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CHINA

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

China Bike-Sharing Market Moving towards Consolidation

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Though several bike-sharing start-ups in China flourished in past two years, mainly due to backing from venture capital funding, many are finding it difficult to keep up the momentum as the investment dries up in absence of sustainable business profitability model. Small players in particular are struggling to comply with recently introduced regulatory standards for the industry. In our article titled ‘Bikes Are Back: China Gaining Pedal Power’, published in April 2017, we discussed the outlook for the bike-sharing app-based businesses in China, and now we are taking a look again into the current market dynamics in view of new regulatory framework that can reshape the competitive landscape.

The bike-sharing industry in China has noted a steep growth in a short span of time. As per estimate of Ministry of Transport, there were about 70 bike-sharing companies operating in China by July 2017 (as compared to 17 in January 2017). However, the market is skewed towards the duopoly of MoBike and Ofo. According to Sootoo (an online service platform providing analysis for internet and e-commerce industry in China), as of March 2017, MoBike and Ofo accounted for 56% and 30% market share, respectively. Other companies face cut-throat competition to carve up the remaining 14% of the market.

The summer of 2017 was particularly harsh on several small players unable to bear the heat of increasing competition and financial crunch. Chongqing-based Wukong, which shut down its operations in June 2017, is believed to be the first bike-sharing company to collapse. Subsequently, several other small companies, including 3vBike, Xiao Ming Bike, Cool Qi Bike Ding Ding Bike, Kala Bike, and Kuqi Bike, also wound up their businesses citing issues such as lack of investment, cash flow crisis, mismanagement, competition, losses due to theft and vandalism, etc.

Intense competition, especially among the second-tier companies, is driving the market towards consolidation. In October, Youon, a Shanghai-listed company operating in 220 cities and owing 800,000 bikes, acquired 100% stake in Hellobike (a Shanghai-based company with presence in 90 cities across China). In November 2017, Bluegogo, owning fleet of 700,000 bikes and 20 million registered users, announced that the company was facing financial troubles and hence the business was sold to another Chinese start-up, Green Bike-Transit. This acquisition trend is likely to continue, as the capital intensive and cash-burning bike-sharing businesses has come under the purview of strict regulatory framework.

In August 2017, Ministry of Transport and nine other ministries jointly issued the first set of guidelines with the aim to better regulate and standardize the emerging bike-sharing market in China. State governments developed their own standards and regulations based on the guidelines.

Some of these regulations are in favor of bike-sharing companies. For instance, central government directed state authorities to step up their efforts in providing protection to bike-sharing companies against vandalism, theft, and illegal parking issues. The users are required to register with the bike-sharing operators using their real name. This will allow the security forces to easily identify and penalize the offenders. This may bring some respite to small players such as 3Vbike, a Beijing-based company with a fleet of over 1,000 bikes, which shut down its operations in July 2017 after most of its bikes were stolen. Moreover, local authorities need to work with bike-sharing operators to develop dedicated parking spaces near high-demand locations such as shopping areas, office blocks, public transportation stations, etc. This is likely to ease up chaos and nuisance caused by illegal parking.

On the other hand, some of the regulations call for bike-sharing companies to bear additional expenses. As per the new regulations, all bike-sharing operators are required to provide accident insurance to their users, a practice which was earlier followed only by the market leader, MoBike. The companies are also required to set-up support mechanisms to manage customer complaints. In the guidelines, central government also advised state governments to develop local standards for regular maintenance of bikes. Accordingly, the government of Shanghai and Tianjin instructed bike-sharing operators to appoint one maintenance personnel per 200 bikes and the bikes need to be discarded after three years in operation. Such standards are certainly necessary to enhance user experience and safety, but it will put additional strain on already financially-stressed companies.

As per the new guidelines, companies are encouraged not to charge security deposits at all. If security deposit is collected, the company must clearly distinguish security deposit fund from other funds and ensure timely refund of the deposits. The bike-sharing companies typically charge CNY 99 – CNY 299 (~US$15 – US$45) as one-time refundable security deposit and then a rental fee of CNY 0.5 – CNY 1 (US$0.08 – US$0.15) is charged for every half-hour to one-hour ride. Since the firms need to refrain from using the deposits, and given that the rental fees are likely to remain significantly low due to intense competition, the companies might struggle to manage day-to-day operations. Investor money will dry out eventually, hence the companies are in dire need of developing new revenue streams. Besides in-app advertising, companies are also exploring the use of their bikes as an advertising space. For instance, Ofo customized number of bikes with Minions characters to generate revenue from advertising the release of ‘Despicable Me 3’ movie in China.

The new guidelines also allow the local authorities to limit the number of bikes to check over-supply and traffic congestion. Following the announcement of this new guideline, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Shenzhen, and eight other cities reportedly banned deployment of additional bikes. As a result, the prime markets are now off-limits for new entrants.

china bike sharing

EOS Perspective

App-based bike-sharing start-ups have revived the biking culture in China. By July 2017, the bike-sharing companies, claiming 130 million registered users in total, flooded the streets of China with 16 million bikes. The bike-sharing boom is certainly more than a fad, however, a shift in market composition is expected in the near future.

The new regulations have paved the way for development of higher industry standards aimed at better user experience and safety. However, compliance with these regulations is likely to put an additional financial burden on small players. Moreover, small players are finding it difficult to challenge the duopoly of MoBike and Ofo (together accounting for 86% of the market share as of March 2017). The consolidation among second-tier companies might ease the competition, however, this might not be enough to level with the market leaders. To survive the competition, small companies will need to either innovate or capitalize on niche markets and opportunities. Most of the companies operating in the market today have similar service model. Technological innovation or distinguished service model can enable the company to stand out from their competition. Furthermore, with rising level of competition and market saturation in major cities, small companies need to shift focus on underserved third and fourth-tier cities. For instance, in May 2017, Shanghai-based Mingbike announced its plan to gradually move out of Shanghai and Beijing in a strategy shift towards smaller cities. In these smaller cities, the companies can also explore niche business opportunities such as gaining exclusive contract for operating around local attractions.

Speculation about the merger of two dominant players MoBike and Ofo surfaced in October 2017. The two bike-sharing giants are under investor pressure to consolidate and put an end to the competitive pricing war. For now, both the companies have clearly stated that they are not interested in merger at this point. However, industry experts are hopeful of a merger in the future given the history of the investors – Tencent (backing MoBike) and Alibaba (backing Ofo), who separately invested in taxi-haling rival companies that eventually merged to become a single dominant player in China. Didi Chuxing, a taxi-hailing service company, was formed with merger of Tencent backed Didi Dache and Alibaba backed Kuaidi Dache in 2015. In 2016, Uber merged its China operations with Didi Chuxing, while retaining a minority stake. Travis Kalanick, co-founder of Uber, acknowledged that both the companies were making huge investments in China but unable to retrieve profits and the merger was aimed to build a sustainable and profitable business in China. Bike-sharing industry in China is also at a similar juncture. Since both MoBike and Ofo have not achieved profitability yet and they largely depend on investments, they might give in to the interest of the investors. Hence, one can expect that the bike-sharing industry in China might eventually move towards monopoly.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

China’s Cross-Border E-Commerce Sector Enjoying Government Support – But for How Long?

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It is a well-known fact that China, today, is the largest and fastest growing e-commerce market globally. Accounting for close to half of the global e-commerce sales, China’s e-commerce industry is witnessing a double-digit growth, rising by about 26% in 2016. Leading the growth in China’s e-commerce sector is cross-border e-commerce (CBEC), which is currently witnessing close to double the growth compared with the overall industry and is expected to continue to grow robustly over the next five years. The government has not only been charging favorable duty to promote CBEC, but has also created special customs-clearing zones in 13 cities to support cross-border trade. However, in 2016, the government came up with a new set of taxation and a list of items that were allowed to be only imported. Following a significant industry pressure, the government has pushed the implementation of these rules to the end of 2018, and it now remains to be seen whether the industry will continue to receive government support which is instrumental for it to flourish.

Cross-border e-commerce (CBEC) has been creating quite a buzz globally, and leading this global trend is China, one of fastest growing markets with respect to CBEC. A plethora of social factors such as improved standards of living, increased awareness about foreign products through greater international travel as well as access to information online, increased quality consciousness among consumers, limited options available locally (especially in product categories such as infant milk formula and health supplements) have resulted in escalated demand for international products in China. All these factors, along with the ease of buying through e-commerce and the growing tendency of Chinese people to use their mobile phones to shop, have resulted in exponential growth of the CBEC sector in the country.

China’s CBEC Industry – At a Glance

Retail Sales and Growth: The industry was estimated at US$85.8 billion in sales in 2016 and is expected to double up sales to about US$158 by 2020. The number of CBEC customers in China is estimated to rise from about 181 million in 2016 to close to 292 million in 2020.

Trade Partners and Goods: The UK, USA, Australia, France, and Italy are some of China’s largest trading partners with regards to CBEC. Cosmetics, food and healthcare products, mother and child solutions (including infant formula), clothing and footwear are the most shopped categories through CBEC.

Consumer Profile: About 65% of the customers are male and 75% are between the age of 24 and 40. Most of the customers are well-educated, with three-fourth of them having at least a graduate degree. The ticket size for about half of these purchases ranges between US$15 and US$75 (RMB100-500).

Leading Players: Most cross-border online sales are undertaken through third-party online marketplaces such as TMall Global (owned by Alibaba group) and JD Worldwide (owned by JD Group, China’s second largest e-commerce player). Global e-commerce leader, Amazon is also becoming increasingly active in China.

The government has also provided immense support to the CBEC sector, a fact that has been critical to the market growth. As an effort to weed out the illegal grey market imports and to promote e-commerce, China’s government relaxed cross-border e-commerce rules and the applicable custom rates (close to 15 to 60% depending on the item). Moreover, custom duty amounting to less than US$7.5 (RMB50) was exempted. The government also created 13 CBEC zones across the country in order to expedite custom clearing of foreign items ordered online. These zones house large warehouses where foreign brands and retailers stock items, which, upon being ordered, are put through custom clearance (under relaxed rules). This way the consumer receives foreign goods within few days of ordering it.

While this has been greatly benefiting the Chinese consumers who now have an access to a range of products that were once seemingly out of reach for the public at large, it is also revolutionizing how foreign players are operating in China. Traditionally, foreign companies (brands) required to have a legal entity in China (subsidiary, partner, or own manufacturer) to import goods through the general trade channels. These legal entities had the task to clear import customs and pay duties on goods imported into the country. However, under the CBEC channel, these foreign players are freed from the requirement of establishing a local entity before selling their goods in the Chinese market. This also relieves companies from several compliance procedures that they were required to follow in case they were entering the market through offline trade channels. Therefore, several players, who shied away from China in the past (owing to cumbersome product registration and approval process), are looking at this as their entry strategy in the market. Simpler compliance checks and reduced import taxes have also made it easy for companies to experiment and launch a host of products (on a hit and miss basis) in the Chinese market without much investment.

However, while CBEC has greatly supported the cause of promoting e-commerce and aiding international companies in accessing the Chinese markets, it has seriously hampered the business of several domestic players (especially in the cosmetics and health supplements industry) who have been protected from foreign competition in the past owing to strict import rules. Moreover, it has resulted in a major disadvantage for conventional retailers with a brick and mortar setup as goods sold through the CBEC route are levied with a lower number of taxes compared with similar goods sold through traditional trade channels in China.

Owing to these factors, in April 2016, the government revised the taxation rates for CBEC goods resulting in a marginal increase in taxes for few categories. Under the new rules, products would be temporarily levied with 0% import tariff but would be taxed at 70% of the applicable VAT and consumption tax rate, which changes based on the product category. For instance, cosmetics worth RMB500 (US$75) ordered through CBEC would be taxed 0% import tariff + VAT at 11.9% (i.e. 70% of applicable VAT rate for cosmetics – 17%) + consumption tax at 21% (i.e. 70% of applicable consumption tax for cosmetics – 30%), thereby, making the total amount equal to RMB664.5 (US$100). In addition to the changes in taxation, the government removed the waiver of custom duty of up to US$7.5 (RMB50) and set a limit of US$302 (RMB2,000) on a single transaction and of US$3,020 (RMB20,000) on purchase by a single person per year. It also released a list (termed as a ‘positive list’) of 1,293 products that were allowed to enter the Chinese market through CBEC. While the goods under the ‘positive list’ are exempted from submitting an import license to customs, few products from this list that come under China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA), such as cosmetics, infant formula, medical devices, health supplements, etc., require registration before import. This entails the same tedious registration or filing requirements required for products imported through the traditional trade channels. This greatly limits the inherent benefits of the CBEC model for these products.

While the government had initially intended and aimed for immediate implementation of these new regulations, protests and pressure from Chinese e-commerce companies and the ultimate objective of promoting the country’s e-commerce sector resulted in the government agreeing to a one-year transitional phase for these rules (which was to end in 2017). However, in September 2017, the government decided to extend the transitional period until the end of 2018 and to set up new trade zones for CBEC, reinforcing its support for the cross-border e-commerce sector. While changes in the regulation do seem to be a certainty in the future, the timeline for their introduction remains ambiguous as several industry analysts anticipate that they may get pushed off again.

Cross Border e-com in China

EOS Perspective

The cross-border e-commerce sector in China has been witnessing exponential growth and despite the looming new regulations, is expected to continue to grow at least over the next five years. While leading e-commerce companies in China (such as Alibaba group and JD group) have acted swiftly to benefit from this growing space, the greatest benefit has been for the foreign players who now have an easy access to Chinese consumers without the need of setting up a shop in the country. However, these benefits may be short-lived considering the new set of regulations. Few product categories such as infant formula, cosmetics, and health supplements (which have in actuality been the most popular categories for CBEC) will be subject to registration and filing requirements, thereby their so-called ‘honeymoon phase’ in the country is likely to end. Although a lot of products do not have to comply with registration/filing requirements and are only subject to a marginal increase in taxes (as per the new rules), this does not guarantee that future regulations will not impact their presence and sales in China. Therefore, while CBEC may be the smartest way for companies to test their products with limited investment in China, they may need a back-up plan in case the government further regularizes the industry to create a level-playing field for the traditional retail.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Infographic: Wine Industry Expects Healthy Growth in the Midst of Intense Competition and Demand Shifting Eastward

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Winemakers across the globe are not having an easy year. Global wine production is expected to hit a six-decade low in 2017, caused mostly by unfavorable weather conditions (frost and droughts in key European wine producing countries – Italy, France, and Spain, as well as severe fires in California). Even without the weather throwing roadblocks under winemakers’ feet, their line of business is not an easy one, challenged by tough competition, high import tariffs, and shifts in consumer demand. Wine market dynamics are changing, with several emerging trends that affect the way winemakers operate and the focus markets they increasingly cater to.

Global Wine Market

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

China EV Policies: Is It A Bumpy Road Ahead for EV Players?

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Over the past several years, the Chinese government has been taking steps towards promoting green energy projects and building eco-friendly New Energy Vehicles (NEVs). Since 2008-2009, investments in green sector projects in China have witnessed tremendous growth, which is pushing development of the Chinese NEV industry. As China is slowly shifting focus from fossil fuel vehicles to electric vehicles, its involvement in developing technologies such as green energy and NEVs has equipped the country to compete at global level with western giants such as the USA, Germany, France, etc. While currently China is the largest producer of NEVs globally, it is still debatable whether in the future it will be able to sustain this growth to stay competitive and lead the global EV industry.

China has always aimed to become one of the global leaders in automobile industry similarly to its neighbors, Japan and South Korea, but for the longest time it was not able to produce vehicles that would be globally competitive in terms of quality and safety. In 2009, the Beijing government introduced Automotive Industry Readjustment and Revitalization Plan to strengthen China’s position in the global automotive market. The key objectives of the plan were to support domestic auto manufacturers, commercially as well as technologically, and allocate more resources to environmental friendly vehicles’ research and promotion. The government started promoting electric cars to tackle the environmental threats that China was facing. Electric and hybrid cars were relatively new concepts in 2009-2010, but this did not dissuade China and it started building strategies to increase production of such vehicles to compete and lead in the NEV market.

Since 2010, the Chinese government has been providing incentives, in various forms, for the NEV sector. For instance, the government introduced direct subsidies for NEV manufacturers, deductions for local authorities opting for green cars, and tax waivers and free registration incentives for consumers purchasing electric cars. These incentives accelerated the growth of NEV industry, which sold around 507,000 units in 2016 as compared with 480 units in 2009. Currently, the top ten global EV manufacturers are all Chinese producers. China aims to sell around two million electric cars annually and introduce a fleet of five million electric cars on the country’s roads by 2020. China’s goal, in terms of NEV sales, is quite ambitious but also necessary, as the country aims to limit its carbon emission rate by 2030 and curtail air pollution.

With the Chinese government shifting its focus on promoting green energy and green vehicles, changes have been made in various policies laid down for the auto sector. For instance, the 13th Five Year Plan, introduced in 2016, promotes adoption of NEVs. Government is also considering to ban gasoline and diesel vehicles, indicating that in near future, automakers may have to redesign their production and shift to green vehicle manufacturing.

In June 2017, the Chinese government made it compulsory for automakers selling more than or equal to 30,000 cars annually to increase share of EVs in their total auto sales. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) introduced the carbon credit trading program, which mandates manufacturers to earn carbon credit score on their automobile production and sales. The policy is aimed to encourage production of various types of zero and low-emission vehicles. Effective 2019, manufacturers will be required to earn EV credits equivalent to 10% of sales, which would eventually rise to 12% in 2020. The credit score will be calculated on the basis of electrification level of the cars produced, indicating that fully electric cars will earn more credits than plug-in hybrid cars. Manufacturers not complying with these quotas will either have to buy credits or pay penalties. A credit score equivalent to 12% of sales will be equal to about 4-5% of EV sales, which could lead to the production of more than a million green energy vehicles in China in 2020. Certainly, this policy will be beneficial to the domestic EV manufacturers, who have massive EV production, as their income from credit sales will increase.

In January 2017, the Chinese government introduced another change in EV policy to subsequently phase out the tax benefits on purchase of EVs by 2021. The announcement has resulted in slight decline in consumer demand for EVs in China.

Further, the government has mandated the foreign players to form a 50-50 joint venture (JV) with domestic firms to operate in China. Consequently, the foreign players are forced to share their intellectual property and technology with local Chinese automakers. Some of the countries perceive this move as intellectual property theft by China. In the future, the Chinese government is likely to relax the JV terms and increase the foreign player’s percentage share in a JV.

China's Emergence in EV Market

 

EOS Perspective

Currently, China holds a bright spot in the global electric vehicle industry. Fuel-run vehicles are expected to lose their dominant position in a couple of decades if the EV industry continues to grow at the anticipated rates. Being the largest market for NEVs globally, China is likely to play a major role in this progress. But to continue leading the EV market, foremost requisite is to solve issues such as the price to performance ratio of batteries, and lack of sufficient charging stations and EV infrastructure in China.

In near-term, undoubtedly, China will remain a huge market for NEVs with foreign players aiming to be a part of it. It is yet to be seen what changes the Chinese government makes in JV terms for foreign players, but they will surely face a stiff competition from the well-settled domestic EV manufacturers. Selling in the competitive environment of China will surely affect their profits, but the main concern for them will be sharing their intellectual property with Chinese OEMs. Another challenge for all players would be to understand whether consumer demand for EVs will continue to thrive after the price increase related to the gradual withdrawal of subsidies and tax benefits. China has strategically kept NEV prices low to increase popularity and awareness of EVs amongst consumers. However, the government does not plan to sustain the low-priced regime, with the recent policy changes and subsidy phase outs likely to gradually increase EV prices in China, which might impact demand for EVs (it is likely to still remain high as compared with demand in other countries). The government plans to focus more on research and innovation to supply EVs at lower prices without any subsidies as well as to build robust infrastructure to support growth of the industry.

China also plans to export EVs to other major markets such as the USA, Norway, the UK, Germany, and Korea. With the current low quality and performance of domestically manufactured EVs, local Chinese players are not getting many buyers in these countries. But forging JVs with foreign players to produce EVs at lower rates and better quality may improve the export figures in future.

China has definitely raised the bar for other countries with its aggressive EV policies launched in 2017, which are future-centric and focused on ushering in a revolution in the auto industry by promoting EV vehicles over the traditional diesel/gasoline-based vehicles. In the future, NEV manufacturers in China are likely to focus on building economical and efficient vehicles, and with foreign players bringing in their latest EV manufacturing technologies, the future drive looks smooth for Chinese NEVs.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

USA-China Solar Dispute – Will Sanctions Really Aid the US Solar Market?

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Trade disputes are not a rare sight in the current competitive era. Especially the USA and China have a history of such disputes in last couple of decades and both have locked horns again, this time over solar equipment trade. Chinese manufacturers are being accused of unfair trade practices as they sell solar modules at a considerably lower prices than producers from other countries, using government subsidies to finance their operations and to create a glut of imports. In response to such a practice, American manufactures filed a petition with US International Trade Commission (USITC) seeking steep tariffs and a floor price for the Chinese solar imports. The commission voted on the merits of the petition in late September 2017, and decided that there has indeed been a considerable damage to the US manufacturers. The USITC’s recommendations for sanctions will be sent to the White House to decide the course of action in the following month. If sanctions are introduced, will the US producers be the ultimate winner after the final verdict in November?

The solar power generation technology was invented in the USA which have dominated the solar industry for last three decades of 20th century. The global solar industry is now a US$100 billion market, a fact that leads to a large number of players being interested in grabbing their share of this mammoth opportunity. As solar energy is considered clean and renewable, countries suffering from high pollution levels increasingly demand efficient and cheap solar energy generation equipment.

This strong demand is expected to continue, luring many players around the globe towards venturing into solar equipment manufacturing and this in turn has led to intense competition in this market. With China rising as a manufacturer of cheaper solar equipment since 2011, it has become increasingly difficult for other players to compete with China, and many producers, especially in the USA, are not very pleased with that.

This strong demand is expected to continue, luring many players around the globe towards venturing into solar equipment manufacturing and this in turn has led to intense competition in this market.

This is not the first solar battle between the USA and China. The countries were in a solar dispute back in 2011 when the USA hit China with 25-70% tariffs on solar module exports. It was due to a trade complaint filed by SolarWorld Americas along with six other US manufacturers about unethical trade practices undertaken by their Chinese counterparts. And now, Suniva, a Georgia-based solar cell and module manufacturer, filed a Safeguard Petition with the USITC in April 2017, just one week after it had filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The USITC, in its unanimous vote, agreed that the US companies suffered injury from cheap imports. Following these developments, the markets are waiting for the president Trump’s decision over the case in November, and if the White House follows with sanctions and remedies, this might be the beginning of a significant wave of changes in the solar equipment market.

China has not always been the market leader for solar products. Way back in 1990s, when Germany could not meet its rising domestic demand for solar equipment, it started working with Chinese players to manufacture the equipment for German market. Germany did not only provide the capital and technology but also some of their solar energy experts to those Chinese manufacturers.

The high demand was a result of German government’s incentive program to use the rooftop solar panels. Needless to say, those Chinese players happily accepted the opportunity. Further they got lured with the rising demand for solar equipment in other European countries such as Spain and Italy, where similar incentive programs started to be rolled out. The Chinese producers started hiring experts and expanding their capacities to tap the surge in demand.

With rising pollution levels and global demand for cleaner energy, solar industry became an attractive opportunity for China, and this resulted in the government’s willingness to invest as much as US$47 billion to develop China’s solar industry. With the beginning of 21st century, China started inviting foreign companies to set up plants in the country and take benefit of its cheap labor.

The Chinese government also introduced loans and tax incentives for renewable energy equipment manufacturers. By 2010, the solar equipment production in China increased at such levels that there were almost two panels made for every one demanded by an importer. In 2011, China took the German route and started incentivizing domestic rooftop solar installations, which rocketed the domestic demand so much that it surpassed Germany’s in 2015 to become the largest globally. China deployed 20 GW capacity in the first half of 2016, whereas the entire US capacity at that time was 31 GW.

The Chinese government started perceiving solar power generation as a strategic industry. It started a range of initiatives to help the domestic manufacturers to increase production of solar equipment, be it through subsidies for the purchase of the land for factories or through lower interest loans from banks. These moves and gigantic Chinese production capacities drove the global solar panel prices down by 80% from 2008 to 2013, which further increased China’s exports as its prices were the lowest.

Before 2009, the USA used to import very little from China in the solar domain and by the end of 2013, the Chinese imports rose to over 49% of total solar panels deployed in the USA. This increase in the imports resulted in 26 US solar manufacturers filing for bankruptcy in 2011, one of which was SolarWorld which also filed a trade complaint. The situation was not very different in several European countries.

The Chinese government started perceiving solar power generation as a strategic industry. It started a range of initiatives to help the domestic manufacturers to increase production of solar equipment.

China was accused of unfair trading and dumping exports below market prices which led the Obama government and EU to imposing import duties of 25-70% on Chinese solar products in 2011 for the following four years. In return, in 2012 China threatened to impose tariffs on US imports of polysilicon used in solar cells, and actually announced tariffs of 53.5% to 57% in 2013. Also, finding loopholes in the tariff system imposed by the Americans, Chinese manufacturers set up facilities in countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam, as the tariffs were not applicable for imports from those countries. The US imports of Chinese solar products continued.

The current Suniva’s case has received a mixed support within the US solar industry. While the US solar installers, for obvious reasons, will not support the case, some of the well-known manufacturers in the country have also stood up against it. They think the tariffs will almost double the prices of solar equipment in the USA which will eventually lower the demand of their products as well.

Following the USITC vote agreeing with Suniva’s petition, the industry is awaiting the final decision on the extent of the recommended tariffs and remedies, which are expected to affect jobs, innovation, and growth of the solar industry in various ways.

Impact of tariff decision on jobs in solar industry

Out of the total 260,000 US solar jobs, installers accounted for more than 80%, and around 38,000 people were working in manufacturing in 2016, a 26% increase over 2015. As the prices of solar panels dropped to around US$0.4/watt in 2016 from US$0.57/watt in 2015 thanks to the availability of cheap Chinese imports, solar installations boomed in the USA.

Manufacturers and experts supporting the Suniva case (supporters) argue that if the suggested tariffs of US$0.4/watt on imported cells and a minimum price of US$0.78/watt on panels are implemented, it will help the domestic manufacturing and around 114,800 new jobs will be created. The installers and some manufacturers opposing the case (adversaries) say that the tariffs on import will hurt everyone including the manufacturing sector. If the prices increase, this will cause the demand to go down which is likely to affect around 88,000 jobs in the US solar industry.

A group of 27 US solar equipment manufacturers including companies such as PanelClaw, Aerocompact, IronRidge, SMASHsolar, Pegasus Solar, on behalf of their combined 5,700 employees, wrote a letter to trade commissioners not to impose new import tariffs. With Chinese solar imports as high as 49% of the total US requirement, increased prices are expected to affect thousands of jobs in the solar installation sector which is the primary sub-sector of solar industry.

However, if the Chinese imports continue at the current rate, the demand for solar equipment will eventually decrease. Over long term, the manufacturers will have to lower their production and installers will have no new clients. So, the economy of scale effect will not work after that and that might affect the US solar jobs.

Impact of tariff decision on innovation in solar industry

The one factor that genuinely seems affected with the rise of China in the solar industry is innovation. Being the pioneers of the solar power generation technology, Americans are undoubtedly good at innovation. However, with dozens of US companies being on the verge of bankruptcy and lowering sales for remaining manufacturers because of glut of cheaper Chinese imports, the innovation budgets have seen a large blow in the country.

China is still producing the first generation, traditional solar modules and doing little, if anything at all, to improve the efficiency of the existing products. Chinese are not known for investing much in R&D departments and top seven Chinese solar manufacturers invested a mere 1.25% of total sales in R&D in 2015. Compared with what electronics firms invested in 2015 towards R&D, this number is six times lower. Compared with US clean energy firms, Chinese firms patent 72% less.

However, the US innovation receives targeted help and support from the government, which is not the case for Chinese innovation. US Department of Energy has come up with a loan program of US$32 billion to help clean energy companies innovate efficient solar products while still being price competitive with Chinese products. Nonetheless, US innovations are expected to dry up if the Chinese solar equipment dumping continues.

US-China Solar Dispute

Impact of tariff decision on solar industry growth

Growth of the solar industry should probably be the prime factor to consider for the Trade Commission and the White House while deciding about the potential introduction of solar tariffs.

As of 2016, US solar industry is worth roughly around US$23 billion. Moreover, solar energy accounted for 40% of new generation in the US power grid and 10% of total renewable energy generated in the USA in 2016, while the recent cost declines have led American utilities to procure more solar energy. This energy has witnessed 68% of average annual growth rate in terms of new generation capacity in the USA in last decade and as of first half of 2017, over 47 GW of solar capacity is installed to power 9.1 million American houses. There are currently about 9,000 solar companies in the USA employing around 260,000 people. In 2016, solar power generation was at 0.9% of total US power generation, a share that is expected to grow to more than 3% in 2020 and hit 5% in 2022.

The Suniva case supporters believe that this growth can slow down once the solar equipment demand is satisfied through Chinese imports, which is likely to eventually lead to job cuts and no innovation that in turn will put a break on any further growth in the US sector. They also argue that the solar equipment manufacturing sector in the USA will be destroyed if the right steps are not taken to safeguard the manufacturers from cheaper imports.

After the tariffs are introduced, for some time, the prices will be parallel for locally manufactured as well as imported solar products. Later on, with innovation and competitiveness between the domestic manufacturers coming back (currently absent from US solar market), the prices are expected to go down as per the allies.

At the same time, the Suniva case adversaries believe that the dream run for solar industry’s growth in the USA should not be hindered by imposing tariffs on imports as it will jeopardize even up to half of all solar installations expected to be demanded by 2022. In case of US$0.78/watt minimum module price scenario, US solar equipment installation is expected to fall from 72.5 GW to 36.4 GW between 2018 and 2022 or to 25 GW in case of US$1.18/watt minimum price scenario.

Solar energy is believed to be price sensitive and if the government aims to motivate the clean energy development, the origin of equipment used for this development should not matter. Some of the US solar equipment manufacturers are even opposing the tariffs which means they think there is still potential in the domestic manufacturing industry and with innovation they can gradually increase their share in the market.

EOS Perspective

The US government will have to take a responsible decision on the trade tariffs. The issue looks very sensitive and can directly affect the growth of the US energy sector. A win-win situation seems impossible if the tariffs are levied, and in its deliberations the government should consider the effects of the past US tariffs imposed on Chinese products. When the USA took anti-dumping steps against Chinese steel, China fired back with tariffs on caprolactam, a textile material. China re-imposed duties on US broiler chickens, after the USA announced duties on Chinese tires in June 2015.

So, none of the trade wars have proved to be beneficial for either of the sides. In the current dispute, the stakes are also high, and the wrong decision might have repercussions in a range of sectors. For instance, China placed a US$38 billion order to Boeing for commercial aircraft in 2015, an order that has not been delivered yet. This aspect should be kept in mind by the USA.

China currently dominates solar products supply with 80% of global solar equipment manufacturing capacity. The USA need to understand that their role in the global solar market is decreasing, and is no longer what it used to be. It would be beneficial for the USA to focus on strengthening the role in innovation of solar technology rather than looking to be the leading solar equipment manufacturer by volume.

Even if the US government supports the manufacturers by slapping tariffs on imports, the country is not ready with the required infrastructure for solar generation equipment manufacturing to satisfy the domestic demand in absence of the imports from other countries. Solar equipment producers cannot instantly set up infrastructure to manufacture a number of solar products, such as solar cells, junction boxes, extruded aluminum, glass, etc., that too in a cost-effective model. President Trump’s support for reviving local manufacturing, while at the same time favoring fossil fuels over the green energy (also manifested through his withdrawal from Paris Climate Accord), makes the outcome of the case uncertain, and interesting to follow.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Edtech Start-ups in China – Collaborating with Larger Players to Stay Afloat

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Over the past five years, China has witnessed a steep growth of the online education market with the emergence of start-ups offering economically accessible online education for students of all ages. This growth has been largely driven by favorable government policies, broadening internet reach, and an increased willingness of the population to spend money on education. Nevertheless, many Edtech (education technology) companies in the country have gone out of business during their first few years of entering the online market due to adopting unprofitable business models. This led to apprehension from investors, contributing to a slowdown in investment flow to the online education start-ups. What could online Edtechs do to turn the tables?

The global online education market has been promising due to an increasing demand for more ways to access education. The industry has received investments of US$7.33 billion globally in 2016, the highest investment in the history of the learning technology industry. The two markets that witnessed the highest investment in this sector were the USA and China, which recorded US$4.18 billion and US$2.06 billion, respectively, in that same year. As the second largest destination for online education, China has witnessed a soaring number of new online education start-ups thanks to investment from both government (Chinese government invested US$1.07 billion in 2015) and private sources (mostly venture capital). Moreover, by 2020, the Chinese online education market is expected to reach US$94.93 billion, growing at a CAGR of 34.6% from 2013 to 2020.

In recent years, China has been switching its focus from manufacturing to a service-oriented economy. Consequently, local demand for low-cost education has increased since more people seek to improve their skillset and successfully function in the dynamically changing economy. For this reason, the government has included the development and promotion of internet and education in its 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) launched on January 19th, 2016. According to this plan, non-governmental players (e.g. foreign investors) are encouraged to participate in the education industry and domestic private companies will be allowed to collaborate with foreign innovative education companies.

With the Chinese government support along with investments from venture capital, equity investors, and other private funding, the Chinese online Edtech start-ups have been considered to offer a strong growth potential, which lead to a number of them being established in the past few years, including online learning platforms such as Tutor Group and Hujiang. However, despite the appealing scenario of the thriving industry, a recent study conducted by China Online Education Research Institute stated that only 5% of all Chinese Edtech start-ups were capable to gain profit during 2015-2016. According to the study, 70% of the start-ups recorded losses, 10% reached a break-even point, and 15% went out of business during that same period. Since a significant percentage of online Edtechs in China were unprofitable and some even went out of business between 2015 and 2016, investment flow slowed down in 2016. A more rational and cautious approach from investors could cause start-ups growth to slow down significantly.

EOS Perspective

China is already the second largest market of online education after the USA. With a large and increasing number of internet users (around 50% of China’s population) and a large spending assigned for education in most Chinese home budgets, China might seem perfect for Edtech companies to thrive.

However, Chinese online education market is highly competitive with crowded landscape. This is a challenging environment to operate in since majority of online Edtechs in China offer a very similar product with little to no differentiation, and most of these companies have failed to build a strong product that would allow them to compete against other players in the Chinese market.

Under this scenario, investors do not seem to be willing to wait for five years or more for their investment returns, causing them to shift focus and funding streams to other segments of technology-enhanced learning market, such as simulation-based learning, game-based learning, and educational robot companies. With the slowdown in the investment during 2016, Edtech companies that are highly dependent on investors’ funding in order to continue their operations found themselves in a particularly difficult situation, with 15% of such start-ups going out of business by the end of 2016.

In terms of investment flow, 2017 might not offer any drastic improvements in the operating environment for online Edtech start-ups, therefore these companies need to look for ways to counterbalance the slowdown in investment in order to stay in business. Beijing-based online language platform, 51Talk, acquired its counterpart 91Waijiao and all of its users in 2015 as a way to expand its business. This is an example of how these market players could attempt to turn the tables to their favor, benefitting from building partnerships or joint ventures with larger players in the market in order to scale-up and generate funds to sustain their operations.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

China Beefs up Meat Consumption Guidelines, but Chickens out of Action

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Several decades ago, meat consumption was seen as luxury by the Chinese. Fast forward to today, meat (especially pork) has seeped into the diet of the everyday Chinese man to such an extent that today China consumes 28% of world’s total meat, including half of its pork. While this showcases immense income growth, the flip-side are the escalating environmental and health issues attributed to meat consumption. This has prompted China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) to issue new guidelines which ask the Chinese people to reduce meat consumption from about 60-63kg/year to about 14-27kg/year by 2030. However, without any actionable initiatives from the government (be it in the form of investments or taxes), these recommendations are not likely make a strong dent in the surging meat consumption levels.

China has witnessed a steep growth rate in meat consumption, which soared from a mere 13kg/person in 1982 to about 63kg/person in 2016. If the current trends continue, it is predicted that by 2030, the average Chinese man will eat close to 93kg/person if suitable measures are not taken to halt this growth. Owing to these consumption levels, China is one of the largest contributors to livestock agriculture-created greenhouse gases. The predicted rise in meat intake in China (by 2030) is likely to add another 233million tonnes of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere on a yearly basis. Moreover, China’s growing love for meat has also contributed to an exponential rise in the number diabetes and obesity cases, with more than 100 million Chinese suffering from diabetes at present.

To combat these growing concerns, NHFPC issued new guidelines in 2016, urging the Chinese population to reduce their meat intake to 40-75 grams per day, which translates to about 14-27kg/year from the current rate of 63kg/year, thereby aiming to reduce the meat intake to less than half by 2030. Along with these recommendations, the government has also undertaken some measures to achieve the recommended consumption levels, however, a few of them seem rather shallow to lead to the desired change.

The government, along with few NGOs such as WildAid, are trying to create awareness regarding the new guidelines. International celebrities, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron, have featured in videos hailing this government action and urging Chinese people to adopt vegetarianism. Moreover, the government has introduced health education in school curriculum and is promoting “health as a habit” to push life expectancy from 75 years to 79 years. A part of this campaign is to promote healthy eating and eating less meat and more vegetables.

At the same time, however, the government has been cutting down subsidies for small-scale pig farmers as well as formulating stricter environmental regulations, in order to push backyard pig farmers to either expand and clean their operations or exit the market. However, instead of curbing the industry growth, this may only result in strengthening the operations of larger players and may also lead to market consolidation.

While the government’s latest recommendations seem necessary, albeit ambitious, given the level of current actions, they seem far from sufficient to realistically curb demand for meat in the growing economy. As per local experts, NHFPC’s guidelines have received limited coverage by the media, especially in livestock-heavy regions of Shandong, Liaoning, and Inner Mongolia. China has strong cultural traditions attached to meat-eating (such as the Yulin Dog Meat festival and the Double Ninth festival), which makes it difficult to initiate change in eating habits. Moreover, at the time when the government should initiate import restrictions and taxes to curb supply of meat (which may lead to price rise and in turn probably contract demand and consumption), the government has recently re-allowed beef imports from the USA, which is clearly a counter-productive move.

This is not the first time the Chinese government attempts to deal with the issue of rising meat consumption, and if the authorities follow the same approach as before, those past efforts might be a strong indicator that the new guidelines will have a very limited impact. In 2007, the government issued similar guidelines restricting meat consumption to 50-75g a day (i.e. 18-27kg/year), however, the government failed miserably in achieving these targets, as apart from publishing the guidelines, it took no real action. Unless the government moves away from this passive, and evidently failed, approach, meat consumption is likely to continue to soar.

China Beefs up Meat Consumption Guidelines, but Chickens out of Action by EOS Intelligence

 

EOS Perspective

NHFPC’s guidelines seem to be a step in the right direction, however, in the absence of a larger and more concrete government action, these recommendations do not come across as anything more than a formality undertaken by the country’s government to please global climate campaigners. While the government announced an infusion of US$450 billion into the country’s agriculture system in September 2016, its seriousness towards these guidelines will be determined by how much of this sum will be apportioned (if any) to programs encouraging vegetarianism.

Since meat (pork/beef/poultry/sheep) farming is a large industry in China, providing key dietary ingredients for the population at large, a sudden increase in taxes or a cut down of major subsidies may not be possible. However, the government can work to fuel the desired dietary changes in a phased fashion, e.g. by starting to reduce meat imports by imposing restrictions, while simultaneously working on reducing people’s dependence on meat by promoting vegetarianism as a healthier as of life.

Although these actions may seem far-fetched, few local and large players are strategizing their future plans, mindful of these recommendations and the increased health awareness as a potential outcome of these initiatives. Since pork is the most widely used type of meat, it is likely that the intake of traditional pork dishes would be impacted the most by any actions taken by the government. Keeping this is mind, WH Group (a leading pork processing company) has already started expanding its focus to western-style products such as ham and sausages. The company expects a growing demand for such American-style foods that come with much higher margins, allowing to compensate for the potential loss of sales volume of the unprocessed, traditional cuts. The company is also diversifying into other meats, including leaner beef and lamb in their product mix, in anticipation of the growing health awareness trend.

On a final note, these guidelines alone definitely do not seem enough to stir a change in the Chinese population’s eating habits but the fact of the matter is that a change is required. It may take another decade and much greater initiatives from the government’s end to reduce the local people’s meat intake, but considering the global trend towards meat consumption reduction and the growing environmental and health concerns, it is likely that sooner or later, China will get there too. Now it remains to see if the meat farming and processing companies employ a wait-and-watch approach or proactively start investing and working towards change.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

OBOR – What’s in Store for Multinational Companies?

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One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative, also known as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is part of China’s development strategy to improve its trade relations with countries in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. OBOR envisions to not just bring economic benefits to China but to also help other participating countries by integrating their development strategies along the way. It has the potential to be one of the most successful economic development initiatives globally. Opportunities are countless for investment along this route. Multinational companies are looking to make the most out of this project, however, capitalizing on this opportunity will not be easy. To benefit from this initiative, companies need to understand that assiduous research and effective long-term planning is crucial, as the nations involved, though offer economic growth, will also present a series of geopolitical risks and challenges.

Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled OBOR in 2013, aiming to improve relations and create new links and business opportunities between China and 64 other countries included in the OBOR. The initiative has two main segments: The Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB), a land route designed to connect China with Central Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR), a sea route that runs west from China’s east coast to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, and east to the South Pacific. These two routes will form six economic corridors as the framework of the initiative outside China – New Eurasian Land Bridge, China-Mongolia-Russia Corridor, China-Central Asia-West Asia Corridor, China-Indochina Peninsula Corridor, China-Pakistan Corridor, and Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Corridor.

OBOR brings opportunities and challenges

Multinational companies will have a plethora of opportunities to explore along these economic corridors – for instance, trading companies can take advantage of these routes for logistics, while energy companies can use these corridors as gateways for exploring new sites of natural resources such as oil and natural gas. Along with dedicated routes, OBOR will require huge investment which is proposed to come from three infrastructure financing institutions set up as a part of this initiative – Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), The Silk Road Fund (SRF), and The New Development Bank (NDB).

The development of OBOR opens up a range of opportunities for overseas businesses. However, with the initiative being launched by the Chinese government and all the six corridors running across the country, it is clear that China will play a major role in most of the business collaborations. Thus, multinational companies investing in OBOR can prefer to partner with Chinese companies and leverage the partnership to access projects and assignments in other countries. Companies are also likely to be able to access new routes to sell products cheaply and efficiently, but looking for opportunities across OBOR would definitely involve initial partnerships between multinationals and Chinese state-owned enterprises.

OBOR – What’s in Store for Multinational Companies

Oil, gas, coal, and electricity

OBOR has the potential to open up opportunities for collaboration in the areas of oil, gas, coal, and electricity. Several energy opportunities may emerge with the OBOR initiative, and these energy-related investment projects are likely to be an important part of OBOR. For instance, the Gwadar-Nawabshal LNG Terminal and Pipeline in Pakistan includes building an LNG terminal in the Balochistan province and a gas pipeline between Iran and central Pakistan. Estimated at a total value of US$46 billion, the project was announced in October 2015 along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Energy projects along OBOR include initiatives largely by Chinese companies due to funds coming in from China-led financial institutions. In another investment, General Electric, an American corporation, signed a pact with China National Machinery Industry Corporation (Sinomach), in 2015, to offer project contracting (for supply of machinery and hardware tools) for developing a 102-MW Kipeto wind project in Kenya. The project aims to set up 2,036 MW of installed capacity from wind power by 2030. Kipeto wind project was originally a part of US president Barack Obama’s ‘Power Africa’ initiative, but with Sinomach joining in hands, it is clear that more initiatives like this can be expected to come up in the near future as a part of OBOR.

Logistics

Players in the logistics industry can also benefit from the improved infrastructure along the OBOR. In 2015, DHL Global Forwarding, providing air and ocean freight forwarding services, started its first service on the southern rail corridor between China and Turkey, a critical segment of China’s OBOR initiative. This rail corridor is expected to strengthen Turkey’s trading businesses along with benefiting transport and freight industries of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Logistics companies can also initially partner with local postal or freight agencies to set up new business in these regions. OBOR can provide fast, cost-effective, and high-frequency connections between countries along the route. Improved infrastructure, reduced logistics costs, and better transport infrastructure will also contribute to driving e-commerce businesses in the regions.

Tourism

Tourism is expected to also see a major boost as a result of OBOR initiative. As connectivity between countries improve and new locations become easily accessible, the tourism industry is expected to see positive growth in the coming years. To support tourism, Evergreen Offshore Inc., a Hong Kong-based private equity firm, in 2016, launched a US$1.28 billion tourism-focused private equity fund called Asia Pacific One Belt One Road Tourism Industry Fund to boost relations between China and Malaysia by investing in tourism sector. The company invested in Malaysia as the country is considered an ideal investment destination for a long-term gain. This is in sync with the long term vision of OBOR to promote tourism sector in countries and regions along the MSR.

As OBOR develops, new markets along the routes are likely to open to business. The already existing routes will experience business diversification as infrastructure and connectivity improves. Trade barriers will most likely reduce as developing countries become more open to international investment which brings new jobs, better infrastructure, economic growth, and improved quality of life. There is bound to be growth in consulting business, professional services, and industrial sectors apart from trade and logistics.

EOS Perspective

While OBOR initiative assures opportunities for multinational companies, the path may not be smooth for all. Investing in these new geographies, companies will come across various economies with different legal and regulatory frameworks. Political stability is also a matter of concern – some regions may have sound political structures while others may be dealing with ineffective government policies. In fact, political instability and violence are some of the key challenges in the development of OBOR. Weak government policies and lack of communal benefit lead to political instability including terrorism and riots. These factors influence the availability of resources, negatively impact the setting up of businesses locally, thus resulting in financial losses for multinationals. Local investments need policies and investment protection backed by the governments to facilitate growth which is far more difficult to achieve in case of political and economic instability. Taking advantage of the opportunities associated with OBOR may be of strategic importance, but the companies need to be cautious about the obstacles associated with it.

While OBOR initiative assures opportunities for multinational companies, the path may not be smooth for all. Political instability and violence are some of the key challenges in the development of OBOR.

Local competitors will also present obstacles to multinational firms. The competition is stiff for international players as local companies can operate better in riskier environment at low operating costs. Not only will regional companies pose a threat for survival of multinationals, in many scenarios, partnering with Chinese companies will also be a massive challenge. Many Chinese companies do not implement a clear structure while partnering with other international companies. Decision making and profit sharing is often not properly documented. Lack of clarity in business dealings give these state-owned enterprises an upper hand.

Complexity and lack of transparency in local regulatory framework for setting up a new business is also a hindrance for investments in many geographies along the OBOR. Absence of clear policies and delays in decision-making processes can prove too challenging for companies to adapt to which may even lead to financial losses or failed attempts to establish local operations. Issues such as corruption, challenges associated with supply chain security, and financial risks are some of the other obstacles that companies are likely to face while setting up businesses in new countries along the OBOR route.

Complexity and lack of transparency in local regulatory framework are a hindrance for investments in many geographies along the OBOR.

OBOR is still in the initial years of implementation. The initiative offers great potential for developing regions in need for improved infrastructure and economic growth but what this really means for multinational companies is still somewhat unclear. It encourages participation from international companies to turn the initiative a success, but there are no clear guidelines on how these investments would be integrated into the OBOR. With a major part of investment coming from China-based institutions, dominance of Chinese companies in major projects cannot be avoided. While the underlying aim of the initiative is to reduce China’s industrial overcapacity and to strengthen its economy, there are concerns about the part being played by multinational companies. To what extent would they participate, who would be the main investor (Chinese company or multinational companies), and how much share and what say would the multinational company have in a project, etc., are some of the questions that still remain unanswered.

With major part of investment coming from China-based institutions, dominance of Chinese companies in major projects cannot be avoided.

In view of these risks and challenges, we believe it is too early to estimate the scale of potential monetary benefits for companies wanting to invest along the OBOR route to expand their businesses. It will surely not be easy for multinational companies to compete for benefits from OBOR in an environment heavily dominated by Chinese companies. Developing business policies and financing schemes through related institutions can help the multinational firms to benefit from this initiative in the long run. There is no doubt that OBOR has the potential to open new markets for doing business by redrawing the global trade map, however, with no clarity and transparency on the role MNC’s as part of OBOR initiative, companies need to correctly identify the best opportunity by accessing the right market and find effective ways to mitigate a wide range of associated risks. For now, the future role of MNC’s in this environment is uncertain. They will have to wait and watch to work out a stable business arrangement. But in current times of global geopolitical turbulence, such a harmony is never guaranteed.

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