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How Chinese enterprises solve financial difficulties in overseas investments

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By Andy Busch, Global Currency and Public Policy Strategist, BMO Capital Markets

With the growth and development of the Chinese economy, there has been a corresponding growth and interest for Chinese firms and investors to expand their operations and investments overseas. From 2002-2009, Chinese outbound direct investment has been growing at an average of 54% annually. In 2009, the country ranked first amongst developing nations in terms of direct investment and is likely at the top in 2011 as well. There are three main groups involved: the governmental level, the corporate level and the retail investor level. For this article, I will contain my comments to the enterprise level.

andy bush
Andy Busch,
Global Currency and
Public Policy Strategist,
BMO Capital Mark

Enterprises or corporations have numerous reasons for desiring to invest overseas. First, these firms may want to gain access to outside markets to expand their sales reach globally. Second, they may want to gain access to technology, intellectual property and talent to expand their capabilities and knowledge. Third, they may want to gain access to stable supplies of commodities and energy that can’t be met domestically. Lastly, these firms may want access to foreign markets to diversify their products to enable a more stable stream of income sources. All are legitimate reasons for Chinese firms to increase their overseas investments.

There are many complicating factors facing Chinese firms who want to invest overseas. There is the domestic regulatory process, there is the foreign regulatory process, and there is the foreign exchange process. All three may slow the investment sequence down and put Chinese firms at a disadvantage over foreign firms competing in the same space.
For Chinese outbound investment, the domestic approval process for a domestic firm has several layers that need to be navigated. Outbound capital account transactions in China require government approval and are closely regulated. As well, these firms usually rely on domestic bank financing for their outbound investments and this is regulated as well. The time frame for securing these approvals has recently been streamlined, but can still be lengthy for specific financial transactions such as M&A and may put Chinese firms at a disadvantage when competing with firms that don’t have similar regulatory structures.

For example, a Chinese incorporated firm with domestic funding needs to receive approvals before an off-shore investment can be made. Generally, this starts with an approval by the National Development and Reform Commission for the overseas investment project,then it moves to the Ministry of Commerce for transaction documentation, and finally ends at the State Administration for Foreign Exchange for the currency. The process can take from two to three months.

Also, the foreign regulatory process can either lengthen the process or stop it altogether. As an example, Chinese firms are unable to borrow funds offshore and therefore need to borrow from domestic Chinese banks. If a Chinese firm borrows from a policy bank such as the China Development bank or the Export and Import Bank of China, foreign governments (and competitors) have sometimes viewed these as unfair subsidies. Also if the acquisition is deemed to be in a sensitive sector such as telecommunications or energy, the investment may draw the interest of politicians who want to protect these companies from being acquired.

There may also be the fear of losing their “national champions” to foreign companies.The attempt of China National Offshore Oil Corp’s failed bid to buy US Unocal is an example of what can happen when a large, high profile investment is attempted. Also, the recent European Commission review of the DSM and Sinochem joint venture is illustrative of foreign regulators closely examining proposed deals with Chinese State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). All of these examples complicate and slow outbound investment for Chinese firms.

Lastly, the controls on the capital account and on foreign exchange present another area for Chinese firms to navigate. China’s stated goal is to move towards capital account convertibility of the RMB. Given the rapid flow of funds out of emerging markets during the 1997 Asian currency crisis, China is still concerned about the potential risks to the Chinese financial system and economy should cross border flows be completely free. However, China has recently embarked on a new plan to internationalize the use of the RMB for international trade and finance while it remains inconvertible for capital account transactions.

Internationalization of the RMB has numerous positive attributes for Chinese firms:

  • Reducing foreign exchange risks for Chinese firms by pricing foreign trade in RMB; reducing fluctuation of capital by having a greater proportion of bank assets in RMB; reducing the availability risk or liquidity risk of foreign currency and permitting the use of RMB as a lending currency of last resort.
  • Strengthening the competitiveness of Chinese financial institutions because of greater access to a large pool of RMB assets. Boosting cross-border transactions by using RMB to settle trade transactions.
  • Permitting seigniorage (the difference between the face value of paper currency issued by the government and the cost of printing the money — the “profits” from printing money), although this is deemed a secondary benefit.
  • Preserving the value of Chinese savings, by making it more likely that a greater portion of the national “balance sheet” will be held in RMB denominated assets rather than depreciating foreign currency denominated assets.

All are important positives, but all take time to develop. What’s truly unusual about the current program is that China is attempting to implement the RMB first as a unit of account, a medium of exchange and as a store of value prior to having the currency float freely. China hopes to achieve the goals of facilitating Chinese international trade, making Chinese financial institutions more competitive and more active in international markets, and permitting the Chinese government the same “exorbitant’ privilege that the United States had in the US Dollar being the international reserve currency: the US would not face a balance of payments crisis, because it purchased imports in its own currency.

When it comes to the currency, Chinese enterprises also face the risk of trade sanctions and protectionism over the perceived under valuation of the RMB.Foreign countries believe that China manages its currency to the benefit of its exporters and to the detriment of foreign competitors. Given the large Chinese trade surplus with the United States, this risk of trade protectionism has risen to an acute stage. On this subject, President Barack Obama said “China has been very aggressive in gaming the trading system to its advantage and to the disadvantage of other countries, particularly the United States.” At the APEC conference in November of 2011, President Obama stated that the United States is growing impatient over the issue of the currency.

On October 17th, the United States Senate passed legislation letting companies seek duties to compensate for a weak Chinese Yuan.The Senate bill mandates that the Treasury Department identify misaligned currencies, instead of deciding whether a currency was manipulated, as is now required. Governments that undervalue their currencies and don’t take corrective action would face penalties, including increased dumping duties, a ban on federal procurement in the U.S. and ineligibility to receive financing form the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

Fortunately, the legislation still needs to be passed in the US House of Representatives where many are circumspect over the bills value. Speaker of the House John Boehner stated, “To force the Chinese to do what is arguably very difficult to do I think is wrong, it’s dangerous. Given the economic uncertainty around the world, it’s just very dangerous and we should not be engaged in this.”Should this bill be passed, it is unlikely to survive if it is brought before the WTO. However, the process could take up to 2 years before the law would be suspended and Chinese companies compensated.

Ironically on October 12th, President Obama just signed into law free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, authorizing the most significant expansion of trade relations in nearly two decades. The agreement with South Korea is designed to break down barriers between the United States and the world’s 15th-largest economy.  At the APEC conference, President Obama said he was optimistic a trade pact called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could draft a legal framework for a free trade bloc in the Asia-Pacific region. The Financial Times reports that the focus of the TPP is on non-tariff barrier issues, including government procurement, the conduct of state-owned companies, regulatory convergence and protection of intellectual property. The nine nations of US, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile and Peru are included with Japan stating its interest to join the discussions. At the APEC conference in Hawaii, Chinese President Hu Jintao said that China supported the TPP and said, “China supports the goal of the regional integration of the Asia-Pacific economy, using the East Asian free trade zone, full economic partnerships in Asia and the Trans-Pacific Partnership as foundations.”Clearly, a free trade pact that includes China will be most likely beneficial for Chinese enterprises as it reduces the risk of trade wars and reduces barriers to their exports.

Overall, the challenges for overseas investments by Chinese enterprises remain high.  From domestic regulation to foreign regulation to a closed capital account, all of these generate elongated time horizons for outbound Chinese investment. Also, the RMB currency program is seen as a potential catalyst for trade sanctions that further complicates the investment choices for Chinese firms. Clearly, any steps taken in the direction to reduce trade barriers and reduce friction between countries will enhance Chinese firms’ ability to invest overseas.

To learn how BMO Capital Markets can help you achieve your ambitions, email us at [email protected], or visit www.bmocm.com/fx for a list of contacts in your area.

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How has the online trading landscape changed in 2020?

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How has the online trading landscape changed in 2020? 1

By Dáire Ferguson, CEO, AvaTrade 

This year has been all about change following the outbreak of coronavirus and the subsequent global economic downturn which has impacted nearly every aspect of personal and business life. The online trading world has been no exception to this change as volatility in the financial markets has soared.

Although the global markets have been on a rollercoaster for some time with various geopolitical tensions, the market swings that we have witnessed since March have undoubtedly been unlike anything seen before. While these are indeed challenging times, for the online trading community, the increased volatility has proven tempting for those looking to profit handsomely.

However, with the opportunity to make greater profits also comes the possibility to make a loss, so how has 2020 changed the online trading landscape and how can retail investors stay safe?

Lockdown boost

Interest rates offered by banks and other traditional forms of consumer investments have been uninspiring for some time, but with the current economic frailty, the Bank of England cut interest rates to an all-time low. This has left many people in search of more exciting and rewarding ways to grow their savings which is indeed something online trading can provide.

When the pandemic hit earlier this year, it was widely reported that user numbers for online trading rocketed due to disappointing savings rates but also because the enforced lockdown gave more people the time to learn a new skill and educate themselves on online trading.

Dáire Ferguson

Dáire Ferguson

A volatile market certainly offers great scope for profit and new sources of revenue for those that are savvy enough to put their convictions to the test. However, where people stand the chance to profit greatly from market volatility, there is also the possibility to make a loss, particularly for those that are new to online trading or who are still developing their understanding of the market.

The sharp rise in online trading over lockdown paired with this year’s unpredictable global economy has led to some financial losses, but with a number of risk management tools now available this does not necessarily have to be the case.

Protect your assets

Although not yet widely available across the retail market, risk management tools are slowly becoming more prevalent and being offered by online traders as an extra layer of security for those seeking to trade in riskier climates.

There are a range of options available for traders, but amongst the common tools are “take profit” orders in conjunction with “stop loss” orders. A take profit order is a type of limit order that specifies the exact price for traders to close out an open position for a profit, and if the price of the security does not reach the limit price, the take profit order will not be fulfilled. A stop loss order can limit the trader’s loss on a security position by buying or selling a stock when it reaches a certain price.

Take profit and stop loss orders are good for mitigating risk, but for those that are new to the game or who would prefer extra support, there are even some risk management tools, such as AvaProtect, that provide total protection against loss for a defined period. This means that if the market moves in the wrong direction than originally anticipated, traders can recoup their losses, minus the cost of taking out the protection.

Not a day has gone by this year without the news prompting a change in the financial markets. Until a cure for the coronavirus is discovered, we are unlikely to return to ‘normal’ and the global markets will continue to remain highly volatile. In addition, later this year we will witness one of the most critical US presidential elections in history and the UK’s transition period for Brexit will come to an end. The outcome of these events may well trigger further volatility.

Of course, this may also encourage more people to dip their toes into online trading for a chance to profit. As more people take an interest and sign up to online trading platforms, providers will certainly look to increase or improve the risk management tools on offer to try and keep new users on board, and this could spell a new era for the online trading world.

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Trading Strategies

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Trading Strategies 2

By Paddy Osborn, Academic Dean, London Academy of Trading

Whether you’re negotiating a business deal, playing a sport or trading financial markets, it’s vital that you have a plan. Top golfers will have a strategy to get around the course in the fewest number of shots possible, and without this plan, their score will undoubtedly be worse. It’s the same with trading. You can’t just open a trading account and trade off hunches and hopes. You need to create a structured and robust plan of attack. This will not only improve your profitability, but will also significantly reduce your stress levels during the decision-making process.

In my opinion, there are four stages to any trading strategy.

S – Set-up

T – Trigger

E – Execution

M – Management

Good trading performance STEMs from a structured trading process, so you should have one or more specific rules for each stage of this process.

Before executing any trades, you need to decide on your criteria for making your trading decisions. Should you base your trades off fundamental analysis, or maybe political news or macroeconomic data? If so, then you need to understand these subjects and how markets react to specific news events.

Alternatively, of course, there’s technical analysis, whereby you base your decisions off charts and previous price action, but again, you need a set of specific rules to enable you to trade with a consistent strategy. Many traders combine both fundamental and technical analysis to initiate their positions, which, I believe, has merit.

Set-up

What needs to happen for you to say “Ah, this looks interesting! Here’s a potential trade.”? It may be a news event, a major macro data announcement (such as interest rates, employment data or inflation), or a chart level breakout. The key ingredient throughout is to fix specific and measurable rules (not rough guidelines that can be over-ridden on a whim with an emotional decision). For me, I may take a view on the potential direction of an asset (i.e. whether to be long or short) through fundamental analysis, but the actual execution of the trade is always technical, based off a very specific set of rules.

To take a simple example, let’s assume an asset has been trending higher, but has stopped at a certain price, let’s say 150. The chart is telling us that, although buyers are in long-term control, sellers are dominant at 150, willing to sell each time the price touches this level. However, the uptrend may still be in place, since each time the price pulls back from the 150 level, the selling is weaker and the price makes a higher short-term low. This clearly suggests that upward pressure remains, and there’s potential to profit from the uptrend if the price breaks higher.

Trigger

Once you’ve found a potential new trade set-up, the next step is to decide when to pull the trigger on the trade. However, there are two steps to this process… finger on trigger, then pull the trigger to execute.

Paddy Osborn

Paddy Osborn

Continuing the example above, the trigger would be to buy if the price breaks above the resistance level at 150. This would indicate that the sellers at 150 have been exhausted, and the buyers have re-established control of the uptrend.  Also, it is often the case that after pause in a trend such as this, the pent-up buying returns and the price surges higher. So the trigger for this trade is a breakout above 150.

Execution

We have a finger on the trigger, but now we need to decide when to squeeze it. What if the price touches 150.10 for 10 seconds only? Has our resistance level broken sufficiently to execute the trade? I’d say not, so you need to set rules to define exactly how far the price needs to break above 150 – or for how long it needs to stay above 150 – for you to execute the trade. You’re basically looking for sufficient evidence that the uptrend is continuing. Of course, the higher the price goes (or the longer it stays above 150), the more confident you can be that the breakout is valid, but the higher price you will need to pay. There’s no perfect solution to this decision, and it depends on many things, such as the amount of other supporting evidence that you have, your levels of aggression, and so on. The critical point here is to fix a set of specific rules and stick to those rules every time.

Management

Good trade management can save a bad trade, while poor trade management can turn an excellent trade entry into a loser. I could talk for days about in-trade management, since there are many different methods you can use, but the essential ingredient for every trade is a stop loss. This is an order to exit your position for a loss if the market doesn’t perform as expected. By setting a stop loss, you can fix your maximum risk on a trade, which is essential to preserving your capital and managing your overall risk limits. Some traders set their stop loss and target levels and let the trade run to its conclusion, while others manage their trades more actively, trailing stop losses, taking interim profits, or even adding to winning positions. No matter how you decide to manage each trade, it must be the same every time, following a structured and robust process.

Review

The final step in the process is to review every trade to see if you can learn anything, particularly from your losing trades. Are you sticking to your trading rules? Could you have done better? Should you have done the trade in the first place? Only by doing these reviews will you discover any patterns of errors in your trading, and hence be able to put them right. In this way, it’s possible to monitor the success of your strategy. If your trades are random and emotional, with lots of manual intervention, then there’s no fixed process for you to review. You also need to be honest with yourself, and face up to your bad decisions in order to learn from them.

In this way, using a structured and robust trading strategy, you’ll be able to develop your trading skills – and your profits – without the stress of a more random approach.

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Economic recovery likely to prove a ‘stuttering’ affair

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Economic recovery likely to prove a ‘stuttering’ affair 3

By Rupert Thompson, Chief Investment Officer at Kingswood

Equity markets continued their upward trend last week, with global equities gaining 1.2% in local currency terms. Beneath the surface, however, the recovery has been a choppy affair of late. China and the technology sector, the big outperformers year-to-date, retreated last week whereas the UK and Europe, the laggards so far this year, led the gains.

As for US equities, they have re-tested, but so far failed to break above, their post-Covid high in early June and their end-2019 level. The recent choppiness of markets is not that surprising given they are being buffeted by a whole series of conflicting forces.

Developments regarding Covid-19 as ever remain absolutely critical and it is a mixture of bad and good news at the moment. There have been reports of encouraging early trial results for a new treatment and potential vaccine but infection rates continue to climb in the US. Reopening has now been halted or reversed in states accounting for 80% of the population.

We are a long way away from a complete lockdown being re-imposed and these moves are not expected to throw the economy back into reverse. But they do emphasise that the economic recovery, not only in the US but also elsewhere, is likely to prove a ‘stuttering’ affair.

Indeed, the May GDP numbers in the UK undid some of the optimism which had been building recently. Rather than bouncing 5% m/m in May as had been expected, GDP rose a more meagre 1.8% and remains a massive 24.5% below its pre-Covid level in February.

Even in China, where the recovery is now well underway, there is room for some caution. GDP rose a larger than expected 11.5% q/q in the second quarter and regained all of its decline the previous quarter. However, the bounce back is being led by manufacturing and public sector investment, and the recovery in retail sales is proving much more hesitant.

China is not just a focus of attention at the moment because its economy is leading the global upturn but because of the increasing tensions with Hong Kong, the US and UK. UK telecoms companies have now been banned from using Huawei’s 5G equipment in the future and the US is talking of imposing restrictions on Tik Tok, the Chinese social media platform. While this escalation is not as yet a major problem, it is a potential source of market volatility and another, albeit as yet relatively small, unwelcome drag on the global economy.

Government support will be critical over coming months and longer if the global recovery is to be sustained. This week will be crucial in this respect for Europe and the US. The EU, at the time of writing, is still engaged in a marathon four-day summit, trying to reach an agreement on an economic recovery fund.  As is almost always the case, a messy compromise will probably end up being hammered out.

An agreement will be positive but the difficulty in reaching it does highlight the underlying tensions in the EU which have far from gone away with the departure of the UK. Meanwhile in the US, the Democrats and Republicans will this week be engaged in their own battle over extending the government support schemes which would otherwise come to an end this month.

Most of these tensions and uncertainties are not going away any time soon. Markets face a choppy period over the summer and autumn with equities remaining at risk of a correction.

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