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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Baidu, SINA, PetroChina, TAL Education Group and Jiayuan.com International

Zacks Equity Research

For Immediate Release
Chicago, IL – January 29, 2014 – Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include the Baidu, Inc. ( BIDU- Free Report), SINA Corp. ( SINA- Free Report), PetroChina Co. Ltd. ( PTR- Free Report), TAL Education Group ( XRS- Free Report) and Jiayuan.com International Ltd. ( DATE- Free Report).
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Here are highlights from Tuesday’s Analyst Blog:

China Syndrome: SEC Ruling Hits Stocks
A ruling from Securities and Exchange Commission (:SEC) trial judge Cameron Eliot has significantly impacted China stocks. The judgment prevents Chinese joint ventures of the world’s Big Four auditing firms from auditing U.S.-listed Chinese companies for six months.

The Ruling

Judge Eliot said all four joint ventures: Ernst & Young Hua Ming, KPMG Huazhen, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and PwC Zhong Tian had failed to provide the SEC with audit working papers necessary to conduct investigations into possible financial fraud cases.

The audit firms say that these papers were not provided because doing so would mean violating Chinese law. As per Chinese law, such audit papers are considered to be state secrets and cannot be disclosed. However, by not producing the documents, the Big Four have violated the Sarbanes-Oaxley Act.

The Immediate Impact

The ruling had a negative impact on Chinese shares almost immediately. This is because Chinese companies trading on U.S. exchanges could have their listings suspended temporarily if the Big Four’s appeal against this judgement is rejected.

The Bloomberg China-US Equity Index, which consists of the most heavily traded Chinese stocks on the NYSE, slumped 4.3% last week. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index, which consists of Chinese stocks of companies from the mainland, slipped 2.6% at a particular point.
Major Losers

Stocks which suffered maximum losses include search engine giant Baidu, Inc. ( BIDU- Free Report), which dropped 6.8% as well as SINA Corp. ( SINA- Free Report) which lost 5.8%. Shares of China’s largest company by market value, PetroChina Co. Ltd. ( PTR- Free Report), declined 3.7%.

In its steepest drop since August 2012, TAL Education Group ( XRS- Free Report) suffered a 8.5% drop. Online dating site Jiayuan.com International Ltd. ( DATE- Free Report) also slumped by 8.5%.

The Chinese Response
Chinese authorities responded strongly to the SEC ruling. The China Securities Regulatory Commission (:CSRC) has cautioned the SEC about the “consequences” of such a move. The CSRC said the decision to ban these joint ventures for six months had “ignored” the progress made on cooperation measures between regulators.
In fact, this is an unexpected event given that the U.S. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, China’s Finance Ministry and the CSRC had reached an agreement last year. Market watchers were of the opinion that this was the end to disputes over accounting between the two countries.
Medium-Term Effects
The total market value of Chinese companies listed on the NYSE and Nasdaq exceeds $1.4 trillion. Since the stakes are so high, market watchers are naturally concerned.
Many experts are of the view that the dispute can only be settled at the highest diplomatic levels. This is because of China’s position on its secrecy act. In fact, providing expert testimony at the trial, former SEC Commissioner Paul Atkins said the dispute may have to be settled between the respective heads of state.
In Conclusion
Given that the Big Four have jointly said that they will appeal against the ruling, there will be no impact on the 2013 annual reporting of these Chinese stocks. This is not only because the appeal itself will take time but also since the judgment will take a long time to implement.
However, the ruling could go on to impact even U.S. companies with large units in China. Further, the bulk of the ruling has not been made public since this could impact diplomatic ties.
Clearly, we have not heard the last word on this issue. Not only have the Big Four suffered, further negotiations will be required to find a solution to this dispute between the largest economies in the world.
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