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US-China Market Watch: TikTok Sale, Trade Talks, IMAX China

September 07, 2020
(Photo credit): Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Your monthly roundup of the latest US-China business and industry news.

Trump bans TikTok over data privacy concerns

Early in August, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that would ban TikTok, a short-form video app, in the United States if it is not sold by its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, by September 20.

The order stems from concerns that the app is collecting American consumer data and giving it to the Chinese government. TikTok has denied this, saying that any data it captures on U.S. users is stored in the United States. Currently, TikTok has two competing offers for its U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Australia operations: one from Microsoft and Walmart, which have partnered together, and another from Oracle. TikTok is expected to sell for $20 billion to $30 billion, reports CNBC.

However, the sale of TikTok has reportedly hit a roadblock. The Chinese government announced new export restrictions on certain technologies, including the algorithms that power TikTok, which could potentially block the sale of TikTok to a U.S. company. The CEO of ByteDance, Zhang Yiming, is reportedly weighing other options, which include selling TikTok without the algorithm or negotiating a year-long transition period with the Committee of Foreign Investment in the U.S.

President Trump had also issued an executive order that would prohibit American citizens and companies from “any transaction that is related to WeChat.” Although the order targets firms and citizens in the U.S., it could potentially affect American companies operating in China, where WeChat is an essential tool for most businesses and people alike.

U.S. and China continue trade talks

Despite the trade tensions, both the U.S. and Chinese trade delegations have reaffirmed their commitment to the phase one trade deal. After a brief delay, the U.S. and China held “constructive” trade talks over the phone in late August. United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin talked with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He about steps that China has taken to ensure greater intellectual property protection, the elimination of forced technology transfers, and the removal of “impediments to American companies in the areas of financial services and agriculture.”

China is set to buy a record number of American soybeans this year and will possibly reach 40 million tons in 2020, which will be about 25 percent more than purchased in 2017, the baseline for the trade deal. Bloomberg posits that China will likely continue its purchases of U.S. soy into January 2021.

IMAX bouncing back in China have theater reopenings

After months of theaters remaining closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, IMAX is bouncing back in China now that things have begun reopening. Chinese war epic, “The Eight Hundred,” is the main driver of IMAX’s success, bringing in $116 million in total box office sales and $7.5 million at IMAX theaters. IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond said that the rest of 2020 looks promising, since “China is much more robust on the rebound” from the pandemic than most other countries.

In China, IMAX currently has 700 theaters, which makes up more than half of IMAX’s global theater operations. Several other Hollywood blockbusters that were supposed to be released earlier this year, such as Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” and Disney’s “Mulan,” are scheduled to come out by the year’s end and will likely drive up IMAX box office sales.

Xpeng Motors raises $1.5 billion in New York IPO

Alibaba-backed Chinese electric vehicle maker Xpeng Motors jumped more than 40 percent in its debut on the New York Stock Exchange and raised about $1.5 billion. The listing gives the company a much-needed cash injection to help it compete in China against other EV makers like Tesla, Nio and Li Auto.

Xpeng currently has two vehicles on the market, the G3 SUV and P7 sedan, and plans to launch another sedan model in 2021.

BlackRock gets approval for Chinese mutual fund business

American investment management firm BlackRock Inc. received approval from Chinese regulators to start a wholly owned mutual fund business in Shanghai, which could make it one of the first foreign investment firms to manage money for Chinese nationals.

BlackRock manages $7.3 trillion in assets and was one of the first foreign firms to set up fully foreign-owned operations in Shanghai in 2017. The firm manages three onshore private funds in China, but at the time couldn’t access the mainland’s mutual fund industry without setting up a joint venture.

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