CX Daily: A Year On, a Quieter Outbreak Still Sickens Thousands in China's Lanzhou City
Cover Story: A year on, a quieter outbreak still sickens thousands in northwest China
Several people from the Yanchangbao neighborhoods around the Lanzhou Biopharmaceutical Plant told Caixin they started showing symptoms including low fever and joint pain around September for unknown reasons. It wasn’t until a Dec. 26 briefing held by the Gansu Provincial Health Commission and the Lanzhou city government that they realized they could have been exposed to brucellosis.
Caixin learned that by the end of February, about 20,000 people in Lanzhou received tests for antibodies for the Brucella bacterium. More than 3,000 were confirmed with positive results. Local authorities said the leak caused by the biopharmaceutical plant contained low levels of bacteria that wouldn’t damage people’s health and would be shed from the human body within six months.
However, Caixin interviews with 40 Yanchangbao residents who tested positive for the disease found that nearly half of them were still suffering various symptoms a year after the leak. Only two of those interviewed were officially diagnosed with brucellosis. Those without doctors’ confirmed diagnoses said they were puzzled about treatment options and the severity of their infection.
FINANCE & ECONOMICS
The Beijing headquarters of the People's Bank of China.
Financial holding companies /
China creates new rules for financial holding companies, Ant Group now included
Are you a Chinese company outside the finance industry that owns two or more financial institutions? Well, the central government just decided that you are going to have to get registered as a financial holding company to comply with a slate of new rules.
The new rules (link in Chinese), released Sunday by the State Council — China’s cabinet — and the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), aim to bring nonfinancial companies, including Ant Group Co. Ltd., into the financial fold. At a Monday briefing about the new rules, PBOC Deputy Governor Pan Gongsheng noted that “some nonfinancial companies have expanded blindly, causing risks to mount.”
The rules — set to take effect on Nov. 1 — require such companies to have at least 5 billion yuan ($731 million) in registered capital to qualify to be licensed as financial holding companies. Nonfinancial companies that control commercial banks with assets in excess of 500 billion yuan must be registered as financial holding companies, according to the rules.
Bleeding cash and deep in debt, chipmaker Tsinghua Unigroup sees bond prices plummet
The dollar bonds of state-owned chipmaker Tsinghua Unigroup Co. Ltd. have fallen steeply in recent weeks as investors worried about the money-losing firm’s ability to repay billions in debt coming due in the second half of the year.
The value of a $1.5 billion bond due next year fell nearly a quarter from mid-August to 68.07 cents on the dollar, edging up 0.47% on Friday after 22 consecutive days of decline. Two other bonds due in 2023 and 2028 have seen their dollar values fall by almost one-third this month.
Investors are concerned about the company’s ability to meet its bond obligations in the second half, which amount to $5 billion.
Land sales /
Developers buy less land as property crackdown continues
Following the latest government effort to limit the amount of money flowing into property developers’ hands and to curb financial sector risk, an unusual situation has emerged — land sales are slowing even as property sales are accelerating.
Previously, when real estate sales grew, cash-rich developers would load up on extra debt to buy land. “This logic has undergone some changes under current policy pressure,” an anonymous senior executive at a real estate developer said.
Quick hits /
Editorial: Making renting a home less arduous will help fix China’s housing market
BUSINESS & TECH
TikTok to partner with Oracle, Walmart as Microsoft deal collapses
China’s popular music video app TikTok entered a business partnership with Oracle Corp. in hopes of satisfying the Trump administration's national security concerns and avoiding a business ban, diverting a plan to sell its U.S. operations as demanded by President Donald Trump.
Oracle “will serve as the trusted technology provider” in the deal, the American cloud services giant said Monday in a statement. The partnership is part of a proposal that TikTok owner ByteDance submitted to the Treasury Department over the weekend, Oracle said.
TikTok will also partner with retail giant Walmart in e-commerce, Caixin learned from sources close to ByteDance management. It is unclear how the ownership of TikTok will be restructured under the partnerships. Walmart didn't comment.
JD.com’s fintech affiliate seeks 20 billion yuan in STAR Market listing
E-commerce giant JD.com Inc.’s fintech affiliate Jingdong Digits Technology Holding Co. Ltd. filed an application to list on Shanghai’s Nasdaq-style STAR Market.
It hopes to raise about 20.4 billion yuan ($3 billion), according to a prospectus filed Friday. Guotai Junan Securities Co. Ltd. and Minmetals Securities Co. Ltd. are joint underwriters of the IPO.
According to the prospectus, the unit operates independently of JD.com, with the biggest, controlling shareholder being JD.com founder Richard Liu. In the first half of 2020, JD Digits’ revenue reached 10.3 billion yuan with a net loss of 670 million yuan. The company’s revenue and net profit fluctuated widely over the past three years, the prospectus said.
Shenzhen taps China's homegrown GPS to impose order on bike sharing chaos
China’s new homegrown navigation satellite system will power a pilot program in Shenzhen to regulate bike-sharing, taking advantage of its precise location tracking to solve the problem of messy bike-share parking in unpermitted areas.
The experiment is part of Beijing’s push for wider adoption and commercialization of the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System in the country’s location service industry, which is expected to exceed 400 billion yuan ($58.5 billion) in value by year-end.
With guidance from the city’s transportation bureau, shared bikes in certain parts of Shenzhen will need to be installed with BeiDou modules, which would display nearby parking spots managed by bike-sharing companies, Caixin has learned. Users will have to park them within virtually fenced parking spots at the end of their trip, disabling the bicycle’s lock until the user puts it in a permitted location.
China expected to become world’s biggest buyer of 5G smartphones this year
China is expected to be the biggest purchaser of 5G smartphones in 2020, as the country accelerates the deployment of its 5G infrastructure.
Some 172 million 5G smartphones will be sold in China this year, accounting for about 62% of the global total, according to a report by research firm Canalys, which looked at the combined figures for the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Canalys attributed the expected sales to the rapid commoditization of 5G smartphones on the Chinese mainland and Chinese handset makers’ efforts to launch cheaper phones compatible with 5G networks.
Quick hits /
Smaller watches show China’s growing hold on luxury industry
Kai-Fu Lee’s remarks set off firestorm about facial recognition
Beijing eyes commercialization of self-driving technology with demonstration zone plan
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