an example of the pitfalls of failing to accurately gauge investor demand for IPOs.

    Eight months ago, in the biggest-ever Chinese acquisition of a US company, WH, then known as Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd, acquired Virginia-based Smithfield Foods Inc, the world's largest hog producer, for $4.7 billion. Awash in kudos for tapping into China's increasing demand for high-quality pork, a Shuanghui team began working on a planned Hong Kong IPO.

    By late April, however, the proposed offering was in deep trouble. Bankers slashed the deal's marketed value to $1.9 billion from $5.3 billion. Finally, the company, now renamed WH Group, announced it would not proceed with the IPO because of "deteriorating market conditions and recent excessive market volatility".

    The decision handed the company a setback in its effort to cut the more than $2.3 billion of debt it took on in the Smithfield purchase and dealt a blow to Asia's already struggling IPO market and the stock prices of some formerly high-flying Asian companies. The WH IPO debacle is even seen as possibly hampering the much-anticipated New York IPO of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, expected to occur later this year and valued at an estimated $20 billion.

    WH

    What went wrong? To put it simply, investors scoffed at the idea of paying top price for WH shares without any clear indication of how the Smithfield acquisition would save money.

    The price range of HK$ 8 to HK$ 11.25 per share ($1.03 to $1.45) was at a valuation of 15 to 20.8 times forward earnings. "The synergies between Shuanghui and Smithfield are untested. Why do investors have to buy in a hurry?" Ben Kwong, associate director of Taiwanese brokerage KGI Asia Ltd, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal. "They would rather wait until the valuation is attractive."

    A disease that infected pigs, inflating US prices, also turned off investors. US pork typically trades at about half the meat's price in China, because US feed tends to be cheaper. But Chicago hog futures have soared 47 percent this year to $1.25 a pound. Investors also saw corporate governance practices which awarded shares to two executives before the listing occurred as worrisome.

    "I just couldn't get over, in reading the SEC documents filed at the time of the takeover, the brazenness of it," China First Capital CEO and Chairman Peter Fuhrman wrote on the Seeking Alpha investment website. "These big institutions seemed to be betting they could repackage a pound of sausage bought in New York for $1 as pork fillet and sell it for $5 to Hong Kong investors and institutions.

    The Smithfield acquisition "never made much of any industrial sense", Fuhrman wrote. The private equity firms behind WH - CDH Investments, Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings and New Horizon - "have no experience or knowledge how to run a pork business in the US. In fact, they don't know how to run any business in the US", he wrote.

    One man's meat, however, is another man's poison. As Fuhrman wrote, the debacle has ended up putting smiles on the faces of the mainly-US shareholders who last year reluctantly sold their Smithfield shares at a 31 percent premium above the pre-bid price. Some of these same shareholders had protested that the Chinese company's offer for the pork producer was too low. Ultimately, the sellers received the satisfaction of knowing they got the "far better end of a deal against some of the bigger, richer financial institutions in Asia and Wall Street," Fuhrman wrote. And that, he said, has likely made them as delighted as pigs in muck.

    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

    May 18 7:46 PM | Link | Comment!
  • Alibaba Files For IPO In US
    Alibaba files for IPO in US Updated: 2014-05-07 06:56 By MICHAEL BARRIS in New York (chinadaily.com.cn)

     

     
     
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    Alibaba files for IPO in US

    Alibaba Chairman and Non-executive Director Jack Ma participates in a teleconference in Hong Kong in this October 22, 2007 file photo, one day before its initial public offering in the territory. [Photo/Agencies]

    Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding officially filed on Tuesday to go public in the US in what could be the largest initial public offering ever.

    A regulatory filing gave a $1 billion placeholder value for the offering, but the actual amount is expected to be far higher, possibly exceeding $20 billion and topping not only Facebook's $16 billion 2012 listing, but Agricultural Bank of China Ltd's record $22.1 billion offering in Shanghai and Hong Kong in 2010.

    Alibaba, founded by former English teacher Jack Ma in a Hangzhou apartment, and its bankers have been moving to throw their own shares behind the IPO, analysts have said.

    In its filing Alibaba gave no date for the proposed IPO or whether it would be on the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq. It cited its advantageous placement in a nation in which e-commerce is fast becoming a way of life, as Chinese consumers turn to the Internet to buy innumerable items. But Alibaba's prospectus cited statistics showing that the market hasn't been fully tapped. Just 45.8 percent of China's population used the Internet, while 49 percent of customers shopped online.

    Often described as a combination of eBay and Amazon, Alibaba handled $240 billion of merchandise in 2013. With more than 7 million merchants, it has more than $2 billion in revenue and profit of more than $1 billion.

    Alibaba's sheer size could weigh on the stock price of US rival Amazon.com if the Chinese company's shares are added to indexes and portfolios targeting e-commerce and related sectors, analysts said.

    "Amazon simply doesn't measure up to the size of Alibaba's earnings and earnings growth rate," analyst Robert Wagner wrote.

    Shares aren't expected to begin trading for several months, as the US Securities and Exchange Commission reviews Alibaba's offering materials and the company promotes its prospects to institutional investors.

    The offering managers are Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup.

    Ma, who has described the challenge of providing what he calls personal business as "my religion", is Alibaba's biggest individual shareholder, with an 8.9 percent stake.

    Alibaba's announcement continues a flurry of IPO filings by Chinese technology companies. Internet security application developer Cheetah Mobile is expected to go public on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday and is expected to raise $153.75 million to $178.35 million. Three weeks ago, Weibo Corp, the Chinese micro blogging service owned by Sina Corp and Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd, raised $285.6 million in a Nasdaq IPO, while real-estate listings website Leju Holdings Ltd raised $100 million in an initial offering on the NYSE.

    "The key question for China is how much new money, if any, Alibaba will raise in this US IPO," Peter Fuhrman, chairman and CEO of Bejing-based China First Capital, told China Daily.

    "If all the cash goes to Japan's Softbank and US's Yahoo, then it's hard to see how Alibaba, its customers and the hundreds of millions of Taobao-addicted Chinese consumers will benefit from the IPO." US web-portal company Yahoo is a 24-percent Alibaba shareholder, while Japan's Softbank has a 37-percent stake.

    Taobao is an Alibaba e-commerce website on which some 7 million sellers with 800 million product listings pay Alibaba for advertising and other services. In 2013, the combined transaction volume of Taobao and Alibaba's Tmall shopping site reached $240 billion.

    If Alibaba were to raise money from the US stock market to invest in its China business, Taobao could become even more dominant as China's largest and best e-commerce shopping platform, according to Fuhrman. "If so, China's future will include more products, more discounts, more great online buying opportunities for consumers in every corner of the country," the investment-company executive said.

    Besides Taobao and Tmall, Alibaba also operates digital payment system Alipay, which is used as a mobile payment system on cell phones in China. Used much like credit cards in other countries, Alipay handled $519 billion in payments last year.

    Nearly 20 percent of Alibaba's nearly $248 billon in merchandise sales last year was made through mobile phones in the fourth quarter.

    michaelbarris@chinadailyusa.com

    usa.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2014-05/0...

    May 07 10:03 PM | Link | Comment!
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