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Issue 616 22-04-2013
Summary:Gold Prices Fall, Brazilian Ore Carrier Docks in China and Does China Have Too Many High-end Hotels?

Highlights from the EO print edition, No. 616, Apr 22, 2013

Falling Gold Price Cuts Like a Knife
News, page 1
~ The international gold price decreased nearly 15 percent between Apr 12 and 15, marking the biggest drop in 33 years. Falling gold prices have led to a gold buying rush in China’s large and medium cities. Several gold stores have sold out their inventories and won’t receive new shipments for 15 to 20 days. Many consumers have chosen to deal in futures, which can be delivered in 3 months, 6 months or one year.  
~ Michael Heise, chief economist with Allianz SE, told the Economic Observer that gold is falling like a sharp knife and he suggests people don’t grab it. He says avoiding gold trading in the short term may be a wise choice for small and medium investors.
~ “The price of gold is still in consolidation, so domestic investors should minimize investment in it,” said Wang Qibo(王其博) general manager of China’s Precious Metals Trading at Standard Bank. Contrary to institutional investors that believe the price of gold will bottom out at $1,250 per ounce, Wang believes it may dip to as little as $800 per ounce.
~ The gold price slump has resulted in a $560 billion decrease in the value of central bank gold reserves around the world, and institutional investors are selling gold funds at the fastest pace in two years. After a 12-year continuous rise, the current gold price has fallen by 28 percent compared to 2011, which saw a record high value of $ 1,923.70 per ounce.
~ Tang Jun, chairman of the Hong Kong and Macao Information Company, said that an important reason for the falling gold price is the slowdown in China’s economic growth. Bears like George Soros have said China won’t increase its gold holdings in the near future, so they sold their gold and were followed by other investors, which led to the end of the 12-year gold bull market.
Original article: [Chinese]

Brazilian Ore Carrier Docks in China, Upsets Local Shippers
News, page 4
~ Vale Malaysia, a large ship belonging to the Brazilian metals and mining company Vale S.A., docked at the Lianyungang port in Jiangsu Province on Apr 15. This was the second time that the company had docked a “very large ore carrier” in China.
~ In late 2011, a ship belonging to Vale also docked at Dalian despite protests from China’s shipping market. In January 2012, the Ministry of Transport passed a law banning these kinds of ships from docking at China’s ports.
~ China Shipowners' Association (中国船东协会) posted a protest letter to the relevant government departments, saying that Vale concealed information before stopping at the Lianyungang port. Vale and Lianyungang had also broken relevant provisions and should be investigated.
~ So why did the port allow the ship to dock? Vale’s large ship has attracted many China’s ports’ interest. A Vale ship is twice as large as the standard freighter and can annually transport more than 50 million tons of iron ore. More than 150 million tons could be shipped to China through the company each year if allowed. A source from the state-owned China Cosco Shipping (Group) said, “Once you cooperate with Vale, it means increasing the transport capacity of a port by millions of tons. It’s very attractive to local governments.”
~ The docking of Vale ships has been opposed by Cosco and the China Shipowners’ Association, which would both suffer from the competition. Cosco has successfully persuaded ports to refuse entry from Vale ships in the past.
~ The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has established a coordination group to discuss Vale’s docking issue. Below the coordinating group there are several smaller groups including interests from iron and steel, ports, transportation and banking. Technically, the coordination group led by NDRC doesn’t exclusively concern Vale, but a much broader package of trade negotiations between Brazil and China.
Original article: [Chinese]

Infrastructure Investment to Heat Up in 2nd Quarter

News, page 6
~ At recent meetings analyzing the economic situation during the first quarter of 2013, many local governments have said that they’ll increase investment on infrastructure in the second quarter.
~ On Apr 17, the State Council said in an executive meeting that the government would maintain a reasonable scope of investment and strengthen construction on urban roads, rail transportation and environmental protection infrastructure.
~ Some like Gao Huiqing (高辉清), head of the strategic planning department at the State Information Center in the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), believe this indicates the central government’s intention to stabilize economic development through infrastructure investment. However, since China’s economy is growing relatively steadily now, the investment wouldn’t be too radical Guo says.
~ Qiu Jicheng (邱继成), chief economist with Cinda Securities, said that the central government seems unwilling to allow the blind expansion by local governments that’s been common in the past. So infrastructure investment will be driven by the central government. Investment increases mentioned in the executive meeting mainly focus on areas related to urbanization like transportation and environmental protection, which mostly fall under the central government’s scope.
~ Regulation over shadow banking and trust businesses have also recently had an impact on local governments’ infrastructure projects, as well as their real estate and urban construction industries. The tightening of local capital expansion indicated that the central government would increase its own investment in economic construction.
~ Qiu Jicheng says the investment-driven model pursued by local governments is unsustainable and will bring ever-diminishing returns.
Original article: [Chinese]

Raised Ticket Prices in Fenghuang Drives Visitors Away

Nation, page 9
~ Visitors to Fenghuang Ancient City in West Hunan Province have decreased since it started charging 148 yuan for entrance tickets on Apr 10.
~ Fenghuang Management and Service Company (凤凰古城景区管理服务公司) is in charge of ticketing and marketing in Fenghuang County. The company was established in February by Mingcheng Company (铭城公司), which is wholly-owned by the Fenghuang county government and Fenghuang Cultural Tourism Investment Co. Ltd. (凤凰古城文化旅游投资股份有限公司).
~ The local government denied that it’s sharing in the profits from the raised prices, saying that it only levies taxes on them according to the law and that the taxes are used for the protection, management and maintenance of Fenghuang.
~ The local government didn’t release details about how ticket revenue is distributed until a legal representative of Fenghuang Company named Ye Wenzhi (叶文智) revealed that local government was taking 60 yuan from the sale of each ticket.
~ According to statistics provided by the government, 2 percent of the ticket price goes toward operating costs for the ticket agency. The rest goes toward taxes, resource compensation fees, marketing and profit for the three operators. Besides the agency fee, the government provided no details about how the remaining 98 percent is distributed.
~ According to information gathered by the EO, apart from the 2 percent agency fee, 5 percent goes toward marketing and 33 yuan from each ticket goes toward taxes. Of the remaining 138 yuan the government-owned Fenghuang Company takes 65 percent with County Tour Company (esetablished by Mingcheng Company) and Qi Sheng Tour (启胜旅游) taking 17.5 percent each.
~ Since the implementation of the new ticket pricing, boatmen and guesthouse owners along the river in the ancient city have seen their business plummet. Small and medium-sized businesses, including travel agencies and other travel-related services, have been hit the hardest.
~ The local government is now distributing more free passes and reducing ticket prices for certain groups.
Original article: [Chinese]

Does China Have Too Many High-end Hotels?
Corporation, page 28
~ According to a report put out by the China Tourist Hotel Association, every four days a new international-brand hotel is built in China.
~ One of the reasons for the growth in the number of 5-star hotels is the central governments strict policies to rein in housing prices. Many local governments are now turning to commercial property developments and it's become standard to include a 5-star hotel managed by an internationally-recognised brand as part of these new commerical developments.
~ Local governments want a luxury hotel in order to enhance the reputation of the city, it also creates tax revenue and jobs. Constructing a high-end hotel is often a condition imposed on developers in order to get access to the land from local governments.
~ At the same time, international hotel management companies are turning their focus to China. For example Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International, Inc. both plan to increase the number of hotels in China to 100 by 2015. InterContinental Hotels Group PLC (IHG) has vowed to double the number of hotels it operates in China over the coming 3 to 5 years. Even Hyatt Hotels Corporation, known for its prudent strategy, has forty hotel projects under construction in China.  
~ Three quarters of all the hotels opened last year were five-star hotels. By the start of 2013 there are already 721 five-star hotels in China.
~ However, falling occupancy rates and prices are exposing the risk of oversupply. The average occupancy rate in Hong Kong and Singapore is around 80 percent while in most Chinese cities the figure  is somewhere between 50 to 60 percent. Hotels are normally said to be profitable if the occupancy rate is above 70 percent. Statistics from the China Tourist Hotel Association reveal that the average occupancy rate of internationally-branded hotels in China is 52.68 percent.
~ The industry is also said to be vulnerable to recent efforts to rein in the spending of government officials on extravagant items and services.
~ Zhao Huanyan (赵焕焱), an expert from Huamei Hotel Consulting Compay, told the EO that the "Situation is even worse in those smaller cities where most of the consumption at these hotels comes from the government."
Original article: [Chinese]

Chinese Polysilicon Producers Consider Restarting Production
Corporation, page 29
~ After a wave of bankruptcy hit the Chinese polysilicon sector last year, some of the producers of the raw material, which is used to manufacture solar panels, are now considering restarting production.
~ In 2012, 90 percent of China's Polysilicon companies were forced to halt production following an onslaught of cheaper imported polysilicon onto the market.
~ Recent price increases coupled with the likelihood that China is to make a preliminary ruling on whether to impose anti-dumping tariffs on imported polysilicon are giving local producers the confidence to consider returning to the market.
~ Data from China Non-Ferrous Metals Industry Association show that in March 2013 polysilicon prices had increased 24 percent from last December, up from 115,000 yuan per ton to 142,600 yuan a ton. Tong Xingxue (佟兴雪), CEO of LDK Solar, told the EO this could mean a price increase for down-stream companies as well.
~ In addition to prices increasing, China's Ministry of Commerce had also planned to announce the preliminary rulings of an anti-dumping investigation in early April. Many Chinese polysilicon producers believe that this means that April would be a good time to restore production. However, the latest news is that the results of the investigation won't be released until June, which could delay any plans to restart production.
Original article: [Chinese]

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