China Business Digest: China Vows to Expand Covid-19 Testing; Chinese Steel Mills’ Profit Halved
Chinese leaders pledge to expand virus testing to support recovery of social life, while another study suggests links between Covid-19 and air pollution. Beijing plans to step up relief for the poor, unemployed and underinsured. And top-tier cinema operator Wanda Film reports a massive loss for 2019.
— By Isabelle Li (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Han Wei (email@example.com)
** ON THE CORONAVIRUS
China calls for massive coronavirus tests
China pledged to conduct massive nucleic acid and antibody testing for the novel coronavirus as the country pushes to return public life to normality, according to a central government meeting Wednesday chaired by Premier Li Keqiang.
Leaders at the meeting called for faster testing, increased supply of testing kits and expanded coverage of tests to help contain the virus as businesses picks up the pace of recovery.
Study shows Covid-19 is particularly dangerous to people with heart, kidney problems
The risk of death from Covid-19 is higher for those with acute heart and kidney injuries, a recent study published in the journal Research has found.
The study, penned by a team from China’s Zhejiang University, also found that “preexisting chronic conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, and diabetes are strongly associated with an increased risk of developing severe COVID-19.” The study did not find a correlation between chronic liver disease and a heightened risk of severe Covid-19 symptoms.
Singapore to extend strict virus measures till June 1
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced Tuesday that the country will extend its nationwide coronavirus control measures until June 1.
Besides continuing the country’s coronavirus “circuit breaker” beyond the original May 4 deadline, Lee said the government would direct more medical resources to migrant worker dormitories and close more workplaces.
The number of cases reported in the city-state has spiked recently, with several clusters appearing in such dormitories. The country has had over 10,000 confirmed cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
30 people test positive on flight from Moscow to Xi’an
A flight from Moscow brought 30 Covid-19 infections into Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province, according to a Wednesday update from local health officials.
The flight was originally scheduled to go to Beijing, but landed in Xi’an Monday morning. Among the 30 infections, 23 were confirmed cases, mostly Chinese businessmen working in Russia. The rest were asymptomatic carriers, including a flight attendant infected during the flight.
The remaining 166 people on the flight have been put under centralized quarantine.
Beijing steps up disease control measures after Covid-19 cluster emerges
Beijing will carry out mandatory nucleic acid testing on several broad categories of people and will extend self-quarantine periods from two weeks to three to guard against a resurgence of the deadly disease.
The heightened disease control measures came after the capital’s Chaoyang district, a major commercial center, reported a cluster of Covid-19 infections triggered by an imported case.
The case emerged earlier this month when a Chinese student who returned from the United States tested positive and infected three family members. Authorities over the weekend designated the district as China’s only high-risk zone for Covid-19.
Other virus news
• Scientists in Italy detected the RNA of the novel coronavirus on particulate matter in the atmosphere, suggesting links between the outbreak and air pollution.
• China recorded 30 new patients on Tuesday, 23 of those imported and the others all local infections in northeastern Heilongjiang province, the nation’s health authority said.
• As of Wednesday evening Beijing time, global infections reached over 2.58 million, with over 178,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Caixin’s coverage of the new coronavirus
** TOP STORIES OF THE DAY
Chinese steel companies’ first-quarter profit plunges
Major steel companies in China reported more than a 50% drop in their combined net profit in the first quarter to 18.3 billion yuan ($2.59 billion), according to the China Iron and Steel Association.
Steelmakers maintained steady production during the quarter but were hurt badly by sliding steel prices amid weakening demand caused by the pandemic.
State shipbuilder inks record LNG carrier deal with Qatar Petroleum
China State Shipbuilding Corp. Limited (CSSC) signed a 20 billion yuan ($2.8 billion) deal with Qatar Petroleum to construct liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers, the company said Wednesday. If fully implemented, the deal will be the largest order received by Chinese shipbuilders.
China to step up support to poor people and smaller businesses
China’s central government plans to step up relief and support measures for the poor, underinsured, and unemployed, Premier Li Keqiang said at a meeting Tuesday in Beijing.
The meeting convened by the State Council, China’s cabinet, also pledged to strengthen financial services for small and micro businesses and to lower small and mid-size banks’ required loan-loss provision ratios, among other measures.
China to lower small and midsize banks’ loan-loss provision coverage ratios
China will temporarily lower the required ratios of provisions for losses from nonperforming loans for small and midsize banks by 20 percentage points, China’s State Council said in a statement.
Zeng Gang, a deputy director of the National Institution for Finance and Development, a government-linked think tank, said that the latest policy can reduce some small and midsize banks’ regulatory compliance costs and help them better support the real economy.
Chinese banks’ bad loans rise in first quarter
Chinese banks saw their bad debts grow in the first three months of the year, the country’s banking watchdog said Wednesday.
The nonperforming loan ratio rose to 2.04% at the end of March, up 0.06 percentage points from December, even as lenders agreed to delay 880 billion yuan ($124 billion) in repayments on loans to smaller businesses and rolled over 576.8 billion yuan of debt in the period, Bloomberg reported.
Baidu vice president under investigation for corruption
Baidu Inc. Vice President Wei Fang has been reported to the police for corruption following an internal investigation by the company’s anti-graft committee, the Chinese tech giant announced Tuesday in an internal statement. Wei had been involved in overseeing the company’s financial matters.
China pledges more support for the poor and unemployed
China’s central government plans to step up (link in Chinese) relief and support measures for the poor, underinsured and unemployed, Premier Li Keqiang said at a meeting Tuesday in Beijing.
The meeting convened by the State Council, China’s cabinet, also pledged to strengthen financial services for small and micro businesses and to lower small and midsize banks’ required loan-loss provision ratios, among other measures.
Wanda Film’s losses triple in 2019
Major Chinese theater operator Wanda Film Holding Co. Ltd. said it lost over 4.7 billion yuan in 2019 (link in Chinese), three times more than the previous year.
The Shenzhen-listed company’s annual report, released Tuesday night, also disclosed plans to raise up to 4.35 billion yuan by issuing more stocks, which will go to fund more theater construction and pay down debt.
Wanda Film’s revenue in 2019 was about 15.4 billion yuan, down 5.23% from 2018.
** OTHER STORIES MAKING THE HEADLINES
• Alibaba-owned Hong Kong newspaper the South China Morning Post announced it was cutting the pay of its top management to “to help it weather the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic”
• Huaxia Life Insurance is encouraging some senior executives, especially those aged over 45, to take unpaid leave for up to three years “to start their own businesses,” as it faces growing operational and profit pressures amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
• Ma Xin, a vice president of policy lender the China Development Bank, is set to become a vice governor of East China’s Jiangsu province.
• Chinese liquor giant Kweichow Moutai Group reported (link in Chinese) net profit grew 17% to 41.2 billion yuan in 2019.
• The China operations of Starbucks, KFC and Papa Johns each announced (link in Chinese) in the past few days their own plans to introduce products made with plant-based meat alternatives.
** AND FINALLY
Online learning has taken off in China during the Covid-19 epidemic, with many of the country’s schools closed for over two months. However, a study by the China Development Research Foundation, a nonprofit affiliated with China’s State Council, found that the trend may be widening the gap between urban and rural students (link in Chinese). Just 7.3% of students in the countryside said they owned a computer and almost half said they couldn’t attend livestreamed classes due to a shortage of equipment and family support.
Contact reporter Isabelle Li (firstname.lastname@example.org) and editors Yang Ge (email@example.com) and Joshua Dummer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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