Posted inAT Finance, Beijing, China, Laos, Lebanon, Middle East, North Korea, Northeast Asia, Singapore, South Asia, South Korea, Syria

The Daily Brief for Monday, 7 August 2017

Regional security talks: The latest round of Association of Southeast Asian Nations ministerial meetings in Manila, which saw foreign ministers from 27 countries in attendance, including US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, produced rather mixed results, Richard Javad Heydarian writes. The agenda focused on two key regional security issues: North Korea and the South China Sea. The regional grouping sanctioned North Korea but punted on Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea.

First family feud: A Facebook post has landed a relative of Singapore’s prime minister in trouble, Kirsten Han writes. The attorney general’s office is seeking criminal contempt of court charges against Lee Hsien Loong’s nephew, Li Shengwu, for questions he raised about judicial independence. Li shared a link to a Wall Street Journal article summing up the high-profile row over social media that pitted his father and aunt against his uncle on his Facebook page last month. The post included a link to a 2010 New York Times op-ed on the use of lawsuits as a censorship tool in the city-state.

Cooperation on Pyongyang: South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump agreed to apply maximum pressure and sanctions on North Korea in a telephone call on Monday, while China expressed hope that North and South Korea could resume contact soon, Christine Kim and Christian Shepherd write. The UN Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Saturday aimed at pressuring Pyongyang to end its nuclear program. The sanctions could slash North Korea’s $3 billion annual export revenue by a third. The US-drafted resolution bans North Korean exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood following Pyongyang’s two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July.

Brutal mountain offensive: Hizbollah had killed more than 140 members of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, an al-Qaeda affiliate, and others were begging for safe passage from Lebanon to Syria when a ceasefire went into effect on July 27, Melinda Boh writes. The talks were handled by Abbas Ibrahim, the director of General Security in Lebanon who negotiated the surrender and exodus of what remains of the fighters in the country.

Beloved national symbol: Once known as “the land of a million elephants,” Laos is rapidly selling the last of its great beasts to Chinese circuses, zoos and wildlife parks, Sami Moubayed writes. Laos now has less than a thousand of the great beasts as the landlocked communist country sacrifices its wildlife legacy for a growth-dominated economy. There are now thought to be only around 350 elephants remaining in the wild and approximately 400 domesticated jumbos living in rural villages, most former beasts of burden for the logging industry. Others live in sanctuaries, conservation areas or tourist camps.

Asia Times app: The Asia Times has launched an app for both iOS- and Android-based devices that will deliver the publication’s regular daily news, commentary, blogs and live coverage while also bringing readers added functionality. Asia Times Staff report that the app, launched on July 25, includes content notification, share and save functions and is free to download from both the Apple Store and Google Play.

Posted inBeijing, China, Shanghai

China Digest for Monday, 7 August 2017

Ping An denies bid for Manchester United

China’s Ping An, a holding company that mainly deals with insurance, banking and financial services, has quashed rumours it is buying a share of Manchester United, one of the English Premier League’s top teams. “The information is false,” said Sheng Ruisheng, a spokesman with the company, stating that Ping An has not been involved in any discussions on purchasing a holding in the club. He added that Ping An CEO Ma Mingzhe has never owned any shares in the team. Previously, an article run by The Sunday Times, reported that Ping An is planning to buy a 12% stake in Manchester United’s for £270 million. The newspaper said the CEO of the company already held a 3.46% stake in the team.

Effort to restrict Beijing population density

Temporary management methods on housing and common property rights have been published in Beijing for public viewing, the Economic Information Daily reported. According to the recommendations, the plot ratio for housing within the six rural districts should be lower than 2.8, with each unit smaller than 90 square meters. Restricting plot ratio means controlling population density, which is obtained by dividing the gross floor area of the building by the area of the site on which the building is erected.

Internet payment, credit to face stricter hurdles

The People’s Bank of China said it will include Internet financial businesses, which are large scale and display systematic characteristics, within its macro-prudential management framework and regulate them via the Macro Prudential Assessment (MPA) system, Yicai reported. Analysts believe that third-party digital payment and Internet credit are likely the first to be included and assessed by the new system.

Users of internet financial projects hit 126 million

The number of Chinese netizens who have bought into internet financial projects reached 126 million by June, Yicai reported, citing research from the China Internet Network Information Center. The users rate has increased to 16.8% in June, compared to 13.5% by the end of 2016, adding 27.24 million new users. However, the earnings rate of peer-to-peer (P2P) projects via the internet decreased in the first half of 2017 due to tightened market mobility.

Non-performing loans may see modest growth

Off-balance sheet activities of banking institutions hit a staggering 253.52 trillion yuan, 109.16% of the total assets on the balance sheet, arousing worries from some investors, Xinhua Finance reported, citing a report issued by the China Bank Association. Pan Guangwei, vice chairman of the association, said that non-performing loans may still see a modest increase due to asset quality problems at commercial banks, which are trying to control credit risks.

Commercial bank assets keep growing

The total amount of assets of commercial banks in China is expected to grow at a year-on-year rate of 10% in 2017 and 2018, according to a report from the China Banking Association. The report also points out that the sluggish growth of net interest margins as well as the increasing credit cost will pose challenges to those banks’ net profits.

Approval of seven IPOs raises US$416 million

The China Securities Regulatory Commission has approved seven initial public offerings (IPOs) to raise up to 2.8 billion yuan (US$416.12 million), the Economic Information Daily reported. Three of the approved IPOs are listed on the main board of Shanghai Stock Exchange, two are on the Shenzhen small and medium enterprise board, and the other two are on the start-up ChiNext board. Some 268 IPOs have been approved in 2017, raising 135.5 billion yuan.

Douban eyes overseas expansion

Douban, one of the largest social networking websites that allows users to create content about film, books, music and events in China, is planning to go public overseas, Caixin reported. Yang Bo, CEO of Douban, said the company will launch independent budgets for each of their companies from the second half of this year. The company’s last round of financing was in 2011, which totalled US$50 million.

Move to limit prime-time dramas

The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) said local satellite television channels should not broadcast dramas with sensitive content or those deemed only for entertainment in prime-time slots, the Shanghai Securities News reported. SARFT encouraged local channels to add programs of public interest, culture, high tech and economy related themes to prime-time, the report added.