China’s securities brokerage companies are bracing for their very own hard landing says the South China Morning Post as the Chinese stock market falls to a level last seen more than 18 months ago.
To cut down on expenses, brokerages are delaying bonuses, freezing hiring and reducing overseas trips. And the staff thinks they’re next.
The stock market on mainland China, known as the A-share market, has struggled to regain momentum since last summer’s rout. Just before the recent slide began, at the end of last year, the benchmark Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index briefly touched a high of 3,684.57.
Yet, at the end of last week, the A shares were on an extended five-week decline. On Wednesday, the Shanghai Composite slid 0.2% to 2,815, the Shenzhen Stock Exchange Composite Index shed 0.2% to 1,800. The CSI 300 Index inched down 0.1% to 3,059 and the small-cap ChiNext Index fell 0.4% to 2,067.
With prices falling, investors are leaving in droves. This has sent the share volume on both the Shanghai and Shenzhen markets to sink significantly from a year ago. According to SCMP, the current daily aggregate turnover in Shanghai and Shenzhen is only a fifth of what it was in April last year. On Tuesday, the Shanghai bourse recorded turnover of 121.1 billion yuan (143.42 billion Hong Kong dollars), its lowest in 18 months.
Asset management and investment banking businesses account for a small portion of the revenue at Chinese brokerages. Most of their revenue comes from trading commissions. And with turnover plunging so are commissions. The Securities Association of China said the net profit of Chinese securities companies plunged 43% in the first quarter from a year ago.
For instance, Founder Securities, a Hunan-based mid-sized securities brokerage, saw its headcount jump 86% last year from 2014 to 8,363, according to publicly available company information. In 2015, its net profit surged 126.3% to 4.1 billion yuan. Yet in the first quarter, it fell 12.6%. SCMP reported that this week an internal document said Founder was looking to either lay off 20% of its employees or cut pay by 20%.