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Singapore-Based E-Commerce Aggregator Una Brands Raises $40 Million for Asia-Pacific Acquisitions
Video Streamer iQiyi Apologizes for Milk Gimmick Gone Sour
Singaporean Ride-Hailing Firm Grab to Launch New Services for Premium Passengers, Pet Owners
TikTok Retains Crown as World’s Top Non-Game App Despite 50% Drop in Downloads
Tencent Reportedly Negotiating Risk-Mitigation Measures to Retain U.S. Gaming Investments
Foxconn to Set Up Chipmaking Joint Venture with Yageo
Excluding Chinese Vendors from Indian 5G Trials Will Hold Back Development, Diplomat Says
Alibaba-Backed MYBank Eyes Deeper Penetration Into Under-Banked Rural China
Vivo and Oppo Claim Top Two Spots in China Smartphone Market as Huawei Falls
U.S. Urges TSMC to Prioritize Supplies to American Carmakers Grappling with Global Chip Shortage
Indonesian Ride-Hailing Unicorn Gojek Aims to Go All Electric by 2030
Tencent-Backed Insurtech Firm Waterdrop Aims to Raise up to $360 Million in U.S. IPO
Which Money-Losing Electric-Car Makers Have Tied Up With Huawei?
Video Platform Bilibili to Buy Stake in Mobile-Game Maker CMGE to Boost Content
Baidu to Roll Out Driverless Robotaxis in Beijing in May
Tesla Challenger Nio Shrinks Losses as Sales Surge
Trending in China: A Beijing Bureaucrat Worked as Delivery Driver for a Day and Earned Just $6
Fjord Focus: Why Are Chinese Electric-Car Makers Flocking to Norway?
Alibaba Has Big Plans for Taobao’s Livestreaming Hawking Business
Xiaomi Extends Reign as India’s Smartphone King Despite Slipping Market Share

By Ding Yi / May 07, 2021 08:24 PM / Business & Tech

Una Brands, a Singapore-based startup that buys up e-commerce brands with the goal of transforming them into household names, has raised $40 million in its seed round of equity and debt financing, as the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a surge in demand for online shopping.

A number of investors joined the funding round, including 500 Startups, Kingsway Capital, 468 Capital, Presight Capital, Global Founders Capital and Maximilian Bitner, currently CEO of secondhand fashion platform Vestiaire Collective and former CEO of Lazada, a Singapore-based e-commerce platform backed by Alibaba, Una Brands said in a statement on Thursday.

Without disclosing the ratio of equity and debt in the round, the statement said that Una Brands will use the fresh capital to acquire and scale up e-commerce outfits in the Asia-Pacific region, where the company’s CEO Kiren Tanna estimates there are more than 10 million third-party brand owners selling on different platforms.

Una looks for brands with an annual revenue of between $300,000 and $20 million. It is open to many categories of brands provided they have strong stock keeping units and low seasonality, according to TechCrunch.

The company adopts a structured process to make long-term brand strategies and develop plans for their global expansion, with a promise to share profit with brand sellers after the acquisitions, according to its website.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Alibaba Has Big Plans for Taobao’s Livestreaming Hawking Business

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By Matthew Walsh / May 07, 2021 07:51 PM / Business & Tech

As the old saying goes, there’s no use crying over spilled milk. But for Chinese video streamer iQiyi Inc., it’s probably worth saying sorry for it.

The Nasdaq-listed company has issued a lengthy apology following a public outcry in response to online videos showing fans of a popular program pouring dairy products down the drain.

The clips emerged after idol show “Youth With You 3” urged viewers to vote for their favorite contestants by scanning QR codes printed on the packaging of flavored milks and yogurts produced by its sponsor, a major Chinese dairy firm.

That prompted some fans to buy the products in large quantities, then dispose of their contents once they had cast their ballots, according to Chinese media reports.

In a country in the midst of a crackdown on food waste, the extravagant displays did not go down well with the authorities.

After state news agency Xinhua published an editorial lambasting the videos, the municipal government of Beijing said this week it had told iQiyi to suspend filming the season finale.

Then on Thursday, the company issued a statement saying it felt “extremely guilty” about the impact of the clips and stressing its “firm opposition to all forms of food waste.”

It added that it had suspended filming while the production team amended the show’s rules, had closed down all audience voting mechanisms and was working with merchants to handle orders of any goods affected by the rule changes.

A well-intentioned gimmick, perhaps, but one that left a distinctly sour taste.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com) and editor Heather Mowbray (heathermowbray@caixin.com)

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By Ding Yi / May 07, 2021 07:39 PM / Business & Tech

Singapore-based ride-hailing giant Grab has announced plans to launch two new services on May 25, in an attempt to meet different passenger needs and create more moneymaking opportunities for drivers.

One service is GrabPet XL, an improved version of the existing GrabPet service, which will use larger vehicles fitted with collapsible pet seat covers and adjustable straps to transport up to three passengers and three small and medium-sized pets in a single trip, Grab said in a statement on Wednesday.

The other is GrabCar Exec, which will use limousines including the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes Benz E-Class, according to the statement.

Interested users will be able to book the two services via the Grab app, with prices starting from $15 and $16 for GrabCar Exec and GrabPet XL respectively, the statement said.

Grab’s move comes more than a week after its domestic rival Ryde launched a similar ride-hailing service named RydeLUXE in Singapore designed to cater to executives and premium customers.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Indonesian Ride-Hailing Unicorn Gojek Aims to Go All Electric by 2030

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Ding Yi / May 07, 2021 04:35 PM / Business & Tech

TikTok retained its position as the world’s most downloaded app that’s not a game in April, despite seeing a dramatic drop in downloads since this time last year.

Last month, the ByteDance-owned short video app, whose Chinese twin is Douyin, amassed more than 59 million downloads globally, compared with the over 107 million it registered in the same period of last year, according to a report by research firm SensorTower.

The significant download decline came after India, a market that once contributed a large part of TikTok’s global downloads, imposed a permanent ban on TikTok earlier this year, formalizing a temporary measure that was taken in 2020 on data privacy and national security concerns following a border skirmish between China and its South Asian neighbor.

Users in Brazil seemed most obsessed with TikTok, with 13% of its total April downloads coming from the South American country, followed by China with 12%, according to SensorTower.

The U.S. disappeared from the April list of TikTok’s major download contributors, striking a contrast with the same month of last year when the country was the app’s second-largest source of downloads after India.

The fate of TikTok, which was forced by the former Trump administration to divest its U.S. operations in exchange for an opportunity to continue to operate there, remains uncertain as the current Biden government is still reviewing its predecessor’s policies toward Chinese-owned apps.

Recently, TikTok named ByteDance’s chief financial officer Chew Shouzi as its new chief executive, filling the leadership vacuum left after the departure of Kevin Mayer, who stepped down as TikTok CEO last summer amid growing pressure from the Trump administration.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: TikTok Names ByteDance Finance Chief as New CEO

 


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Ding Yi / May 06, 2021 06:31 PM / Business & Tech

Tencent, which is facing increased scrutiny of its past acquisition and joint-venture deals domestically, is reportedly in talks with a U.S. government panel for agreements that would allow it to keep its investments in two American video game companies.

The negotiations with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) began in the second half of last year, possibly involving some risk-mitigation measures that would exempt Tencent from having to sell its stakes in Riot Games and Epic Games, of which the Chinese tech giant now controls 100% and 40% respectively, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing sources close to the matter.

The sources did not provide details of the measures Tencent is negotiating, but they typically involve prohibiting the owner of a firm from operations that have national security implications and hiring independent auditors to monitor the implementation of these agreements.

CFIUS, a Treasury Department-led panel that has the authority to scrutinize foreign investments, has been reviewing whether Riot Games and Epic Games’ handling of player data constitutes a national security risk because of their Chinese ownership, according to Reuters.

A Riot Games spokesperson told Reuters that his company operates independently despite being wholly owned by Tencent and that it has implemented industry-leading practices to protect player data.

In recent years, the U.S. has boosted scrutiny of past Chinese investments especially in the tech sector amid an intensifying race between the world’s two largest economies for global technology leadership.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Tencent, Six Others Slapped With Anti-Monopoly Fines for Unauthorized M&A

 


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Ding Yi / May 06, 2021 06:25 PM / Business & Tech

Apple supplier Foxconn has announced it is establishing a semiconductor joint venture with electronic-component maker Yageo to strengthen its presence in an industry vital to producers of goods ranging from smart vehicles to consumer electronics.

The joint venture named XSemi, which will be based in Hsinchu, Taiwan, will focus on manufacturing small integrated circuits costing less than $2, Foxconn said in a statement on Wednesday.

Foxconn and Yageo are also in talks with several global semiconductor companies and will unveil further plans in the near future, the statement said, without providing further details.

Foxconn has previously said that it has discussed the joint production of chips for electric vehicles with foundries.

Wednesday’s announcement comes as Taiwan’s chip foundries are ramping up their production capacities amid global semiconductor shortages that have disrupted the supply chains of many manufacturers.

Earlier this week, Reuters reported that the U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has urged TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker, to prioritize supplies to American automakers given a lack of car chips.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: U.S. Urges TSMC to Prioritize Supplies to American Carmakers Grappling with Global Chip Shortage

 


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Ding Yi / May 06, 2021 06:16 PM / Business & Tech

China on Wednesday took a swipe at India’s decision to exclude Chinese vendors from its upcoming 5G trials, saying it will stifle Indian innovation.

On Tuesday, India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) granted permission to mobile carriers including Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio), Vodafone Idea and MTNL to conduct a six-month trial for use and application of 5G technology.

The ministry said the operators would work with suppliers that include Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung, while Jio will use its own homegrown tech. Huawei and ZTE were not on the list, threatening to shut the national champions out of India’s massive telecoms gear market.

Chinese Embassy in India spokesman Wang Xiaojian expressed “concern and regret” about the move in a statement Wednesday, stressing the contribution of Chinese companies to the nation’s infrastructure and telecoms sector.

“To exclude Chinese telecommunications companies from the trials will not only harm their legitimate rights and interests, but also hinder the improvement of the Indian business environment, which is not conductive to the innovation and development of related Indian industries.”

U.S. allies have toughened their positions on Chinese-built 5G networks in recent years following Washington’s lead. The U.S. has repeatedly sanctioned Huawei in particular after alleging its strong ties with Beijing make the firm’s gear a national security threat, an allegation Huawei strongly denies.

Meanwhile, New Delhi has tightened its oversight of Chinese internet companies operating in India since a border conflict with Beijing last summer. In January, India imposed a permanent ban on a number of Chinese-owned apps including TikTok citing national security concerns.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com) and editor Flynn Murphy (flynnmurphy@caixin.com)

Related: In Depth: 5G Calls Out to Miners, but Will They Answer?

 


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Ding Yi / May 05, 2021 06:52 PM / Business & Tech

Ant Group’s online lender MYBank has laid out a plan to double the number of Chinese rural counties it serves to 2,000 by 2025, as Beijing makes revitalizing rural areas a top priority in its modernization push.

The plan, announced last week, which could be seen as MYBank’s response to the government campaign, will bring it closer to a host of small and micro businesses, some of which have no record of borrowing money from traditional banks. It also comes as China’s economy has begun recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic that crippled the country’s economy for much of 2020.

Six-year-old MYBank said that it had served more than 35 million small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) as of the end of 2020. The privately owned online bank touts itself as a platform that uses cloud technology to reduce financing costs and fast-track the loan approval process for SMEs, which have accounted for more than half of China’s GDP in recent years.

As of June, the Hangzhou-based bank said that it kept its nonperforming loan ratio at 1.52%, compared with the average ratio of 2.99% for SME loans in China.

“We expect rural finance to play a significant role in advancing financial inclusion, and will further our efforts to make rural finance more accessible with our financial institution partners,” MYBank President Jin Xiaolong said.

Last month, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission issued a notice to highlight the importance of enhancing credit support for rural industries involving crop and vegetable production, smart agriculture and agricultural equipment manufacturing as part of efforts to underpin the campaign aimed at pulling the rural population out of poverty.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Alibaba-Backed Lender MYBank is One of First Privately Owned Banks to Join Digital Yuan Pilot

 


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Ding Yi / May 05, 2021 06:46 PM / Business & Tech

Vivo and Oppo became China’s largest and second-largest smartphone brands in this year’s first quarter, as embattled former leader Huawei has begun feeling the weight of U.S. sanctions that block its access to chips made with American technology.

In the three months through March, Vivo shipped 21.6 million smartphones, representing a year-on-year increase of 79% and giving it a market share of 23%, according to research firm Canalys.

The rise of Vivo, which was closely followed by Oppo with a market share of 22%, echoed the robust gains for the broader Chinese smartphone market, which saw shipments rise 27% to 92.4 million units.

Apart from benefitting from the decline of Huawei, which ranked third with a market share of 16% and was the only vendor among the top five brands to suffer a sales drop, Canalys attributed Vivo and Oppo’s success to their strong performance in the affordable 5G segment where products are normally priced below 2,000 yuan ($300).

“The affordable 5G segment is just low-hanging fruit for Huawei’s competitors in China,” said Nicole Peng, vice president of mobility at Canalys. She said Vivo, Oppo and Xiaomi are expected to release their own flagship products in the high-priced 5G segment where Huawei still holds a solid position with offerings such as the Mate 40 Pro and Nova 8 Pro.

In the first quarter, Xiaomi and Apple came in fourth and fifth with market shares of 15% and 13%, according to Canalys.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Huawei Crashes Out of Global Top Five Smartphone-Makers

 


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Ding Yi / May 05, 2021 06:43 PM / Business & Tech

The U.S. commerce secretary is pressuring TSMC and other Taiwanese chip foundries to play a bigger role in helping American carmakers deal with a global shortage of automotive semiconductors that has led to layoffs for many workers in the American auto industry.

“We’re working hard to see if we can get the Taiwanese and TSMC, which is a big company there, to prioritize the needs of our auto companies since there’s so many American jobs on the line,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Tuesday at an Americas Society event, according to Reuters.

Raimondo stressed that “the medium- and long-term solution, though, is like very simply making more chips in America.”

The commerce secretary’s remarks came a day after Reuters reported that TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker, was planning to build several more chipmaking plants in the U.S. state of Arizona. In May 2020, TSMC said that it would build a $12 billion factory to produce its advanced 5-nanometer chips in the state with construction set to start some time in 2021, in line with the former Trump administration’s call to bring global tech supply chains back to the U.S.

Last week, Ford warned that the chip shortage might force it to halve its production capacity in the second quarter, according to Reuters.

In an interview with Caixin in April, Xu Daquan, the China executive vice president of leading global auto components supplier Bosch Group, said that the car chip shortage would start to ease in the second half of this year if TSMC could meet global demand from the auto sector.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Car Chip Shortage to Start Easing in Second Half, Bosch China Chief Says

 


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Ding Yi / May 04, 2021 06:37 PM / Business & Tech

Tencent-backed Indonesian ride-hailing startup Gojek plans to make every vehicle it operates a battery-powered one by 2030, reflecting its commitment to achieving zero emissions as it seeks a public listing.

To reach the 2030 goal, Gojek will work with industry partners and the government to “reduce the cost of electric vehicles to about 30% lower than internal combustion engine vehicles” and accelerate the construction of battery swap and charging stations in Indonesia, Gojek’s co-CEO Kevin Aluwi said in a recent interview with Reuters.

Indonesia’s deputy head for investment and mining coordination, Septian Hario Seto, said that the government is helping Gojek in talks with China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology to supply batteries, according to Reuters.

In addition, the 11-year-old company, which also provides food delivery and payment services, is exploring leasing arrangements to help its cost-conscious drivers switch to electric vehicles, according to Aluwi.

Jakarta-based Gojek claims to have more than 2 million drivers across Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Singapore’s Grab to List in U.S. in Record $40 Billion SPAC Deal

 


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Ding Yi / May 04, 2021 06:34 PM / Business & Tech

Waterdrop, a Chinese insurance technology startup backed by Tencent, is planning to raise as much as $360 million in an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, as the U.S. securities regulator imposes tougher auditing standards on U.S.-listed foreign firms.

The Beijing-based company is selling 30 million American depositary shares (ADSs) priced between $10 and $12 apiece, according to its updated prospectus filed Friday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Underwriters will be granted an overallotment option to purchase up to 4.5 million more ADSs within 30 days if demand is strong.

Investors including Boyu Capital and HOPU Investments have shown interest in subscribing to an aggregate of $210 million worth of the ADSs on offer, according to the prospectus.

Apart from general corporate purposes, Waterdrop said that it will use the proceeds to improve operations in its health care and insurance business, and enhance its research and development capabilities.

Founded in 2016, Waterdrop runs an online platform connecting insurance firms with users, as well as a medical crowdfunding platform that aims to help patients with severe illnesses raise money to pay hefty medical bills.

Waterdrop’s net loss grew to 664 million yuan ($102 million) in 2020 from 322 million yuan a year ago, despite its revenue nearly doubling, according to the prospectus.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Tencent-Backed Online Insurer Waterdrop Raises $230 Million

 


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An Limin and Ding Yi / May 04, 2021 05:50 PM / Business & Tech

Two Chinese automakers whose smart EV partnerships with Huawei have made them darlings of the capital markets reported steep losses in the first quarter of 2021, reflecting the sector’s longstanding financial challenges.

BAIC BluePark New Energy Technology’s net loss grew to 898 million yuan ($139 million) in the first quarter, from 477 million yuan a year ago, according to its latest earnings report.

Last month, Arcfox, a brand owned by a BluePark subsidiary, announced that it had started to take preorders for the Polar Fox Alpha S, the first commercial passenger car powered by Huawei’s self-driving technology and its homegrown Harmony operating system.

BluePark is the main subsidiary of Beijing New Energy Automobile Co. Ltd., once China’s leading electric car company. It sold more pure electric vehicles than any other company in each of the seven years to 2019, when sales dipped for the first time — from 158,000 to 151,000 — after generous subsidies that had buttressed the state-run firm were scaled back.

But that was then. In 2020, a hoard of new private car-makers ate the state giant’s lunch, and its sales fell a whopping 82.79% to 25,900 vehicles. It moved just 3,149 in the first quarter of 2021.

Also on the radar is Chongqing Sokon Industry Group Co. Ltd., which last month started selling its Seres SF5 extended-range electric vehicles fitted with Huawei’s smart cockpit system via the latter’s domestic flagship stores. The Seres SF5 is made by Sokon’s new energy vehicle subsidiary.

In the first three months of the year, Sokon’s lost 575 million yuan, compared with 462 million yuan in the same period of last year, according to its latest earnings report. The company, which also makes gasoline-powered cars, said that it sold 1,433 new energy vehicles in the first quarter, without giving a figure for the comparable period.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com) and editor Flynn Murphy (flynnmurphy@caixin.com)

Related: First Car Equipped With Huawei Self-Driving System Goes on Sale

 


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By Ding Yi / Apr 30, 2021 07:05 PM / Business & Tech

Chinese video streaming platform Bilibili is investing in Shenzhen-based mobile game developer and publisher CMGE Technology Group, as it seeks to augment its content offerings.

Shanghai-based Bilibili, listed in New York and Hong Kong, has agreed to subscribe to about 198 million Hong Kong shares of CMGE at HK$3.3 ($0.4) each in a deal that will give Bilibili a 7.2% stake in CMGE, according to a filing to the bourse Thursday.

Bilibili will be given priority rights to operate certain games developed or licensed by CMGE exclusively for three years after the completion of the deal, the filing said.

The deal comes as Bilibili tries to reposition itself as a platform not only for animation fans, who were the initial users of its service, but also for moviegoers, gamers and sellers.

Last month, Bilibili, which derived nearly a third of its total revenue from mobile games in the fourth quarter of 2020, agreed to invest HK$960 million in Shanghai-based mobile game developer XD Inc. in exchange for a 4.72% stake in the company.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Bilibili Buys Stake in Film Maker As It Strives to Broaden Content Offering

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By Ding Yi / Apr 30, 2021 06:31 PM / Business & Tech

Baidu will launch a paid robotaxi service in Beijing on Saturday, allowing users to book rides in vehicles without a driver behind the wheel, as the tech giant seeks to become one of China’s first companies to make money from self-driving technology.

The service will initially only be available in Shougang Industrial Park, one of the venues for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, where users will be limited to rides between sports halls, work areas, coffee shops and hotels in a geofenced area, Baidu said in a statement Thursday.

Because they won’t have backup drivers, the robotaxis will be connected to a 5G-based remote control system designed to ensure the rides are safe, according to the statement. A company spokesperson told Caixin that the taxis will come with a Baidu employee in the front passenger’s seat tasked with putting nervous passengers at ease, especially in the early phase of the rollout.

Passengers can order up a ride through Baidu’s Apollo Go app for a flat fee of 30 yuan ($4.60), the spokesperson said. “In the future, Baidu Apollo will launch driverless robotaxis in more cities, allowing the public to access greener, low-carbon and convenient transportation,” said Wang Yunpeng, general manager of autonomous driving technology at Baidu.

Baidu, which aims to have its Apollo autonomous driving system installed in 1 million vehicles over the next three to five years, has also received two government permits allowing it to test out charging passengers in its robobus and robotaxi pilot programs, which are running respectively in the cities of Chongqing and Cangzhou.

In January, Alibaba-backed Chinese autonomous vehicle startup AutoX launched a driverless robotaxi pilot program in Shenzhen in a major step toward commercializing completely driverless vehicle services.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Baidu and Geely Plan $7.7 Billion Smart Car Push

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By Ding Yi / Apr 30, 2021 06:27 PM / Business & Tech

Chinese electric-vehicle maker Nio shrank its loss for the first quarter of this year as its notched strong gains in deliveries despite a global shortage of microchips.

In the three months through March, the New York-listed Tesla challenger narrowed its net loss by 73% year-on-year to 451 million yuan ($69 million), according to its latest earnings report released on Thursday.

Its quarterly revenue totaled 8 billion yuan, representing a year-on-year increase of 481%, nearly 93% of which came from vehicle sales. In the quarter, Nio delivered 20,060 electric cars, compared with 3,838 vehicles in the same period of last year, according to the financial report.

“The overall demand for our products continues to be quite strong, but the supply chain is still facing significant challenges due to the semiconductor shortage, Nio’s CEO William Li said. In late March, Nio halted production at a Chinese plant for five days due to a lack of microchips.

Nio predicted that it will deliver 21,000 to 22,000 electric vehicles in the second quarter with quarterly revenue likely to reach between 8.1 billion yuan and 8.5 billion yuan as it plans to expand into overseas markets and add production capacity on the back of strong demand.

Recently, Nio co-founder and President Qin Lihong told Caixin that the company had built a team to mastermind its expansion into the European market, where authorities impose higher industry standards for crash protection and data privacy. Construction of a flagship store on the continent was also underway, Qin added.

The revelations came after Nio’s domestic competitor Xpeng began exporting its first batch of 100 G3 electric SUVs to Norway in December in a landmark step toward becoming a global car brand.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Electric-Car Maker Nio to Put Battery Changing Points in China’s Largest Gas Station Network

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Heather Mowbray / Apr 29, 2021 07:43 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

#副处长送外卖12小时赚41元#

The hashtag Deputy-Director-Earns-41-Yuan-For-12-Hours-Work-As-Delivery-Driver was trending on Thursday, with 500 million views and 34,000 comments.

Beijing Satellite TV Wednesday reported on the experience of official Wang Lin, as he attempted to reach his goal of earning 100 yuan ($15.5) in a day on the road as a food-delivery driver in the run-up to the Labor Day holidays. Wang, a deputy director at Beijing’s Bureau of Human Resources and Social Security, made less than half his expected income after 12 hours on the job, saying the experience left him feeling “humiliated”. Wang said to camera, “This money is just too hard to earn,” as he sat exhausted on the curb as his shift ended at 9 p.m.

What’s the story?

Images from the video posted on the Weibo account of local paper The Beijing News listed the government human resources expert’s impossible deadlines. For one delivery, Wang was meant to arrive in 14 minutes, but his Satnav told him it would take 24 minutes, leaving the food cold. Another trip took the temporary driver an hour but netted him just 6.6 yuan, after he was fined 60% for taking too long.

In response to a video posted by Beijing Satellite TV on Wednesday, takeout delivery services Ele.me and Meituan Dianping said they will no longer fine drivers for delayed deliveries, and have updated their apps to reflect the change.

Nanjing Daily News posted a positive social media message under the Beijing News story, saying that officials should experience ordinary people’s lives before making policies on their behalf, as they could “hardly understand the risks people take if they just sit in the office.” The post added, “We hope others follow the deputy director’s praiseworthy example.”

What are people saying online?

Pointing the finger at the delivery services, one comment said, “The platform deducts 60% as a fine, but the money doesn’t go to the client, so where does it go?”

But some social media commenters appear to have had enough of such pitiful stories. “Shaming consumers is one thing, but our legal rights should also be guaranteed. Late or wrong delivery is understandable, but haven’t there been some instances of attacks on female consumers? Delivery staff should have at least basic credentials to get the job.” Another wrote in a similar vein, “Delivery service is hard, and delivery time should be relaxed, but late delivery shouldn’t be cost-free. If there’s no penalty, the customer will suffer.”

One Weibo user disagreed in a popular comment, “Bad drivers are a minority. Most are hardworking and deserve our respect.”

Regarding the official’s action, one reader commented, “Only if you came from the masses and are in touch with the masses, can you uncover problems.” And another said, “If I knew it was the deputy director, I would have taken a selfie with him.”

Related: China Probes Meituan in Expanded Antitrust Crackdown

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Matthew Walsh and Zheng Lichun / Apr 29, 2021 07:19 PM / Business & Tech

A frosty nation of just 5 million people may seem like a strange starting point for Chinese companies trying to expand into the lucrative European market.

But for electric vehicle (EV) producers like Nio Inc. and Xpeng Inc., Norway’s openness to foreign car brands, high EV uptake and robust climate pledges make it the perfect first stop.

Both of the Shenzhen-listed carmakers are lining up moves into the Scandinavian nation, whose lack of a domestic auto industry makes it rely on overseas marques, according to an official at the country’s embassy in Beijing.

It’s there that the firms will begin trying to convince European consumers to pay top dollar for electric cars made in China.

EVs account for a world-leading 62% of Norway’s car market, according to recent research by ZSW, a German nonprofit foundation. The figure is closer to one-tenth for Europe as a whole. Everbright Securities, a Shanghai-based brokerage, expects Norwegians to be driving 139,000 new-energy vehicles by the end of the year.

Further growth is backed by a government climate plan that aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% to 55% by the end of the decade, based on 1990 levels. The glacier-rich nation, part of which lies in the fast-warming Arctic Circle, also plans to make sure all new passenger cars and light goods vehicles sold by 2025 cause zero emissions.

Electric vehicles benefit from preferential tax treatment in Norway including an exemption from a 8,500 euro ($10,275) registration fee that applies to fossil fuel powered cars.

And while it isn’t in the European Union, Norway’s participation in the European Economic Area means it follows most of the trade rules of EU member states — a potential boon for when the likes of Nio and Xpeng turn their attention to the rest of the continent.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com) and editor Flynn Murphy (flynnmurphy@caixin.com)

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Ding Yi / Apr 29, 2021 07:05 PM / Business & Tech

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s livestreaming arm Taobao Live has laid out an aggressive plan to increase its number of livestreaming channels and adopt new technology to grow its business this year, riding a wave of popularity that has seen the industry flourish since the Covid-19 outbreak.

According to a statement released on Wednesday, Taobao Live plans to grow its livestreaming channels to 2,000 with an aim of helping them achieve annual sales of 100 million yuan ($15.4 million) each this year.

To reach the financial target, Taobao Live is working with Alibaba research unit Damo Academy to develop an intelligent camera that online pitchmen can use to receive real-time customer feedback and data such as click rates and number of orders while they are livestreaming, according to the statement. The company added that the gadget will be powered by technologies that include hand-gesture recognition.

On Wednesday, Taobao Live also announced the launch of two new tools that sellers can use to improve livestream content management and fan engagement.

The coronavirus pandemic has increased demand for e-commerce livestreaming, which many of China’s merchants and celebrities use to sell products via platforms operated by Alibaba, JD.com, Pinduoduo, ByteDance and Kuaishou.

In 2020, Taobao Live generated more than 400 billion yuan in gross merchandise volume, as the number of its daily active users jumped 100% year-on-year, according to the company.

The value of China’s livestreaming e-commerce market was estimated to reach about 971 billion yuan last year, with Taobao Live accounting for nearly half of the market, while ByteDance-owned Douyin and competitor Kuaishou shared much of the other half, according to a report by market research firm Qianzhan.

Wednesday’s statement came a week after China’s internet regulator issued trial guidelines to regulate the livestreaming e-commerce industry after the sprawling business was tarnished by cases of livestreaming hosts peddling phony goods.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

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Ding Yi / Apr 29, 2021 06:59 PM / Business & Tech

Chinese electronics giant Xiaomi continued to lead India’s smartphone market in the first quarter of 2021, as the company adopted a dual-track strategy of expanding its online and offline presence in the South Asian country.

In the three months through March, Xiaomi shipped 10.5 million smartphones, up 2% year-on-year, giving it a market share of 28%, according to research firm Canalys. This represents a slight decrease from 31% in the same quarter of last year.

Sanyam Chaurasia, an analyst at Canalys, attributed Xiaomi’s shipment growth to its longstanding efforts to “drive multi-brand strategy in established online channels” and its “new initiatives to grow its offline presence.”

The analyst particularly mentioned the contribution of Mi Store on Wheels, a van-based mobile retail store Xiaomi launched in September to deliver a retail experience to India’s rural areas as part of its efforts to expand its distribution network across the country.

Xiaomi’s three Chinese peers — Vivo, Oppo and Realme — all broke into the top five list of smartphone sellers in India, ranking third, fourth and fifth respectively with market shares of 18%, 13% and 12%. Oppo enjoyed the biggest year-on-year shipment growth of 35%, according to Canalys.

South Korea’s Samsung claimed second place with a market share of 19%.

Overall, smartphone shipments in India grew 11% year-on-year in the first quarter to 37.1 million units as remote education and work increased demand for smartphones amid the Covid-19 pandemic. However, Canalys expects smartphone sales in the country to plunge in the current quarter due to a second wave of coronavirus infections there.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

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