Chinese companies once ticked a lot of boxes for investors trying to follow the market’s old adages.
Diversify, they say. Well then, why not look beyond the world’s largest economy to its second? Maybe you’ve got Facebook, Amazon and Google in your portfolio already. Shouldn’t you also be thinking about Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu? You can buy them on Robinhood, after all.
That all sounds promising in a theoretical world. But in the practical one we inhabit, investing in China has become riskier, particularly this summer. In this excellent breakdown, Matt Levine of Bloomberg Opinion explains in terms you will actually understand how opaque it is to own U.S.-listed China stocks.
When you buy shares of a Chinese company listed outside of China, what you are actually buying is “an empty shell that has certain contractual relationships with the Chinese company,” Levine explains.
Sound tenuous? SEC Chair Gary Gensler thinks so. The commissioner worries that Americans just don’t know enough about Chinese companies listed on U.S. exchanges. A few weeks ago, he blocked initial public offerings of certain firms until they boost disclosures of risks posed to shareholders.
This is all coming in the context of some serious developments in China. There are mounting concerns about human rights abuses in Xinjiang and the crackdown in Hong Kong. Both have led to negative views of the country globally and pose ethical and financial dilemmas for investors increasingly thinking about the moral side of investing.
And a Chinese clampdown on capitalism has spooked investors. At its most extreme, it erased $1.5 trillion from Chinese stocks. It has hit Chinese tech companies hard. It’s prompted superstar fund manager Cathie Wood to pare her China exposure. Wood’s ARKK ETF is now sitting with no exposure to shares of companies in the world’s second-biggest economy. Other high profile investors have taken similar steps, including George Soros and Paul Marshall, co-founder of one of the world’s largest hedge funds.
And it’s not just tech. In mid-June, Chinese President Xi Jinping indicated that private tutoring — a huge expense for middle-class Chinese families — should not be such a burden. The country went on to ban for-profit tutoring, a huge deal in the $100 billion education tech sector.
Yet with proof that there is an adage for almost any angle, I offer you another: Buck the consensus view. HSBC Chairman Mark Tucker says investment opportunities in China are “too big to ignore.” And while he wouldn’t recommend Chinese equities in general, one market expert in our latest “Where to Invest” series says he would recommend two ETFs that have exposure to Chinese solar and battery technology.
Where do these adages lead us? Probably to another: Trust yourself, not some old saying. — Charlie Wells
By: Charlie Wells
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