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E.g., 2019-02-17
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    Fathom China

    Yirendai: Strategic Retreat

    Yirendai ranks among China’s top companies in the troubled industry of online peer-to-peer lending, or P2P. Its platform puts together individual borrowers and lenders, and charges high fees. To protect consumers from usurious interest rates and Ponzi schemes, Beijing has passed a spate of regulations that are driving smaller firms out of business. Yirendai will likely rank among the survivors but with limited room for growth. The company’s...

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    Tencent Games: Culture Industry Under Pressure

    The Chinese government in March 2018 stopped approving new online games. The cessation hurts Tencent Holdings (“Tencent”), which earns 37% of its revenue from games. A government restructuring that has clogged the approval pipeline is widely misunderstood. It is part of the Communist Party’s tightening grip on the audio-visual industry, including games. Game approvals will resume when the current phase of grip-tightening is complete, which is...

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    Autobio: Solid Reputation, Tight Executive Group

    Autobio Diagnostics is poised to benefit from China’s booming healthcare services industry. The company has a good reputation but a few odd points. It has escaped controversy in an industry that is beset by scandal, although Fathom China thinks it should do a better job of explaining why its reported gross margins are so high.

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    Dali Foods: Consumers Want More

    Dali Foods Group (“Dali Foods”) is a large family-controlled maker of snack foods and drinks. It is known as a copycat that develops inexpensive me-too products, promotes them with celebrity-based marketing campaigns, and distributes them to lower-income consumers across vast swathes of China. Yet Dali Foods’ target demographic is shrinking as incomes rise, and even lower-end consumers are now looking for higher-quality fresh and healthy foods....

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    Huayi Bros: Refocusing On Film

    Privately run Huayi Brothers Media (“Huayi Bros”) was established in the 1990s by two brothers and still ranks among China’s most creative and successful moviemakers. The rise of China’s film industry over the past decade has forced changes in company strategy. Huayi Bros once enjoyed very close ties with China’s most creative directors and actors. As that talent increasingly sought work elsewhere, Huayi Bros responded by buying companies owned...

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    58.com: Strong Position In Online Listings

    Attached is our report on China’s leading online listings business, 58.com, sometimes called the Craigslist of China. The company is in a strong position. It faces no major competitors in its two main business lines: real estate and blue-collar recruitment. Management looks steady. A series of restructurings raised concerns but 58.com seems to have come through well. This is one of Fathom China’s more upbeat reports.

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    YY: Contending With Short Video

    Attached is our report on China’s pioneering livestreaming company, YY, which faces new challenges. The biggest is the quick rise of popular apps that share short videos and compete for eyeballs among YY’s user demographic. At the same time, more livestreaming competitors force YY to share more revenue with its hosts. Oddly, government crackdowns on livestreaming and short videos work to YY’s advantage by forcing its more adventurous competitors...

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    BYD: New Subsidy Regime, New Battery Challenger

    The world’s biggest maker of battery-powered vehicles, BYD, faces a tricky transition. Markets for the private company’s electric vehicles, or EVs, have long been driven by government subsidies for buyers. Beijing is curtailing subsidies for buyers in favor of incentives to boost supply. If Beijing’s scheme succeeds, BYD will almost certainly benefit. If not, then BYD will face a setback just as pressure from other EV makers grows. Meanwhile,...

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    Beijing Enterprises Water Group: Local Finance Faces Freeze

    Beijing Enterprises Water Group (“BEWG”) is China’s biggest water treatment company. The state-owned firm builds facilities to clean the water that flows into homes and factories, and to treat the sewage that flows out. It has also moved into restoring waterways that suffered heavy pollution during China’s 40-year industrial boom. Although state-owned, BEWG’s leaders come from an entrepreneurial private company acquired in 2008. Key to BEWG’s...

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    Hollysys: Beset By Challenges

    Hollysys Automation Technologies (“Hollysys”) makes systems that control industrial processes such as power plants, rail lines and petrochemicals. The former state-owned firm was privatized and taken public through a reverse merger. Hollysys faces stiff challenges. It earns much of its revenue from small to mid-sized coal-fired power plants that are under pressure to close, and its railway systems face strong competitive pressure. The company is...

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    CITS: Ringing The Register At Duty Free

    China International Travel Service (“CITS”) is China’s biggest operator of duty-free stores. It is the listed arm of state-owned China National Travel Service Group (“CNTS Group”), which recently merged with a state-owned competitor. CITS entered duty-free in 1984, then in 2014 expanded the segment.

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    Kweichow Moutai: New Markets Replace Old

    State-owned Kweichow Moutai (“Moutai”) is China’s top maker of premium baijiu, the world’s most-consumed spirit. Moutai’s phenomenal brand is linked with quality, success and the Communist Party. And its fiery drink, also called Moutai, confers more status than any other China-made product. Moutai faced a crisis in 2012 when a crackdown on corruption and official extravagance hurt revenue. Through price cuts and broader distribution, Moutai...

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    China Dairy: Mengniu Turns Sour, Yili Looks Creamy

    China’s dairy industry is dominated by two giants who together control 33% of the market: China Mengniu Dairy (“Mengniu”) and Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group (“Yili”). Both face the twin problems of low milk prices and slow milk-consumption growth. The two seem to be converging from very different backgrounds. Mengniu started as a freewheeling private firm but was brought under government control; Yili started as a state-owned company but...

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    Baidu: Dumping Its On-Demand Business

    Rumors say Baidu will sell off its on-demand services, ending its forays into offline business.

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    Fathom China

    Online Lottery: Hoping The Ban Lifts

    China’s online lottery is forbidden fruit—juicy and banned. Selling online lottery products, including sports gambling, will almost certainly enable whatever companies receive a license to hit the revenue jackpot. The consensus opinion of people who profess to know the government’s thinking is that the 2015 ban will end, but when is anybody’s guess. Few expected it to last this long. Two companies will likely stand at the front of the line for...

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    Fathom China

    Dong-E E-Jiao: China’s Fad For Pricey Donkey Skins

    Dong-E-E-Jiao (“Dong-E”) is China’s leading maker of ejiao, a traditional Chinese blood-strengthening medicine made from gelatinized donkey skins. The product is consumed mostly by women, who eat it in sweet little pieces or mixed into tea. Dong-E has been riding a boom in the traditional medicine market as increasingly wealthy Chinese people seek healthy lifestyles. The company has successfully targeted the premium market, enabling it to raise...

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    Chinese Accounting Firms: Take That Grain Of Salt

    China’s stock market watchdog recently punished two of China’s biggest auditing firms for helping clients cook their books, and the problem doubtless runs much deeper.

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    Fathom China

    Zhejiang Supor: Business Is Cooking

    Zhejiang Supor (“Supor”) makes kitchen products. It is China’s biggest maker of cookware like pots, woks and pressure cookers, and is also a leading maker of appliances like rice cookers and soy-milk makers. Supor is controlled by French giant Groupe SEB (“SEB”), and is key to SEB’s strategy of collecting international brands and moving factories to China. Supor is SEB’s outsourced manufacturer, with about a third of production going to exports...

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    LotSynergy: Clinging To A Contract

    The main business of China LotSynergy Holdings until 2015 was to supply video lottery terminals – basically slot machines – to China’s lottery. Then LotSynergy lost its exclusive supply contract amid a corruption scandal in which top lottery officials vanished into detention. LotSynergy says it has the right of first refusal when the contract opens up for tender but Fathom China is skeptical.

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    AAC Technologies: Assessing A Short Attack

    This Fathom China report assess a short-side attack on a Chinese firm. Fathom China has conducted no original research; our goal is instead to assess whether the attack has substance. Gotham City Research (“Gotham”) has issued two reports saying Shenzhen-based AAC Technologies Holdings (“AAC”) has used undisclosed related-party transactions to pad its margins. At the time this report was distributed, AAC had not responded to the accusations....

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    Lens: Market Leader Has A Small Client Base

    Lens Technology (“Lens”) is a leading maker of protective glass covers for mobile phones. The company was founded by a legendary entrepreneur, a rare self-made woman in an industry dominated by men. The company’s strength lies in making a low-tech product at huge scale. The technology is changing and Lens is playing catch-up to the next big thing—curved glass covers appearing on high-end handsets. Handset giants Apple and Samsung are Lens’s...

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    Fathom China

    Man Wah: Bubba Goes To Beijing

    Man Wah Holdings (“Man Wah”) came from nowhere to dominate the US market for “motion upholstery,” otherwise known as reclining furniture. Family-run Man Wah operates vertically integrated furniture factories and sells under its own brand, Cheers. When its low-priced, innovative products hit US markets around 2007, they were just what American couch potatoes wanted, and revenue soared. Recent competition from Chinese rivals has forced Man Wah to...

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    Fathom China

    Hikvision: Creating Incentives

    In an effort to spur executives to explore new industries, Hikvision creates an incentive plan that seems well balanced.

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    Inovance: Expanding Into New Markets

    Shenzhen Inovance Technology (“Inovance”) is a leader in industrial automation control products for middle- to high-end manufacturers. The private company’s main product is an “inverter” that switches direct current to alternating current. The biggest market for Inovance’s inverters is elevators in buildings, and Inovance has also moved into more sophisticated devices such as motor-control components for battery-powered vehicles. Inovance stands...

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    Baidu: Head Of Troubled Unit Sacked For Kickbacks

    In a sign of Baidu’s floundering effort to expand its business beyond search advertising, the company has sacked the head of Nuomi, its once high-flying platform for on-demand services similar to Yelp.

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    China Lodging: Facing Angry Franchisees

    China’s second-biggest hotel chain, China Lodging Group (“China Lodging”) is well run and has a sound expansion plan. The company’s franchise model has allowed it to grow fast and meet strong demand for low-priced hotels; now it is moving into mid-priced hotels. Yet China Lodging faces a big new challenge: angry and empowered franchisees. The company’s franchisees in mid 2016 created a collective-bargaining organization and launched street...

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    Great Wall: Steering Through New Regulations

    China’s leading SUV maker could be hurt by changing regulations that encourage fuel-efficient cars, especially cars powered by batteries.

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    Netease: Dividend Obstacles Surmountable

    The Chinese government has shown no inclination to block dividend payments by overseas listed firms, although Internet companies should make sure their main assets do not lie within variable-interest entities.

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    Fathom China

    iFlytek: The Product Is Sound

    iFlytek is China’s leading maker of speech software, which involves the advanced fields of machine learning and artificial intelligence. The firm licenses its technology to clients,such as makers of mobile phones who need Siri-like voice-activated command systems. iFlytek has not succeeded in selling consumers products of its own. Its academic approach to business, overseen by a stable corps of executives, has yielded terrific research but the...

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    Yunnan Baiyao: New Shareholder’s Plans Under Wraps

    A leading state-run company making traditional medicine has fallen into the hands of a billionaire entrepreneur who failed to acquire the firm in 2009, and whose plans for his new prize remain hidden.

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    Fathom China

    Xinyi Solar: Sunny Year Ahead

    Xinyi Solar Holdings (“Xinyi Solar”) is China’s biggest maker of glass for solar cells, which are arrayed into solar panels to generate power from the sun. The company was in 2013 spun off from Xinyi Glass Holdings (“Xinyi Glass”), the subject of a related Fathom Profile in January 2017. Family-run Xinyi Solar is well managed and enjoys a good reputation, and its political connections run to the highest level of the Communist Party. Its clients...

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    Fang Holdings: Home Seller’s Business Needs Renovation

    Fathom China’s negative assessment in May 2015 of Fang Holdings holds up about as well as the online home-sales company’s strategy looks dilapidated, and aggrieved former clients are now enjoying the last laugh.

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    Xinyi Glass: Strong Company, Fragile Market

    Xinyi Glass Holdings (“Xinyi Glass”) ranks among China’s top glass makers. Its main product is float glass, most of which is sold directly to construction companies. Some of Xinyi Glass’s float glass is also processed into higher-margin products such as insulated or tinted construction glass, or automobile glass. Family-run Xinyi Glass is well managed and enjoys a good reputation. Its main challenges are external – the float glass industry is...

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    Toread: Too Many Business Adventures

    Toread Holding Group (“Toread”) is China’s biggest brand of outdoor products including jackets, boots and tents. Sales have stagnated, forcing Toread to close many of its stores. Recent events suggest that franchisees may hold excess inventory. In an effort to find new markets, the ambitious family-run company has launched a multi-brand strategy for its outdoor gear, and expanded quickly into new businesses. It has invested heavily in travel...

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    Huishan Dairy: Short Attack Looks Accurate

    A well-known short seller has accused Huishan Dairy of fraud, prompting Fathom China to review its reports on Huishan Dairy – and find that our earlier work revealed Huishan Dairy’s problems and vulnerabilities.

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    51job: Waiting For Upstarts To Wither

    51job is China’s biggest online job-recruitment website, and one of its oldest. Its market share is shrinking due to competition from specialized websites, or “verticals,” that target specific industries. Yet thanks to fast growth in the online recruitment market, 51job’s revenue is expanding and its leading position in the industry looks secure in the short term. The company turned profitable in 2002 and now earns two-thirds of its revenue...

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    Dali Foods Recalls Tainted French Bread

    A top snack-food maker has recalled its French bread for excessive bacteria, damaging the company’s reputation.

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    Spring Airlines: Clear Skies For Budget Airline

    Spring Airlines is China’s first and biggest budget airline, focusing on flights in southern China. Budget carriers in China took to the air only in 2005, when the government first allowed private investment in airlines. Revenue at privately owned Spring Airlines is rising fast for its international routes but falling for domestic routes. One reason is that Spring Airlines is not price-competitive on its top domestic routes but is less expensive...

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    Sifang Automation: The Local Challenge

    Beijing Sifang Automation (“Sifang Automation”) is a leading maker of hardware and software that helps transmit electricity. It faces some concentration risk as it derives around 80% of its revenue from the two state-run companies that operate China’s electrical grid. Sifang Automation faces a slow but steady decline in revenue in its most important product segment. The cause of the decline seems related to shifts in government spending on grid...

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    China Biologic: The Quest For More Plasma

    China Biologic Products (“China Biologic”) ranks among China’s biggest makers of plasma products in a nation with a severe shortage of a key raw material: human plasma. Raw plasma comes from paid donors and is converted into products that treat blood disorders. Donors are sadly few because of the stigma of poverty and the lingering effects of past health scandals. Yet two recent changes bode well. First, the government lifted price caps on...

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    Han’s Laser: Focusing On Higher Power

    Han’s Laser Technology Industry Group (“Han’s Laser”) is China’s biggest maker of laser machines. Such machines use lasers to engrave, etch, cut or weld things like metal, plastic and leather.

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    Tencent: Rising Fast In Mobile Payments

    Tencent’s fast-rising mobile payment system, Weixin Pay, is a boon to Tencent and threatens Alipay’s dominance of mobile online payments.

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    BYD: Topping The List Of Illicit Subsidy Recipients

    Unverified online sources indicate that BYD received more in illicit subsidies than any other Chinese maker of battery-powered buses, although the company seems likely to escape punishment.

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    Beingmate: Struggling With Its Formula

    Beingmate Baby & Child Food (“Beingmate”) is a well-known maker of infant formula that faces trouble from many directions. Revenue and profits have fallen each year since 2013, when Beingmate slashed prices following a price-fixing investigation. Efforts to expand beyond infant formula have been disappointing. Accounts receivable are high as Beingmate has extended credit to its distributors, cash is low, and the company has churned through...

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    Ctrip: Dominating A Changing Industry

    Ctrip.com International (“Ctrip”) stands as China’s unrivaled online travel agency, or OTA. The well-run company’s purchase of Qunar Cayman Islands (“Qunar,” pronounced CHOO-nar) in late 2015 neutralized a top rival and ended a profit-killing price war. Government regulations have led to big changes in the market. The country’s state-owned airlines want to direct ticket buyers away from agencies and OTAs and toward their own sites. Although that...

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    BYD: More Competition In Buses, A Forced Marriage In Batteries

    China’s biggest maker of battery-powered vehicles faces increased competition in its hometown stronghold of Shenzhen, but should benefit from a forced marriage with a battery-making subsidiary of Samsung Group.

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    Sanan Optoelectronics: Seeking Brighter Markets

    Sanan Optoelectronics (“Sanan”), is China’s biggest maker of LED chips used in lighting systems. Based in coastal Fujian province, the private company grew quickly with strong government support. It is vertically integrated - it makes the semiconductor material used as the base of LED chips, LED chips themselves, and lights that use LED chips. A challenge facing the company is a glutted chip market and declining prices. Sanan is trying to climb...

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    Yunnan Baiyao: Product Expansion Falters

    Yunnan Baiyao Group (“Yunnan Baiyao”) is a rare state-owned company that competes at the premium level against foreign brands. Located in remote Yunnan province, Yunnan Baiyao is well known for its traditional Chinese medicine remedies that use a herbal compound, baiyao, to stop bleeding in minor wounds. The company has expanded successfully into toothpaste and bandages and had grand ambitions for other personal-care products like shampoo and...

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    BYD: Subsidies Spark Electric Car Sales

    After years of false starts, BYD is China’s top seller of battery-powered passenger cars and a respectable number five in battery-powered buses. The big-talking private company, which also makes traditional cars and batteries, can thank the government for creating the market. But BYD faces many challenges. Fickle government subsidies to buyers have caused market havoc. Scams are rampant, with cities collecting subsidies for ghost fleets and...

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    TBEA: Power Politics On The New Silk Road

    TBEA builds power transmission equipment, power grids and solar farms, mostly in China’s west. The large private company has ridden the immense wave of development in China’s electric power industry over the last 20 years. It stands to gain further from China’s funding of development in neighboring Central Asia. Beijing’s Belt-and-Road Initiative, designed to help its inland neighbors build power grids and other marvels of heavy industry, will...

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