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From "Famine of Assets" to Internationalization: China may change faster than many think - Opalesque China Roundtable

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When the Chinese stock bubble burst in 2015, instantly a buzzword called the "Famine of Assets" was coined, referring to the phenomenon of too much money chasing only a few "good" assets. Immediately after the stock market crash, China ran into a bond market bubble, an on-going real estate bubble and arguably a private equity bubble… Why? As anywhere else, China has too much liquidity and a lack of quality investable assets for Chinese investors, individuals and institutions alike.

The problem is not just about quality but also the scale. People tend to think about China as an over-leveraged country, but it's actually an over-saving nation as well. The total savings deposits are estimated at around US$25 trillion, and savings rates are normally 50% of the GDP. The Chinese economy is slowing down but still growing, so in absolute terms, the savings continue to grow significantly year after year. In contrast, the domestic bond market is “only” around US$7 trillion, most of which is inaccessible by individuals. The domestic equity market is also around US$7 trillion, but about 65% of that is owned by the government and locked away. The investable free float is only 35% or just shy of US$2.5 trillion.

So the bond market may be too small. The equity market may be too “risky”. Real estate investment is off limits due to the numerous restrictions in place to cool off the market. Capital control is getting tighter by day and thus no money can leave the country easily. Meanwhile the rates are coming down and the currency is depreciating… Whether you are a wealthy individual, a large corporation or a financial institution in China, all are facing the same problem: where do you put your money?

Chinas has 50 million private companies, and many do grow with CAGR of over 30%

There are 50 million private companies in China, and many do grow with CAGR of 30% plus. The question is if you are able to identify them? If you do venture capital in China, your biggest competitors are not just other VC firms, but BAT, which are Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, and plus countless entrepreneurs and traditional business people who want to get into this field. Yes, there is a lot of innovation happening in China, but it can’t catch up with the growth in the so-called “excess capital”.

But again, there are still a lot of interesting opportunities in China. It’s a big country and has many regional or structural imbalances that will continue to offer investment opportunities. At the same time, it appears that this is the first time in the last few decades that China faces both economic slowdown and currency deprecation simultaneously. Probably the only way to further normalization is to continue opening up the markets.

The importance of global diversification

Both Chinese individuals and institutions have increasingly realized the importance of diversification, and specifically global diversification. If you went to a Chinese company ten years ago and said you wanted to help them invest abroad, you would have probably been instantly shown the door because there was no need to look for any other growth outside of China. The change has been in both directions, with capital leaving and going into China. The Chinese regulator made it very clear they want to open the market not just for more foreign ownership, but particularly institutional ownership. All of that could happen faster than people think.

The Opalesque 2016 China Roundtable, sponsored by Eurex and WTS, took place in Shanghai with:

  1. Ms. Connie Lee, WTS
  2. Qi Wang, Mega Trust
  3. Roland Schwinn, Eurex
  4. Michael Hsih, Deutsche Börse
  5. Ming Pan, GTJA-Allianz Fund Management
  6. Barry Lau, Adamas
  7. Andy Mantel, Pacific Sun
  8. Steffen Gnutzmann, WTS
The group also discussed:
  • Why a manufacturing slowdown doesn’t necessarily equate to an overall decline (page 8)
  • The three main China policies: “One Belt, One Road” initiative, RMB Internationalization, Made in China 2025 (page 8, 14)
  • Special situations using a private equity style approach (page 9, 12)
  • Investing in China on the private credit side - the better option? Funding gap estimations reach from US $1 tto $7 trillion (page 11- 12)
  • How to minimise the currency risk (page 12-13) What is the situation with non-performing loans or NPLs? (page 11, 26)
  • Where is China’s legal system today? (page 11) How new PRC tax rules impact private equity funds (page 27)
  • What is Frankfurt based CEINEX (China Europe International Exchange) offering? (page 14)
  • How to do fundamental research in China: Why the traditional Western metrics don’t work here, and what to do instead (pages 16-19)
  • MSCI’s review in June 2017: Inclusion of China A-shares will lift China to 50% of emerging markets, inflows of $640bn expected (page 20)
  • When will overseas investors be able to directly invest in China? (page 19-22)
  • The situation of institutional investors in China (page 22)
  • How did the clean up of 30,000 so-called sunshine funds (private funds) to now 7,000 affect the industry? (page 23)
  • The role of foreign competition for the China private fund industry (page 24)
  • Misperceptions about China’s economic situation (page 24-26)
  • How China is pioneering financial inclusion and robo-advisory (page 26-27)

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