|Bid||118.500 x 0|
|Ask||118.600 x 0|
|Day's Range||118.000 - 127.000|
|52 Week Range||57.000 - 131.400|
|Beta (5Y Monthly)||N/A|
|PE Ratio (TTM)||N/A|
|Earnings Date||May 25, 2020|
|Forward Dividend & Yield||N/A (N/A)|
|1y Target Est||N/A|
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Five years ago, Baidu Inc. founder and Chairman Robin Li sat down with Bloomberg News to explain how foreign investors were getting it wrong.Listed on the Nasdaq a decade earlier, shares of the Chinese search-engine provider had taken a beating over the prior year, and Li’s chief complaint was that Americans just didn’t appreciate the coming changes in its business. The trend in China was toward services like delivery and ride-hailing, as well as bookings for restaurants, beauty salons and doctors. This online-to-offline economy would eclipse search revenue, he predicted.Now, it seems that Li has lost patience. Baidu is looking into the possibility of delisting its shares from the Nasdaq and moving to an exchange closer to home, Reuters reported Friday, citing three people familiar with the matter. Baidu thinks it’s undervalued, according to the report.The backdrop to these discussions is rising hostility to U.S. investments in Chinese assets amid worsening relations between the two countries. The U.S. Senate passed a bill last week that would force companies to delist unless they can prove they’re not under the control of a foreign government.That sounds like a good excuse for Baidu to look for the exit. The reality is that investors lost patience with its management years ago. It was inevitable that the company would seek one day to list elsewhere, as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. has already done. Baidu’s U.S.-traded stock fell 15% between that September 2015 interview and the end of last year, before the pandemic hit. Over the same period, Alibaba climbed 248%.Li’s problem is that his company failed to grasp the transformation he was talking up half a decade ago. While Alibaba and Tencent Holdings Ltd. have successfully moved into new areas like payments and physical retail, and upstarts like Meituan Dianping and Pinduoduo Inc. now dominate delivery and social-commerce, Baidu has barely changed.Its core business still centers on advertising and accounts for 73% of revenue, which climbed just 2% last year. Investments into new realms like artificial intelligence and autonomous driving have yet to bear fruit. Its other major sales contributor, iQiyi Inc., a video-streaming platform that listed separately on Nasdaq in March 2018, continues to lose money.Around the time that Li complained foreign investors weren’t getting it, some of his contemporaries decided to move home where they felt Chinese investors had a better understanding and would reward them with higher valuations. Internet security company Qihoo 360 Technology Co. was taken private by a consortium that included Citic Group for $9.3 billion in December 2015. It relisted in Shanghai in 2018 via the purchase of elevator maker SJEC Corp., and now trades under the name 360 Security Technology Inc. Chinese investors have soured on 360 Security, pushing the company’s market value down by more than a third since February. There’s a warning for Li. Investors in China won’t assign a higher valuation to a returning company unless it has a convincing growth story to tell. Baidu was a pioneer when it listed on Nasdaq in 2005, paving the way for dozens of Chinese internet stocks to follow. Touted as the Google of China, it symbolized the potential of the sector for American investors. Those days are long gone: Baidu has been eclipsed as China’s technology darling by fasting-growing companies such as Alibaba and Tencent.The problem for Li isn’t that investors don’t understand his business. It may be that they understand it too well. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tim Culpan is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. He previously covered technology for Bloomberg News.Nisha Gopalan is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering deals and banking. She previously worked for the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones as an editor and a reporter.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Meituan Dianping (HKG: 3690), China's leading e-commerce platform for services, today released its 2019 Corporate Social Responsibility Report (or "the Report") to demonstrate how the company has created value for users, industry and society through platform resources and technology innovation.
(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index will include dual class shares and secondary listings, allowing Chinese giants such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. into the city’s benchmark to provide a potential boost for passive investors who have for years struggled with lackluster returns.Hang Seng Indexes Co., announced the long-awaited change on Monday in Hong Kong, a step that will help move the benchmark away from a heavy dominance of financial shares. Dual class and secondary listings will each be subject to a 5% weighting cap, surprising some investors who had been hoping for a 10% weighting for Alibaba, for example.The move came after “overwhelming market support,” HSI said. Any changes will come into effect during the August 2020 index review and encompass only companies coming from Greater China.The shift will affect about $30 billion in pension fund assets and exchange-traded funds that track the index, and could spur a flood of local share sales by U.S.-listed firms. Dual class shares were long blocked from listing in Hong Kong due to concerns over the unequal voting rights until Xiaomi Corp. became the first in 2018. Alibaba joined the bourse last year after a $13 billion secondary listing.Meituan Dianping, China’s largest food-delivery website, is also a potential candidate for inclusion, while JD.com Inc. is considering a secondary listing of its own in the city.“It’s a bit surprising to me that Hang Seng caps the market weight at 5%,” said Kenny Wen, wealth management strategist at Everbright Sun Hung Kai Co. “But it’s understandable, since the indexer might want to take it step by step to avoid a sudden change on the Hang Seng Index, since each tech firm is relatively very big by market cap.”Wen expects the cap to lifted eventually to 10%, “but it won’t happen in the next 3 to 6 months.”Daniel Wong, a director at HSI, said at a press conference that the cap “has room to rise.”About half of the total weighting of the Hang Seng Index is in financial firms, compared with about 15% on average for benchmarks in Europe, the U.S., Japan and mainland China, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The gauge has gained 1.7% a year on average in the past decade, versus 5.2% for the MSCI All-Country World Index. In January, the Hang Seng approached its lowest level relative to the MSCI measure since 2004.HSI said that any shares that carry weighted voting rights, typically those held by the founders of the company, will be considered as non-freefloat, and not eligible for the index. While for secondary listings, any shares held as overseas depositary receipts will be ineligible, further limiting the impact of Alibaba on the index.“Aibaba has about 20% of total outstanding shares in Hong Kong and the remaining are in the U.S.,” said Steven Leung, executive director at UOB Kay Hian (Hong Kong) Ltd., by phone from Hong Kong. “Even if WVR shares and U.S. portions are not counted as free float in Hang Seng’s calculation, it still easily has a 5% weight if included into the index.”Separately, the HSI consultation conclusion also said no additional limits will be placed on financial stocks.Managers of passive index pension funds will now have to follow the adjustment to include weighted voting rights shares, said Michael Chan, managing director of Hong Kong-based Gain Miles MPF Consultant Ltd. Despite institutional concerns over the corporate governance issues of dual class share companies, which gives some shareholders more weight than others, Chan said it won’t create much stir locally since retail investors are largely indifferent to how their pension money is placed.(Adds comment from HSI in eighth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- The 50-year old Hang Seng Index is poised to embrace change, and it couldn’t come soon enough for investors forced to put up with years of dismal underperformance.On Monday at around 4:30 p.m. in Hong Kong, the compiler of the gauge is expected to announce whether companies with secondary listings and unequal voting rights will be included for the first time, namely Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Doing so would open the door to transforming the Hang Seng from a gauge overstuffed with banks and insurers to one that better reflects the technological dynamism of China’s economy.Alibaba -- one of China’s most valuable companies -- launched a secondary listing in Hong Kong in November. Another potential candidate for inclusion is Meituan Dianping, China’s largest food-delivery website, while JD.com Inc. is considering a secondary listing of its own in the city. With almost $30 billion of pension-fund assets and exchange-traded funds tracking the gauge as of December, such a change could spur a flood of local share sales by U.S.-listed firms.“The decision is going to completely change the nature of index, which has been characterized as one with low valuation and low growth rate for a long time,” said Yang Lingxiu, strategist at Citic Securities Co.About half of the total weighting of the Hang Seng Index is in financial firms, compared with about 15% on average for benchmarks in Europe, the U.S., Japan and mainland China, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The gauge has gained 1.7% a year on average in the past decade, versus 5.2% for the MSCI All-Country World Index. In January, the Hang Seng approached its lowest level relative to the MSCI measure since 2004.The process of adding the likes of Alibaba may take some time, however. “In order to reduce the one-off impact on the market, the index may propose adding the weight of Alibaba gradually,” said Chi Man Wong, analyst at China Galaxy International Financial Holdings. Alibaba is the biggest company listed in Hong Kong by market cap and is the second most actively traded stock in the past 30 days, just after the Hang Seng Index’s largest component Tencent Holdings Ltd., according to data compiled by Bloomberg.The index would need to delete two companies to add Alibaba and Meituan, as current rules require the number of firms on the gauge to be fixed at 50. Component maker AAC Technologies Holdings Inc. and snack firm Want Want China Holdings Ltd. are among likely candidates for deletion due to their smaller market capitalization, according to traders.The addition would raise the Hang Seng Index’s forward price-to-earnings ratio to about 12 from the current 11, making it more expensive than Shanghai Composite Index, data show.Ultimately, the weight of technology and consumer discretionary sectors’ could surge from the current single digits to more than 30%, if all U.S.-listed Chinese companies that match the Hang Seng’s requirements list in the city and are included in the index, according to Citic Securities Co.To be sure, giving greater weight to companies with unequal voting rights could raise investor concerns.“The key issue is that weighted voting rights create an opportunity for someone to have greater influence than their economic ownership would suggest,” said Gabriel Wilson-Otto, head of stewardship Asia Pacific at BNP Paribas Asset Management. “The underlying concern is that this heightens the potential for agency risk, and reduces avenues of recourse if the company does something that’s not in the best interests of the minority shareholders.”Investors in some U.S-listed Chinese firms have recently been burned by accounting scandals, raising questions about the standard of corporate governance at some companies.Two Accounting Scandals in a Week Burn China Inc. Investors (1)The Hang Seng Index would nevertheless benefit from luring more U.S.-listed companies, said Cliff Zhao, head of strategy with CCB International Securities Ltd.“More funds will be attracted to follow the index, which is a good thing for Hong Kong’s stock market.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Most readers would already be aware that Meituan Dianping's (HKG:3690) stock increased significantly by 15% over the...
Investors in Meituan Dianping (HKG:3690) had a good week, as its shares rose 2.3% to close at HK$92.85 following the...
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- A whole generation of tech startups was built on the premise that the most lucrative business models aim to connect people or businesses on one side of the marketplace with people or businesses on the other side.Whether Tinder, Uber Technologies Inc. or Airbnb Inc., the platform theory held that acting as a facilitator for someone else’s offering meant you could scrape off commission while maintaining an asset-light business whose low operational costs rewarded you with high profitability. But no one foresaw an event that would shut down a whole side of the marketplace, and the coronavirus pandemic has done just that. For Airbnb, self-isolation means that nobody is travelling. There is plenty of supply with millions of listings still on the site, but the demand has all but evaporated. The same goes for Uber rides.In food delivery, it’s the supply side that has difficulties. On the whole, services like Uber Eats, Grubhub Inc., Deliveroo and Just Eat Takeaway depend on existing restaurants to cook meals. But for many, if not most, of those restaurants, the main business was still preparing food for on-site dining. Now that’s not possible in the U.K., France, Italy and elsewhere, continuing to operate as a delivery-only operation fundamentally changes the economics of the business: Restaurants still have operating costs, except now they might have to direct a quarter of their income to the food delivery platforms. Many have simply shut their doors completely because they can’t make it work. Chinese delivery platform Meituan Dianping is already feeling the impact, as my colleague Tim Culpan wrote yesterday. (Uber Eats and Grubhub are trying to counter the trend by subsidizing some restaurant costs.)Which is why companies like HelloFresh SE and Blue Apron Holdings Inc., long the subject of Silicon Valley derision, suddenly seem to have very sensible business models. On the surface, they are similar to the food delivery platforms: They too deliver food.The difference is that, because they deliver meal kits they put together in their own kitchens, they control the supply, whereas a firm like Deliveroo has to worry about ensuring it has enough restaurants and customers. HelloFresh’s concern is simply demand. Even then, there’s less need for as high a density of demand than for takeaway food — though of course it helps. Because customers cook the meals themselves, there’s less anxiety about a dish congealing in the panniers of a moped. While Deliveroo has started operating some of its own kitchens, it still has to compete with Grubhub, Just Eat Takeaway and Uber Eats on two fronts. HelloFresh can concentrate on one: customers.The upshot is that business is soaring for the meal-kit firms. HelloFresh said Monday it’s expecting first-quarter sales of between 685 million euros ($750 million) and 710 million euros, up from 420 million euros a year earlier. Analysts had been expecting revenue of 553 million euros. The company anticipates adjusted first-quarter Ebitda of as much as 75 million euros — in just three months, it's set to make about three quarters of the profit that analysts had anticipated for the full year. Uber, which isn't expected to be profitable at all on a similar basis until 2022, has seen just a 10% jump in U.S. orders at its food delivery business, according to The Information.HelloFresh stock is up 70% this year, valuing the Berlin-based firm at 5.2 billion euros — more than Grubhub or grocers Casino Guichard Perrachon SA and Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc. Beleaguered Blue Apron’s shares have jumped more than fourfold from a March 13 low, giving it a $156 million market capitalization, though its ability to capitalize on surging demand is more limited — it has been cutting costs in recent months. Meanwhile HelloFresh is expanding: It plans to add 400 employees at a site in Oxfordshire, near London, according to the BBC.Silicon Valley dogma tends to dictate that assets are bad. But in some instances, more control over the factors of supply can be very satisfying indeed.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Alex Webb is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Europe's technology, media and communications industries. He previously covered Apple and other technology companies for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- China’s consumers are shopping online again. But their purchases signal they plan to stay indoors for the foreseeable future, dashing hopes for a spending recovery as the nation contemplates its post-virus world.Lunch boxes saw 120 times more searches in the last 30 days as the virus pushes people to prepare their own food even after returning to the office, according to March 26 data from Index.1688, which collects information from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s shopping sites.Portable tableware, foldable spoons and work clothing also surged in popularity, while items typically given as gifts or used for travel and outdoor activities haven’t shown signs of recovery.Yoga mats and hula hoops for home exercise also climbed in demand, a bad sign for gyms waiting for the return of patrons.The data undermines predictions of a V-shaped recovery in the world’s biggest consumer market that has seen more than 80,000 infections and 3,000 deaths from Covid-19. While big operators like Starbucks Corp. and Yum China Holding Inc. have been reopening outlets, they face a public that’s preferring to stay home after work and continue to social distance, even though official data indicates China’s number of new infections fallen to zero.China’s experience may prove an important indicator for how the rest of the world recovers. Even after outbreaks are contained, lingering fear is likely to change consumer behavior for longer than expected.“Consumers are still cautious about going out and many of those venues are not yet back to full working mode,” said Jason Yu, Shanghai-based general manager of Kantar Worldpanel. Items for a return to work, such as instant coffee, hair and skin-care products, are recovering ahead of the market, he said.Other products to post a spike in searches include contact-less thermometers, suits and stationery, according to Index.1688.A report by JD.com Inc.’s research center also shows work-related consumption speeding ahead of other categories. China’s second-largest e-commerce company sold five times more lunch boxes in late February than a month earlier, while powerbanks, office equipment and stationery are also high up the list.“Consumption of staples is clearly outshining discretionary or luxury goods in what is still very much a lukewarm and uneven recovery,” Ned Salter, head of global research at Fidelity International, said in a statement. “We need to see more consumer confidence to sustain the improvement and that will depend on how well China deals now with imported cases to contain the virus fully.”A Coronavirus Vaccine in 18 Months? Experts Urge Reality CheckRetailers in China have been cautious in their forecasts since the virus emerged.Yum China Holding Inc., which operates KFC and Pizza Hut in the country, has said the second quarter will be “challenging” and patience is needed. Anta Sports Products Ltd., the country’s biggest sportswear maker, forecasts the first six months of 2020 will be “tough throughout”.About 60% of listed restaurant operators in China are at risk of running out of cash within six months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and company reports.With the food and beverage industry reeling, local governments are trying to boost consumption by urging officials to dine out in restaurants and shop in malls. Vouchers are being given out by cities including Hangzhou and Nanjing as well as shopping platforms Meituan Dianping and Suning.com Co. to spur spending.While China’s new infection numbers have plunged, the pandemic is widening globally with cases worldwide now topping 786,000 and more than 37,800 dead. Chinese factories are experiencing a second shockwave as western clients cancel orders en masse.Luiz Chen, a 31-year-old auditor in Guangzhou, recently bought moisturizing masks and a new dress before returning to the office but said she won’t be treating herself to anything expensive after her employer froze bonuses for the past two months.“I’m scared to get a salary cut or even lose the job,” said Chen. “Economic crisis seems not far away. How can I have the good mood to buy buy buy?”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Meituan Dianping surged as much as 10% after the internet services giant said its food delivery business began to recover in March, when shuttered restaurants re-opened and much of China returned to work.Meituan, backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd., told analysts on a conference call Monday that demand for food delivery picked up this month, putting it on track for a longer-term recovery after Covid-19 froze a swath of the world’s second largest economy. But it also projected an operating loss and revenue decline this quarter, and warned that the full extent of fallout from the pandemic -- particularly on its travel and ride-sharing businesses -- remained uncertain in 2020. Its stock was up roughly 7% in early trade after Daiwa lifted its price target and said Meituan should return to growth in the second half.Meituan joined sector bellwethers from Sony Corp. to Apple Inc. and Twitter Inc. in emphasizing the difficulty of parsing an unprecedented event and its impact on their business. The Chinese company is one of the most exposed of the country’s major tech corporations to the spread of Covid-19. The company’s outlook is further clouded by China’s worsening economy, which may contract this quarter for the first time since 1989, denting consumer spending.“Although we have seen gradual recovery from March especially for food delivery business, the active merchants of our in-store service category remain at a very low level as of late March,” Chief Financial Officer Chen Shaohui said on the call. “We expect consumers will need more time to build their consumption confidence for local consumption especially those discretionary consumption scenarios in our in-store business.”What Bloomberg Intelligence SaysDespite mild improvements in Meituan’s local services in late March as the virus outbreak subsided in China, the timing of a full operational recovery remains highly uncertain. Its food-delivery business may stay slow, with many restaurants still closed and consumers wary of interactions with delivery personnel. Its in-store, hotel and travel businesses may take even longer to recover, as users stayed home. Strong 42% sales gains and 117% gross-profit expansion in 4Q suggest Meituan’s longer-term growth drivers are intact. The company plans to maintain strategic investments in B2B food distribution and restaurant management systems.\- Vey-Sern Ling and Tiffany Tam, analystsClick here for the research.Read more: Chinese Abandon Food Delivery Fearing Drivers Will Spread VirusThe coronavirus dealt an as-yet unquantifiable blow to a company that, before the outbreak erupted in January, was on track to take its place among the country’s most influential technology corporations. While Meituan’s stock has taken a pounding like every other Chinese internet firm, a 2019 rally secured its position as China’s largest publicly traded internet firm after Alibaba and Tencent.“Market expectations were very low as investors have seen the damage COVID-19 has inflicted on offline service providers,” Nomura analyst Shi Jialong wrote.Meituan on Monday reported a better-than-expected 42% jump in revenue to 28.2 billion yuan ($4 billion) in the three months ended December, compared with the 26.5 billion-yuan average of analysts’ estimates. It booked a profit for the quarter of almost 1.5 billion yuan, versus expectations for a loss.The company still harbors ambitions well beyond its current core business. Meituan had been diversifying from takeout, investing in other online services including travel, competing directly against Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. But others are elbowing their way into Meituan’s turf. Ride-hailing giant Didi recently launched a delivery service similar to Uber Eats across major Chinese cities, while Alibaba-backed Alipay is also morphing into an all-in-one online services platform that allows everything from restaurant booking to car-hailing.Executives on Monday stressed the company will keep investing in new initiatives from bike-sharing to online groceries, an e-commerce segment that accelerated sharply after the pandemic forced millions to work -- and cook -- from home. Meituan said it’s setting up the logistics to support that business while exploring ways to roll out the business to more Chinese cities.“The pandemic has already caused severe disruptions to the daily operations of our merchants, including restaurants, local services merchants and hotels, which in turn resulted in downward pressure on our own operations for the first quarter of 2020,” Meituan said in its filing. “Due to the high uncertainty of the evolving situation, we are unable to fully ascertain the expected impact on full year 2020 at this stage.”Read more: Virus Outbreak Exposes $46 Billion Rift in China’s Tech IndustryFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The various levels of lockdown and quarantine across China haven’t proven a golden opportunity for the biggest food delivery and bookings company, a warning for on-demand service providers elsewhere as more of the world stays at home to avoid the coronavirus.Meituan Dianping says it will post a loss for the first quarter ending Tuesday following a decline in revenue. The Beijing-based company’s business consists of three main divisions — food delivery, restaurant and travel bookings, and other services such as car hailing, bike rental and groceries.Bookings, which account for around 23% of revenue, took the biggest hit. That was predictable. Consumers aren’t keen to take a seat at a restaurant or a night at a hotel amid a deadly disease outbreak, and widespread travel curbs meant moving around China wasn’t an option.Food was more of a surprise. Two months ago amid the Lunar New Year break, I theorized that such deliveries — at 56% of Meituan’s revenue — might bounce back quickly as customers opted to stay in rather than eat out. I was wrong.Thousands of vendors on Meituan’s platform were forced to close either voluntarily or by mandate, and thus couldn’t provide meals. Those who did stay open were often met with fear and complications on the demand side.Many customers had concerns not only over the safety of meals coming from restaurants, but the drivers who delivered them. Those still willing to order online were met with layers of challenges as local governments, neighborhoods and buildings exercised strict controls over who could come and go. There was no supply bottleneck for drivers; Meituan noted plenty of capacity on hand.Three weeks ago, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. said that its own courier and food delivery services, Cainiao and ele.me, were back to full staffing. But the food business was still down because many restaurants remained closed.An upside has been grocery delivery. Meituan’s two services, self-operated and marketplace, have seen strong growth during the crisis, a trend that echoes what Alibaba experienced with its Freshippo service. In many cities, consumers either cannot or prefer not to step out to shop. They’re apparently less afraid of groceries brought to their door than fresh-cooked meals.Even as China returns to a certain level of normalcy, food delivery may struggle for another few months. Most companies are maintaining degrees of isolation, such as working from home or rotating shifts. Taking lunches to places of business is normally an important part of the consumption scenario. As investors start to ponder the outlook for Delivery Hero SE, Just Eat Takeaway, and GrubHub Inc., they’d do well to look at how their China peers have fared during the virus battle. Collectively, these companies get most of their revenue from Western markets that are now imposing lockdowns to battle the pandemic. They’re implementing contact-free and non-cash deliveries to make customers feel safe.That may not be enough. While it’s true that people still have to eat, China’s experience shows that this doesn’t mean consumers will necessarily order delivery or that restaurants can supply them.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tim Culpan is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. He previously covered technology for Bloomberg News.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Meituan Dianping (HKG: 3690) (the "Company" or "Meituan"), China's leading e-commerce platform for services, today announced the audited consolidated results of the Company for the year ended December 31, 2019.
(Bloomberg) -- The increase in quarantined customers has forced food delivery companies to balance a potential boom in orders alongside the risk of spreading sickness to both customers and drivers.Both Uber Technologies Inc. and Deliveroo have said they’re setting aside funds to compensate drivers who might fall ill or are forced to be quarantined.London-based Deliveroo budgeted several million pounds to compensate drivers for lost earnings due to the disease, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified because the preparations are private. The company will compensate impacted drivers for 14 days above the U.K. statutory sick pay rate, the person said.Uber has said it will offer drivers in the U.S., U.K. and Mexico compensation for a period of time if they’re diagnosed with Covid-19 or placed in quarantine, and the company is planning to implement the program worldwide.In a message sent to U.K. customers, Deliveroo Chief Executive Officer Will Shu said the company was launching a “no-contact” service, letting customers ask drivers to leave their food on doorsteps rather than pass it from one hand to another. Uber said Wednesday that users could leave a note on the app asking for a similar drop off.The person familiar with Deliveroo’s strategy, due to roll out next week, said riders will also be able to elect a no-contact delivery if they choose.Read more: Boutique Economy Slammed as Virus Makes Personal Touch ToxicDeliveroo’s other provisions include ordering hand sanitizer on behalf of drivers, and letting customers in some areas of the U.K. order kitchen and household products from supermarkets via the app.Takeaway.com said that from Friday all its deliveries from restaurants in Europe would be made contact-free. “Delivery couriers are being instructed to ring the customers’ doorbell and to leave the delivery bag at the door,” a spokesperson for the company said in an email.The workers’ funds have been set up at time when ride-hailing companies are challenging attempts by lawmakers and unions to increase benefits to drivers. In the U.K., the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain has challenged companies such as Uber on whether drivers should be entitled to overtime and holidays.“If sick pay is the right thing to do in a pandemic when the world is watching, it’s the right thing to do, period,” said Greg Howard, secretary for IWGB’s couriers and logistics branch. “That Deliveroo told the press about this fund before it said a word to its riders is indicative of its priorities.”In the U.S., Uber and its rivals are also appealing a new law that may end up classifying their workers as employees.Tensions are rising among those workers in areas hardest hit by the virus. A letter from unionized delivery staff in Milan, Rome, Naples and Bologna on Thursday called for a strike because it said they lacked adequate rights to protect themselves given the health risk.“Our life and health are worth more than a pizza, a sushi or a sandwich,” groups including the Bologna Riders Union wrote in a Facebook post.Governments have also taken steps to protect gig-economy workers, who are often considered contractors and don’t automatically get access to sick pay or other benefits from the companies they work for. U.K. finance minister Rishi Sunak pledged a 30 billion pound ($39 billion) stimulus package on Wednesday to help fight the impact of the coronavirus, promising statutory payments to everyone who’s been told to self isolate and more generous welfare packages. French labor minister Muriel Penicaud said in an television interview with LCI that the government is reviewing measures to provide financial relief to “precarious” workers hit by the crisis, including food delivery riders.Read more: Italy Shuts Down Shops, Restaurants After Virus Toll RisesThe data so far is showing that as people spend more time at home, they’re getting take out more often, UBS Group AG analyst Hubert Jeaneau said in a note published Thursday. In Italy, where officials ordered a country-wide lock-down that’s shut nearly everything except grocery stores and pharmacies, customers could still order takeout meals from apps like Deliveroo, Glovo and Just Eat.Still, that trend could quickly reverse, Jeaneau said. In China, fear of being infected by sick drivers caused many customers to stop using delivery services, with some building complexes halting access to food delivery drivers. Meituan Dianping and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., the two biggest delivery companies, also introduced no-touch delivery to help combat concerns.“This can turn negative we think, if there are concerns around contact with food preparation and/or riders,” Jeaneau said in the note. Customers may also be out of luck if drivers are taken off the road or restaurants are shut, he said.(Updates with details on rider elections in 6th paragraph, Takeaway.com in 8th, union comments in 10th)\--With assistance from Alessandro Speciale, Helene Fouquet and John Follain.To contact the reporters on this story: Nate Lanxon in London at email@example.com;Natalia Drozdiak in Brussels at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at email@example.com, Amy ThomsonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- The coronavirus has hurt many companies in China and around the world. Neolix, a driverless delivery business based in Beijing, isn’t among them -- in fact, it’s seen a jump in demand.The startup, which has attracted customers including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Meituan Dianping and JD.Com Inc., has booked orders for more than 200 vehicles in the past two months; before then, it had only produced 125 units since manufacturing began last May, founder Yu Enyuan said in an interview.Amid the virus anxiety that has disrupted businesses and supply chains, China’s push into autonomous transport and the future of delivery is getting an unexpected boost. Neolix’s small vans help customers reduce physical contact and address labor shortages caused by lingering quarantines and travel restrictions.Neolix’s inventories have been depleted during the epidemic as its vehicles have been used to deliver medical supplies in hospitals, including in Wuhan, at the outbreak’s epicenter. Its vans are also being used to help disinfect streets and move food to people who are working on the front lines to curb the spread of the virus, Yu said.“Demand has been surging since the virus outbreak and more importantly, people’s perception toward driverless delivery had a complete 180-degree shift,” Yu said. “People realize that such vehicles can get things done when it is risky for a human being to do so.”Regulatory BarriersBillionaire Jack Ma three years ago forecast China would have one billion deliveries a day within a decade and that commercialization of driverless-courier technology could provide lessons for autonomous vehicles carrying passengers. Yet there have been restrictions for such vehicles to be used on open roads. During the unprecedented virus outbreak, regulatory barriers are being eased, as roads are empty.“China’s digital services economy has prospered during the crisis as people shifted to online consumption,” said Bill Russo, CEO of consulting firm Automobility Ltd. “This will accelerate the commercialization of autonomous service delivery solutions. Neolix and others stand to benefit.”Local authorities in China are offering incentives to fund purchase and operation of driverless delivery vans in their jurisdictions for up to 60% of the tag price, according to Yu. The government subsidies will speed up promotion of the vehicles, according to the company, which expects to sell 1,000 units this year.“The industry has entered into a fast expansion phase because of the virus,” Yu said.Autonomous VansThe development of autonomous vans is accelerating not only in China. Delivery robot company Nuro Inc., Neolix’s rival in the U.S., won the first federal safety approval for a purpose-built, self-driving vehicle last month, paving the way for its plans to deliver groceries autonomously in neighborhoods. The approval, valid for two years, indicates that regulators at the Department of Transportation think specially built robot cars can start taking to the roads in the U.S.“It is great advancement for all companies developing such delivery vehicles,” Yu said.Yet some industry observers are more cautious about the near-term prospects. China’s relatively low labor costs may undermine promotion of autonomous delivery for some time, said Cui Dongshu, secretary general of the China Passenger Car Association, who sees the current demand as temporary.Russo, the consultant, said he thinks the order uptick for companies like Neolix will translate to future demand as well.“New habits are formed and new capabilities are needed,” Russo said. “The consumption pattern has shifted and this will likely be viewed as an essential set of capabilities in the new normal, post-coronavirus world.”To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Tian Ying in Beijing at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at email@example.com, Jodi Schneider, Ville HeiskanenFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Baidu Inc. predicted revenue may slide as much as 13% this quarter, joining its fellow technology giants in warning about the impact of the deadly coronavirus.China’s internet search leader forecast a 5% to 13% plunge in sales to between 21 billion yuan ($3 billion) and 22.9 billion yuan in the March quarter, missing an average projection for 23.4 billion yuan. Its U.S.-traded shares slid as much as 1.6% in extended trading.From Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc. to Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., the world’s largest corporations have either scaled back on projections or warned of a hit to their operations from Covid-19. Apart from the uncertainty of the outbreak, Baidu has been grappling with a slowing home economy and competition from upstarts like ByteDance Inc. that’ve lured advertisers away and depressed marketing rates. Chief Executive Officer Robin Li said it will take time for the world’s No. 2 economy to recover.“The return of economic growth will be a long-term issue after the epidemic, but many new opportunities are emerging,” the billionaire founder told employees in an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg.Certain businesses can thrive despite the epidemic, including online entertainment and education, Li added. Baidu’s Netflix-style unit iQiyi Inc. projected a better-than-expected revenue gain of 2% to 8% this quarter.“The virus has affected consumer spending, so naturally advertisers will want to postpone their budgets,” said David Dai, a Hong Kong-based analyst with Bernstein.Read more: Virus Outbreak Exposes $46 Billion Rift in China’s Tech IndustryIn recent days, anxiety has mounted about the spread of the virus outside of China, where it originated. But Baidu executives on Friday emphasized they remained upbeat about a gradual return to normality.“Business activities have started to pick up as people return to work. At Baidu, our employees are gradually returning to the office, applying strict safety measures,” Chief Financial Officer Herman Yu told analysts on a conference call. “We assume businesses across China will do the same, and that our marketing services will pick up at a faster pace into quarter-end.”Baidu had earlier reported better-than-expected revenue for the quarter ended December, when ad demand stabilized and pressure from competitors eased. To offset stalling growth, it looked to improve its bottom line especially by tightening content costs related to iQiyi. Longer term, the company is investing gains from its core search and news services into divisions like driverless cars and smart speakers.Baidu’s shares rallied after the company reported preliminary revenue for the December quarter that beat the highest of analysts’ estimates, but that gain’s mostly been erased since the epidemic triggered a broader selloff of Chinese stocks. The company has been surpassed in market value by rivals like Meituan Dianping and NetEase Inc. after shedding more than $11 billion last year.“For the majority, or probably all of the industries who advertise on us, those kinds of demand don’t disappear -- they’re just postponed,” Li said on the call Friday. “If you plan to marry, you’ll still get married. If you plan to buy a car, you’ll still buy a car. If you plan to become prettier, you’ll still go for cosmetic surgery. This kind of demand will come back after the epidemic ends.”To contact the reporter on this story: Zheping Huang in Hong Kong at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Edwin Chan at email@example.com, Colum MurphyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- The coronavirus epidemic is exposing the dichotomy of the world’s second largest tech economy. Chinese businesses like Alibaba and Meituan with outsized footprints in the material world are rushing to contain the fallout while virtual denizens ByteDance Inc. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. ride a surge in social media and entertainment.It boils down to the difference between hawking analog and digital wares. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Meituan Dianping have shed $28 billion of market value since Covid-19 erupted in central China in January because they depend on millions of people and trucks to ferry packages and meals through an increasingly tangled nationwide transport network. WeChat operator Tencent, which flogs virtual goods like costumes and armor in mobile games or sprinkles advertising online, has gained about $18 billion. Its market value now hovers around half a trillion dollars.More than any other company, Alibaba’s fate is intertwined with that of the world’s No. 2 economy. Its caution on Feb. 13 about weakening earnings exposed just how much China’s most valuable company depends on old-fashioned elbow grease in delivery, manufacturing and logistics. The e-commerce giant warned of a “significant” hit this quarter because the people who take orders, fabricate products and then ship them to doorsteps can’t get to their jobs. It’s a reminder of how much the fortunes of China’s tech giants hinge on unglamorous, analog tasks -- at their peak, Alibaba’s partners deliver upwards of a billion packages a day.“We just have fewer delivery people now because my co-workers couldn’t get back to work,” said a courier for Alibaba partner SF Express who would only give his surname as Qiu before dashing off. “Those of us still working are assigned more packages. Good thing I got a break during the Spring Festival,” he said, referring to the Lunar New Year holidays.Read more Alibaba Warns Virus Having Broad Impact on Chinese EconomyRead more: Chinese Abandon Food Delivery Fearing Drivers Will Spread VirusChina’s corporations are struggling to cope with the coronavirus outbreak to varying degrees. Some such as Tencent and TikTok-owner ByteDance are benefiting from a vastly increased audience as millions are confined to their homes, with mobile gaming and livestreaming their only recourse to entertainment. Tencent, which reports earnings in March, is expected to unveil a surge in time spent on games such as Honor of Kings and growth on WeChat. For now, analysts are projecting its fastest pace of sales growth since 2018 in both the December and March quarters.But few in tech offer as broad a glimpse into business under the epidemic than Alibaba. The company initially benefited from a surge in online shopping from millions confined by the largest work-from-home undertaking in history. Yet, it turns out, a lot of the millions of packages that get delivered every day are cheap items such as groceries and face masks. Consumers are eschewing pricier merchandise given growing fears that the eventual hit to the Chinese economy could be far worse than expected.“Logistics is probably the biggest bottleneck right now, but it is improving. However, it is not the only bottleneck,” said Jerry Liu, a Hong Kong-based analyst with UBS who expects things to get back to normal only around the second half. “We do assume weaker demand for e-commerce platforms even if online penetration is higher in recent weeks. Based on our checks, a part of that is due to less spending on things that are not urgent, such as apparel or electronics, versus outbreak prevention items or food.”Read more: How Fast Can China’s Economy Bounce Back from Virus LockdownAlibaba’s got other problems too -- like discontent in the ranks. Hangzhou, its home, is a city under self-imposed siege. Just an hour from Shanghai, the city famed for its scenic lake has imposed some of the harshest quarantine and coronavirus-prevention measures outside of the outbreak’s epicenter. Into its third week, the clampdown is posing unusual challenges to tens of thousands of employees that chieftain Jack Ma proudly proclaimed only last year were more than willing to go the extra mile.For one employee, the ordeal began weeks ago. Local officials barred the Alibaba staffer from returning to her own rental apartment for days because she was from out-of-town. She lived and worked from a colleague’s apartment, sending a selfie to her boss every morning to prove she was logged on and raring to go. She’s only allowed to leave her temporary quarters once every three days.“There’s no such thing as counting overtime hours at Alibaba,” said the 27-year-old who goes by Lilac but wouldn’t allow the use of her last name for fear of reprisal. “You have to check messages on DingTalk whenever it rings.”What Bloomberg Intelligence SaysAlibaba’s sales may contract in its core China retail marketplaces and local services business in the coming quarter even if the coronavirus outbreak subsides, as logistic and production disruptions faced by merchants could take time to resolve.\- Vey-Sern Ling and Tiffany Tam, analystsClick here for the research.Read more: ‘Nightmare’ for Global Tech: Virus Fallout Is Just Beginning An Alibaba spokesperson said the company was helping merchants cope. Streams on Taobao Live, where brands and merchants showcase products to prospective shoppers, have more than doubled since the start of February, the company said in a messaged statement.“On our platforms and throughout our ecosystem, we’ve rolled out measures to mitigate much of the pain being felt by merchants and to restore ‘normalcy’ through technology,” the spokesperson said.Longer term, any hit to China’s economy will of course wallop consumer spending across the board -- regardless of whether it’s virtual or physical goods. That means Tencent and ByteDance get hammered too.But Alibaba has an ace up its sleeve. Its cloud computing arm is China’s leader and the foundation for much of a post-outbreak surge in online activity -- the virtual piping of increasingly digital businesses. Though barely a tenth of revenue at present, it’s been growing at 60%-plus year-on-year even before the epidemic.Their own warnings aside, investors know better than to count the company out. During the SARS epidemic of 2003, Alibaba not only remained operational despite stringent quarantine measures, it successfully launched Taobao from Ma’s apartment -- the online shopping platform that catapulted the company into the stratosphere.\--With assistance from Lulu Yilun Chen.To contact the reporters on this story: Zheping Huang in Hong Kong at firstname.lastname@example.org;Claire Che in Beijing at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at firstname.lastname@example.org, Edwin Chan, Colum MurphyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- 58 Home, the maid and home-maintenance service owned by China’s Craigslist equivalent 58.com Inc., has delayed its planned U.S. initial public offering, according to people familiar with the matter, as the coronavirus outbreak cripples customer demand.The company’s pre-IPO financing round -- a private fundraising effort that started late last year -- also hasn’t been completed, said the people, who asked not to be named because the information is private. The IPO had been expected to take place in the first half of the year.Shares of 58.com Inc. fell 4.9% in New York trading, the biggest decline since September.The 58 Home’s move adds to the list of IPO setbacks amid the virus outbreak. Restaurant operator Daikiya Group Holdings Ltd. on Wednesday canceled its first-time share sale in Hong Kong, while Chinese biotech firm InnoCare Pharma Ltd. has postponed investor meetings for its planned listing in the financial hub.Read: Virus Hits World’s No.1 IPO Market as Investor Meetings ScrappedThe virus has killed at least 1,355 people in China as of Thursday. People across the nation have been minimizing personal contact for fear of contracting the disease, hurting 58 Home’s on-demand services including part-time cleaners and home handymen.“Obviously, the virus outbreak has affected home and cleaning services -- that entire sector has almost been brought to a standstill,” 58 Home said in a statement. “Our short-term revenue will be affected.”The firm declined to comment on its IPO and fundraising plans.The company added it is facing a severe shortage of maids, and 30 million people in the home and cleaning-services sectors could lose their jobs if the outbreak continues.Workers StrandedMany workers are still stranded in their hometowns, where they traveled for Lunar New Year celebrations, and haven’t been able to return to major cities after the authorities curtailed travel to try to contain the virus.To ensure the health of maids who work on its platform, 58 Home has been logging their travel history, and offering masks and temperature checks.Locally known as 58 Daojia, the company has been seeking funds to bankroll an expansion into China’s competitive online services arena. It was aiming for a valuation of as much as $2 billion in a U.S. IPO.58 Home is one of China’s leaders in helping people connect online with services from flower delivery to home cleaning. Backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd., it’s vying against deeper-pocketed rivals such as Meituan Dianping and businesses operated by e-commerce leader Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. All are targeting a slice of a market for physical, on-demand services that are being disrupted by online technology.58.com’s unit raised its last private funding round in 2015, garnering $300 million from investors including Alibaba, KKR & Co. and Ping An Group. Parent 58.com holds 68.8% of the company’s equity interest but doesn’t consolidate the unit’s financials in its own results, according to its annual filing.(Updates to add 58.com Inc. share price in third paragraph)To contact the reporters on this story: Lulu Yilun Chen in Hong Kong at email@example.com;Dong Cao in Beijing at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Candice Zachariahs at email@example.com, Peter Vercoe, Fion LiFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The decision to exclude shares of China's biggest e-commerce company from a cross-border trading link is a blow to Hong Kong. Is it a punishment, or simple self-interest at work? The answer matters, both for the city’s exchange and for Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.Alibaba can’t be included in the stock connect program linking Hong Kong with the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges at present, Bloomberg News reported Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter. China’s securities regulator has yet to agree to rule changes proposed by Hong Kong Stock Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. that would allow the internet company to participate, one of the people was cited as saying.Granted, the Jack Ma-founded internet giant doesn’t qualify under the stock connect program’s existing arrangements, which exclude companies that have secondary listings with weighted voting rights. These were already in place before New York-listed Alibaba raised $13 billion selling shares in Hong Kong late last year.But exceptions have already been made. In October, China allowed companies with dual-class shares to join the connect, giving investors in the mainland access to Hong Kong-listed technology companies Xiaomi Corp. and Meituan Dianping. Rules can be changed when there is the desire to do so.Clearly, that was the expectation among investors here. The notice on dual-class shares was posted by the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges in mid-October and took effect Oct. 28. Three days later, Alibaba was reported to be planning its secondary listing in Hong Kong the following month. The shares started trading Nov. 26.Investors in Alibaba’s Hong Kong stock will have a right to feel short-changed if the shares lose steam as a result. They dropped as much as 2.5% after the Bloomberg News story published, before recovering to close little changed. Alibaba has rallied more than 20% since its debut in Hong Kong, at least partly on anticipation that the stock will draw a wall of money from mainland Chinese investors who wouldn’t otherwise be able to buy.The lack of support for Alibaba to join the stock connect is a severe blow to Hong Kong’s aspirations of marketing itself as the offshore listing venue of choice for Chinese technology companies, in an environment where the U.S. has become increasingly inhospitable and businesses are considering their options. Trip.com Group Ltd. and Netease Inc. are among U.S.-listed Chinese enterprises that are said to be looking at listing in Hong Kong. Bankers have talked of pitching other names including JD.com Inc. and Baidu Inc.The prospect of acquiring an enthusiastic mainland investor base that would help to buoy valuations is a key selling point for those who might be tempted to decamp from a U.S. exchange. If Alibaba — a marquee name with a $578 billion market capitalization — can’t get the nod, what’s the hope for any of the others?More worrying for Hong Kong is what the reluctance may say about China’s support for the city, as it contemplates the hit to its own economy from the coronavirus epidemic. HKEX, after all, is a competitor as well as a partner with the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges. If Hong Kong becomes too attractive a venue for China’s leading companies, that may hold back development of the mainland’s markets.In 2018, Hong Kong relaxed its listing rules to admit unprofitable technology companies, competing with the U.S. and making the exchange even more alluring to Chinese hopefuls than the Shanghai and Shenzhen markets. In turn, Shanghai introduced the tech-focused Star Board in July, a Chinese answer to the Nasdaq that accepts money-losing companies with weighted voting rights. After a lively start, the board’s performance has been underwhelming. It has drawn few big names and has thin turnover.All may not be lost. Smartphone maker Xiaomi had been public in Hong Kong for 15 months before it joined the connect, while food-delivery app Meituan had to wait 13 months. HKEX and Alibaba will have to hope this is the slow arm of bureaucracy rather than the cold shoulder. To contact the author of this story: Nisha Gopalan at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Matthew Brooker at email@example.comThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Nisha Gopalan is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering deals and banking. She previously worked for the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones as an editor and a reporter.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Investors betting on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s inclusion in a program allowing mainland Chinese investors to buy its shares in Hong Kong could be in for a disappointment.China’s largest e-commerce company, valued at HK$4.56 trillion ($587 billion) in Hong Kong, can’t be included in the stock connect program linking the Asian financial hub with Chinese investors at present, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified as the discussions are private.The exclusion of companies with secondary listings and weighted voting rights from the program was part of an arrangement agreed to by the mainland and Hong Kong exchanges before Alibaba’s Hong Kong debut last year, the people said. The Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong exchanges haven’t agreed to make an exception or revise the agreement for Alibaba, though that could change in the future, they said.With the bourses competing to draw the listings of local firms already floated in the U.S., allowing companies in Alibaba’s position into the program would run contrary to Beijing’s ambitions of developing its mainland exchanges, particularly as unrest grips Hong Kong. Other Chinese firms -- among the country’s largest corporations, from JD.com Inc. to Baidu Inc. -- may then be encouraged to also pick Hong Kong, bypassing the Shanghai or Shenzhen bourses.The Hong Kong Stock Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. has proposed changes to the China Securities Regulatory Commission, which hasn’t yet made a decision to revise the previous arrangement, one of the people said.Companies with weighted voting rights and a secondary listing are not currently included in the stock connect and there’s been no precedent for such a move, a Hong Kong Exchange spokesman said in response to questions on the agreement. “We look forward to discussing the potential for this with relevant parties in the future,” he said. “More generally, HKEX is not in the habit of banning things that it considers positive for the market.”Alibaba is not among the current batch of companies to be included in the stock connect, said a separate person, adding that the list will be updated on Feb. 17.Representatives for Alibaba and the Shanghai Stock Exchange declined to comment. Shenzhen Stock Exchange and China’s stock market watchdog, the China Securities Regulatory Commission, didn’t immediately reply to emails seeking comment.Alibaba’s landmark $13 billion secondary listing in Hong Kong last year was in part spurred by expectations that it would attract a vast pool of capital from its home country if included in the stock connect.In the Hong Kong offering, Alibaba preserved its governance structure: Granting a partnership of top executives the right to nominate a majority of board members. That system falls broadly into the definition of having weighted voting rights in Hong Kong.Alibaba’s shares are up about 20% since the November listing, prompting other U.S.-listed technology companies including Trip.com to look at a secondary listing in Hong Kong, people familiar have said. Alibaba fell as much as 2.5% in Hong Kong Tuesday, the biggest drop in two weeks, before paring losses. In the past, China has green-lit companies with weighted voting rights that conducted primary share sales in Hong Kong to join the stock connect program. For example, food delivery giant Meituan Dianping and smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp. joined in late October. Chinese firms with dual class shares started listing in July on Shanghai’s new tech-focused Star board.(Updates with shares)\--With assistance from Kiuyan Wong and Lucille Liu.To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Evelyn Yu in Shanghai at firstname.lastname@example.org;Lulu Yilun Chen in Hong Kong at email@example.com;Steven Yang in Beijing at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Candice Zachariahs at email@example.com, Jonas Bergman, David ScanlanFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Beijing resident Anna Wang, 30, is a habitual user of food delivery apps, usually ordering meals and milk tea online every week even though her company provides free meals to employees at an on-site restaurant.That changed about 10 days ago, with the increasing spread of a novel coronavirus that has killed almost 500 people, with more than 24,500 cases reported as of Wednesday.Working from home as recommended by the local government, Wang no longer orders daily meals online: "It could be a risk as the food may contain viruses and contact with the couriers may also cause infection," she said.Instead, she orders deliveries of fresh vegetables and raw produce for meals cooked at home by her parents. While this still entails some contact with couriers, Wang said each order lasts her family about four days compared to having to order cooked food for each meal.They also minimise the potential risk of infection from visiting crowded markets to buy groceries. "We are trying to avoid contact [with others] as much as we can," she said.Wang is one of the many regular users of food delivery services in China, which has one of the biggest on-demand delivery industries in the world. The market for food and grocery deliveries was projected to grow 30 per cent to reach 604 billion yuan (US$86 billion) last year, more than four times its value five years ago, according to a report issued in August by market researcher Trustdata.Food delivery apps in China had an estimated 400 million monthly active users " about 30 per cent of the country's population " in the third quarter last year, up 14 per cent from a year ago, according to a separate report published in November by Trustdata.But the coronavirus outbreak in China has cast a shadow over the booming industry. A sick courier in Shenzhen worked for 14 days before he was diagnosed with the disease, while four staff at a fast-food restaurant in Chongqing were also infected with the virus, according to local reports.The rapidly spreading respiratory illness has resulted in more deaths in China than the Sars epidemic in 2003.Li Zhanlin, a 34-year-old full-time delivery worker for food ordering app Meituan Dianping, said there have been fewer orders this Lunar New Year holiday from January 24 to February 2."The average number of daily orders this holiday has been around 20 to 30, but it was around 50 to 60 during the previous Lunar New Year holiday," he said. "I think it's because many restaurants are closed and customers don't like to order food during the epidemic."There is generally lower activity on delivery apps during the Lunar New Year period each year as fewer couriers work, many food outlets close and customers go on holiday, according to Yang Xu, senior analyst at research firm Analysys."This time [with the influence of the epidemic] the amount of activity is even lower, and the slow period might be longer", she said. "Closed restaurants and extended public holidays out of fears for the coronavirus could bring even more damage for the industry."A Ele.me delivery driver waits to cross the pedestrian crossing in the Futian district in Shenzhen. Photo: SCMP / Roy Issa alt=A Ele.me delivery driver waits to cross the pedestrian crossing in the Futian district in Shenzhen. Photo: SCMP / Roy IssaHowever, delivery platforms are making adjustments for the unexpected situation, Yang said. Meituan is working with banks to provide loans to restaurants that need support to stay afloat, while Alibaba Group's Ele.me has offered commission reductions to restaurants across the country. Alibaba Group is the parent company of the Post.In response to changes in demand from customers, the delivery platforms are also expanding beyond cooked meals to provide deliveries of medicine and groceries.A Meituan spokeswoman said that sales on the app's grocery delivery service, Meituan Maicai, were two to three times higher than usual in Beijing during the Lunar New Year public holiday. Li said around 70 per cent of the orders he receives every day are now grocery orders, whereas they used to be mostly meal deliveries.Amid fears among customers such as Wang about getting infected through contact with food couriers, Meituan and Ele.me, the two largest delivery platforms in China, are also launching contactless delivery services across the country.The feature allows users to have their food delivered to a designated area, where they can pick up their orders without interacting with the courier in person. Both companies declined to comment on how the outbreak has affected their businesses.Although couriers risk exposure to the virus through their interactions with restaurant staff and customers, Li said he is not considering switching careers for now.Meituan has been distributing facial masks and disinfectant to couriers, which he feels are sufficient protection measures, he said. The platform is also giving him subsidies which boost his earnings to up to 900 yuan (US$129) a week " "not bad", in his view.And despite the challenges the industry is currently facing, Yang is optimistic about its longer-term outlook: "If the epidemic can be contained in the first quarter, I believe the industry performance will recover in the second quarter of this year, and sales in 2020 could be at least the same as last year's," she said.Sign up now for our 50% early bird offer from SCMP Research: China AI Report. The all new SCMP China AI Report gives you exclusive first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments, and actionable and objective intelligence about China AI that you should be equipped with.This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2020 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved. Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
(Bloomberg) -- Sign up for Next China, a weekly email on where the nation stands now and where it's going next.The deadly coronavirus is disrupting China’s enormous food-delivery networks, complicating daily life for millions and straining businesses integral to its economy.Over the last decade, the food-delivery industry became far more pervasive in China than in any other country, serving more than 500 million customers and employing three million delivery drivers. But as the virus death toll rises, those peripatetic workers, in trademark blue and yellow jackets, are being shunned as potential carriers of the disease.That is rattling the $36 billion business and every slice of the economy it touches. Restaurants that rely on the services are moribund. Consumers are scrambling for alternatives.“I’ve stopped ordering delivery food because the epidemic is really serious now and it freaks me out,” says 25-year-old Cathy Liu, who lives in Beijing and used to order in once or twice a week. “You don’t know the people who make the food, how well it’s protected in the delivery process. Especially those carriers, they are dangerous as they come in contact with a lot of people every day and that definitely increases the chance that they may be infected.”Meituan Dianping and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., the two biggest delivery companies, are racing to address the health concerns, not only to protect their businesses but also to help millions of citizens under government lockdown. School and business closures present a potential windfall -- if companies can reassure consumers. During the SARS scare of 2003, people got hooked ordering stuff online while being forced to stay home from public places.But reports of sick couriers are turbocharging anxieties, amplified by concern that China’s censors minimize the dangers. In one story that ripped through social media, a driver made three dozen deliveries across the coastal city of Qingdao before his wife was officially diagnosed with the virus. In Shenzhen, local media reported an infected courier had worked for the previous 14 days while showing no symptoms.Many building complexes have halted access to food delivery drivers, and some communities have restricted entry to all outsiders. Restaurants say orders are in free fall and consumers say delivery fees have increased, sometimes double what they were before the outbreak.Meituan and Alibaba’s Ele.me, which command 90% of the market, declined to comment on the health of individual workers. But they highlighted measures they’re taking to protect drivers and customers. Meituan introduced a service across 184 cities so food is dropped at a secure pickup station and people have no direct contact with deliverymen. Ele.me has done the same in select cities. Both companies are asking riders to wear masks, regularly disinfect their delivery boxes and take their temperatures daily.In the disease’s epicenter of Wuhan, where 11 million residents have been quarantined, Ele.me said it’s providing subsidies for drivers, while reducing restaurant commission rates, according to a Weibo post. Complicating the situation is that delivery staff for both companies are usually contractors, rather than employees.The virus will hurt Meituan and Ele.me in the short term as restaurants stay closed for a few weeks after the Lunar New Year holiday and consumers get used to so-called contactless delivery, says Bernstein internet analyst David Dai. However, in the “mid- to long-term, the epidemic will accelerate the penetration of food delivery,” he said. Shares of Alibaba and Meituan have sunk 7% and 13% respectively since Jan. 15, alongside a selloff in Chinese stocks.Coco Gao, a 24-year-old Zhejiang native and Beijing transplant made her way home to a province that reported more than 700 confirmed cases. Now she can’t walk in or out of her building complex without having her temperature checked by a guard. Recently, designated food delivery drop-off spots have cropped up with “No touch” signs.“These are good for both the drivers and customers alike,” said Gao. “For those who are isolated at home, takeout is particularly important. But this also reflects a sense of economic class hierarchy that the rich are at home and the service staff have to sacrifice their health in order to earn money.”Indeed, a 27-year-old Beijing driver from Gansu who delivers food for Meituan said worries over contracting the virus are making him reconsider his job altogether. “I thought of quitting but I need the money,” said the man, who asked to be identified by his surname Shi, as he dropped off a rice and pork dish at an apartment complex in Beijing while wearing a pink surgical mask.Shi said he bought the mask on his own because those provided by Meituan were of poor quality.As Beijing’s massive gated apartment complexes have begun blocking their entrances to delivery drivers, he says it’s getting harder to know where he can and can’t go. That could mean an increase in the time it takes him to deliver and a potential pay cut if he doesn’t work quickly enough.It also means rising complaints from customers who aren’t aware of the new restrictions. “They ask us to come up, but we have no way of doing so,” he said.Conditions were already tough for China’s delivery drivers, most of whom are young men from the countryside without university degrees. Drivers take in less than $1 an order and make an average 25 deliveries a day, up from 17 three years ago. As they rush to get takeout boxes to customers on time, safety is an issue beyond the virus. In Shanghai, authorities said delivery drivers accounted for 80% of road accidents in the first half of last year.Any delay in delivery could end up dinging drivers in the future due to algorithms the companies use to maximize delivery speeds, “so they are doubly under pressure to work in these conditions.” said Geoffrey Crothall, director of communications at China Labor Bulletin, an advocacy group that tracks labor conditions within industries across the country.The delivery driver scare has already hit China’s restaurants, where fears of contracting the virus coupled with an extended new year’s holiday have turned usually bustling outlets dark.At theFive restaurant in Beijing’s Wangfujing district, one eatery specializing in Henan cuisine reduced its opening hours by half as walk-in customers fell by about 90%, said Wang Liang, a 26-year old waiter. He said delivery orders have dropped precipitously as people think it’s safer to buy groceries and cook themselves.“I really can’t say if things will improve,” Wang said, “The spread of the virus has been pretty quick.”\--With assistance from Lulu Yilun Chen and Livia Yap.To contact the reporters on this story: Shelly Banjo in Hong Kong at firstname.lastname@example.org;Claire Che in Beijing at email@example.com;Kari Lindberg in Hong Kong at firstname.lastname@example.org;Colum Murphy in Beijing at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at firstname.lastname@example.org, Edwin ChanFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Another blowout quarter for Amazon.com Inc. earnings spurred a 10% jump in its shares in post-market trading, pushing the retail giant’s value past $1 trillion. To gauge just how powerful Amazon.com Inc. truly is, though, look beyond its market cap, top-line sales or membership revenue and look at the so-called Amazon Tax.This is how much the company gets from asking merchants to pay, in the form of advertising, for the privilege of being noticed by consumers.The concept of an Amazon Tax is not new. Stratechery writer Ben Thompson talked about an AWS Tax four years ago. At that time, he was describing the e-commerce company’s cloud-services business and its membership service. And my former Bloomberg Opinion colleague Shira Ovide wrote about advertising as a toll last year. But what was once a minor category for Amazon has become its fastest-growing business. For the 12 months ended December, the revenue category it describes as “other,” which is largely ads, climbed 39%, outpacing both AWS and subscriptions for at least the fifth consecutive quarter. At its current trajectory, advertising revenue may catch up to subscriptions within two years. The idea of a retailer leaning on advertising isn’t unique to Amazon. People often describe Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. as the Amazon of China. This is largely inaccurate. Alibaba, through its Taobao Marketplace platform, is primarily an ad-driven business.Advertising in the retail space can be tough to pull off because companies can only make money from ads if they have enough eyeballs to sell to advertisers that want to reach them. Those with muscle, such as retail chains, often leverage their size by forcing suppliers to cut their wholesale prices. Alibaba can lean on advertising because, over two decades, it has built a ubiquitous shopping platform that sellers regard as imperative for their businesses. It also carries little of its own inventory, making wholesale discounting less of an option.Once on the platform, vendors are told that if they want any chance of being noticed by Alibaba’s nearly 700 million Chinese customers, they’ll need to buy ads. It’s “fear of missing out” writ large. This kind of pay-for-play model has recently started working at Chinese delivery company Meituan Dianping, which turned profitable in the middle of last year thanks in large part to its ability to extract advertising revenue from food vendors.By comparison, Amazon is relatively new to the pay-for-play business, but it’s making up for lost ground. It’s also important to distinguish it from commissions, a fee Amazon takes only when it helps vendors sell a product on its site. The “other” category now accounts for 5% of total revenue, up from 2.6% two years ago. But to get any idea of its leverage over sellers, consider how much it derives from ads compared with all retail revenue. That figure climbed to 6.6% for the 12 months to December, more than double what it was two years ago. Amazon’s ability to get customers to pay for the privilege of shopping is often seen as the strength of its platform. Recent data from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimates that the company has 112 million Amazon Prime customers in the U.S., accounting for 65% of shoppers in the December quarter. That’s true retail muscle.But a real measure of power is how desperate vendors are to be noticed by those customers, and how much Amazon can extract from them to provide such an opportunity. To contact the author of this story: Tim Culpan at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Niemi at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tim Culpan is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. He previously covered technology for Bloomberg News.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- There’s never a good time for the outbreak of a deadly virus, but this one is particularly bad. China’s Lunar New Year is often dubbed the world’s largest migration, a stretch of weeks when hundreds of millions of people visit their families. Before the pandemic started spreading, officials were expecting 3 billion airplane and train trips during the holiday rush between Jan. 10 and Feb. 18. Millions more have gone abroad.Little wonder, then, that the travel industry is suffering. With the death toll up to 25 and more than 800 infected, tourists are staying home. Some have no choice: The government has put seven cities on lockdown and airports are stepping up screening measures. On Friday, China ordered all travel agencies to suspend sales of domestic and international tours.Shares of China Southern Airlines Co. – the carrier most exposed to the site of the outbreak – have slid 14% since the second death from the virus was confirmed, while Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., which said it would waive fees for tickets to and from the mainland, has slumped 7.6%. The country’s largest online travel agency, Trip.com Group Ltd. has tumbled 12%.If the SARS outbreak of 2003 is any guide, things could get even worse. In May of that year, Chinese air passenger traffic fell 71%, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Bernstein Research cited concerns of a repeat outcome when it cut Trip.com’s rating one notch to “market perform” earlier this week. The Nasdaq-listed company, which changed its name from Ctrip.com last year, issued a statement Thursday saying it would refund travelers who’ve been diagnosed, or those in close touch with them.The hope is that, like SARS, the turbulence will eventually pass. For Trip.com, however, the business challenges are bigger than the coronavirus. In recent years, the company has struggled to keep up with competition from digital rivals like Meituan Dianping and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.Few travel companies have benefited more from China’s transition to the world’s biggest source of tourists in 2012. Despite the trade war and Hong Kong’s protests,(3) China’s outbound tourism numbers have continued to rise. According to Euromonitor International, 108.39 million overseas trips were taken last year, a 9.5% gain, after surging 11.7% in 2018. Trip.com now makes up a quarter of its total sales from outbound Chinese visitors, from under 15% five years ago, reckons Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Vey-Sern Ling.But the hotel-booking sector is getting crowded. Meituan Dianping has recently overtaken Trip.com as China’s top site, just five years after the food-delivery giant started dabbling in the business. Meituan now has 47% of China's market, ahead of Trip.com, with 34%, according to TrustData. Now, Meituan is moving further into Trip.com’s territory with luxury hotels, while chains like Marriott International Inc. are pushing for direct booking on their China websites. Alibaba said part of the $13 billion it raised from its Hong Kong listing in November would go toward fliggy.com, its online travel group site.If there’s any lesson to be gleaned from all this, it’s the benefit of diversification. While China’s superapp business model has arched some eyebrows (how can one company possibly provide digital payments, taxis, food delivery, massages and pet grooming?) there’s a decent case to be made for having some crisis-proof subsidiaries. Consider AirAsia Group Bhd, Southeast Asia's most successful budget airline, which is setting up a regional fast food franchise.Plans could already be underway for Trip.com to diversify its investor base, with the company discussing plans to go public in Hong Kong, Bloomberg News reported earlier this month. Here, Alibaba is a successful model. With its second listing, the company is now closer to its Chinese end-users, and Alibaba’s New York-listed stock has soared 14%.The four-month span of the SARS outbreak shows how quickly things can turn around: While China’s growth dipped in the second quarter of 2003, it swiftly resumed in the following months. Given how much more important the Chinese shopper is to the economy now, the damage could be more painful. A 10% fall in discretionary transportation and entertainment could shave 1.2 percentage points from China’s growth domestic product, according to “back of the envelope” estimates by S&P Global Inc. Hong Kong retailers and restaurants, just coming off the pain of last year's protests, were already suffering. For those companies that enjoyed the fast-rising Chinese consumer, it may be time to devise a plan B. (Updates to include China’s measures to suspend travel-agency sales.)(1) Hong Kong, followed by Macau, are the top two destinations of mainland Chinese travelers.To contact the author of this story: Nisha Gopalan at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachel Rosenthal at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Nisha Gopalan is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering deals and banking. She previously worked for the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones as an editor and a reporter.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Hong Kong is missing an opportunity to displace the U.S. as an offshore listing venue for Chinese companies by keeping trading fees too high. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s $11 billion offering in November showed the potential for the city’s stock exchange to attract U.S.-listed mainland enterprises amid an unsettled trade relationship between the two largest economies. Relatively expensive costs threaten to undermine that appeal.Investors get more for their dollar when they trade on the New York Stock Exchange. In Hong Kong, bid-ask spreads are wider and minimum investment requirements are higher. That increases the chance of so-called slippage, when there is a difference between the expected price of a trade and the level at which it is actually executed. With zero stamp duty and lower minimum trade requirements, the NYSE has a more favorable environment for active investors.Alibaba’s Hong Kong trading volume has slumped since the internet giant made its debut on the local exchange. On Nov. 26, shares valued at the equivalent of about $1.79 billion changed hands. Since mid-December, that figure has dropped to a daily average of about $322 million. The Hong Kong listing has made no dent in Alibaba’s stock trading in New York, where volume has averaged $3.2 billion since late November.To be sure, trading costs are by no means the only factor — or even the main one — in deciding where to buy and sell. To begin with, the U.S. is a more deep and liquid market. It has other advantages, including a more active and developed options market that gives traders more ways to hedge or speculate on stocks. That said, Hong Kong could do a better job of rolling out the welcome mat.Since losing out to New York for Alibaba’s record $25 billion initial public offering in 2014, Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. has made a number of rule changes to enhance its viability as a platform for technology startups from China and elsewhere. In April 2018, the exchange amended its provisions to admit companies with dual-class shares. Smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp. and internet services company Meituan Dianping listed soon after, demonstrating that when HKEX makes smart decisions, the exchange benefits.More U.S.-traded Chinese companies are looking at Hong Kong for potential secondary listings. They include travel services provider Trip.com Group Ltd., formerly known as Ctrip; game and website operator Netease Inc.; web search provider Baidu Inc.; and e-commerce giant JD.com Inc. The way is open for Hong Kong to create a new offshore ecosystem for U.S.-listed Chinese companies seeking better positioning for the mainland while hedging their bets against a renewed deterioration in the U.S.-China relationship after the phase one agreement was signed this month.It makes little sense to squander this opportunity by maintaining trading costs that are a major barrier to entry. The Hong Kong government and the exchange must work together to make dual listing opportunities both beneficial and attractive to companies while encouraging investors to trade here. However, HKEX regulators seem to have their heads in the sand when it comes to reducing fees and the minimum buy-in to entice more companies. That may be a reflection of its monopoly status: Unlike the NYSE, which must compete with Nasdaq, HKEX has no local rival.Reducing fees would lower the barrier to entry for active investors and increase trading volume. As I wrote in September, cutting stamp duty would help improve liquidity and make Hong Kong stocks more attractive to retail and institutional investors. The ripple effect from this would further strengthen Hong Kong’s position as a global financial center. It’s time for the government and exchange to look beyond the immediate impact of reduced revenue and consider the long term. To contact the author of this story: Ronald W. Chan at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Matthew Brooker at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Ronald W. Chan is the founder and CIO of Chartwell Capital in Hong Kong. He is the author of “The Value Investors” and “Behind the Berkshire Hathaway Curtain.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.