HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) - Ant Financial has taken a big step into Europe amid a global backlash against Chinese technology. Jack Ma's $150 billion payments-to-wealth management group has snapped up WorldFirst in the UK. The deal, which comes a year after a failed bid for U.S.-based MoneyGram, revives Ant's overseas push. But heightened European anxiety about China suggests future acquisitions may not be so easy to close.
HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) - Pinduoduo's search for calm will go on. Even by Chinese tech company standards, the $31 billion e-commerce outfit, which pushes group discounts on everything from fresh produce to clothes, has had a volatile start since it went public in July. A further $1 billion equity, raised on Friday, is a welcome step towards easing wild price swings. But ballooning losses, competition with Alibaba, and legal woes will continue to create a stir.
HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) - Sony's blockbuster share splurge misses the big picture. On Friday, Japan's $55-billion electronics giant said it would repurchase 100 billion yen ($911 million) worth of stock. Days after disappointing earnings, that’s a sign of confidence from newish boss Kenichiro Yoshida. To boost longer-term returns, though, he needs to convince investors a much-needed deeper overhaul of the video games-to-movies conglomerate is also underway.
HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) - Fortnite is battling media titans into a corner. The smash-hit video game may have raked in as much as $2.4 billion in 2018 sales, industry tracker SuperData estimates, more than any Hollywood blockbuster last year. Netflix said this week that it is threatened too, in the fight for viewers’ attention. Success comes from the mass appeal: young and older gamers are hooked. Both traditional movie outfits and streaming giants are right to be alarmed. | Video
HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) - Xiaomi’s big vision just got a market reckoning. A grim outlook for Chinese smartphone demand has walloped entrepreneur Lei Jun's $33 billion company. The stock selloff suggests investors aren’t ready to buy into the internet services hype.
HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) - Temasek is helping a drugstore giant flaunt its glow. The Singapore state investor may sell some of its 25-percent stake in health and beauty heavyweight A.S. Watson, Reuters says. The retailer's size, moves upmarket in the mainland, and growth elsewhere in Asia could justify a premium to rivals.
HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) - Samsung Electronics' bad news intensifies its $70-billion bind. The South Korean giant says its fourth-quarter operating profit will tumble 29 percent compared to a year earlier, to a worse-than-expected 10.8 trillion won ($9.7 billion). With chip prices set to fall further, there is comfort to be found in the group’s ballooning cash pile. Scion and de facto boss Jay Y. Lee can boost investor returns and invest more energetically in new tech, from 5G to autonomous driving.
HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) - The global $1 billion competitive video-game market will reach a new level in 2019. Viewership for e-sports tournaments already surpasses that of the Major League Baseball in the United States. China’s gaming titan Tencent will emerge victorious in the People’s Republic – a key e-sports battleground of some 450 million gamers. This will propel the company’s overseas expansion.
HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) - The pressure is on for Kenichiro Yoshida to deliver a bold performance in 2019. Since taking the reins in April, the Sony boss has boosted earnings at Japan's $61 billion movies-to-video-games group. But the long-time company veteran needs to shed a loss-making handset unit and spin off the chip business, among other things. Any reluctance to move quickly will see hedge funds make a cameo in Sony's remake. Yoshida’s predecessor sold the laptops business, slashed jobs, streamlined businesses and ended a streak of heavy losses. Now Sony's cash-cow PlayStation division, as well as its music and movies units are powering sales and earnings. The Tokyo-based company expects a record annual operating profit of 870 billion yen, or $7.8 billion, for the current fiscal year. Shareholders should be pleased, but far from impressed. Since Yoshida took over, Sony has delivered a 6 percent total return, including reinvested dividends, compared to negative 11 percent at Japan's benchmark Topix index, as of Dec. 20. Even so, the stock trades at an unglamorous 12 times forward earnings, less than Sony's own two-year average and well below the 16 times multiple commanded by video games rival Nintendo. One way to fix the drag would be to make a quick exit from smartphones. Sony is scaling down that business and writing off some assets, yet it remains committed to hitting a 2020 profit target for the unit. Another daring and welcome move would be to spin off the fast-growing semiconductor division, which has questionable strategic value next to PlayStation money-makers like "God of War" and a music catalogue that spans artists from Beyonce to Queen. Yoshida would be foolish to hold back. If left unaddressed, the valuation gap could invite a new star. Sony doesn’t have the protection of a single large shareholder. Meanwhile, activist investors like Paul Singer's Elliott and Hong Kong-based Oasis are taking more interest in underperforming Japanese companies as the country takes a more shareholder-friendly turn. Loud voices have already been heard at Toshiba, Olympus, and Seven & I. Hedge funds will closely watch Yoshida’s next act.
HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) - China's Didi Chuxing will seize the wheel of a carmaker in 2019. Similar to global peers, the $56 billion ride-hailing unicorn has tied up with traditional manufacturers. Falling valuations in China's car sector will inspire boss Cheng Wei to buy a brand.