Narrative: Chinese Expansion
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Narrative: Chinese Expansion (Dec 27, 2016)
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Netflix Agrees to License Content to Baidu Subsidiary iQIYI (Apr 25, 2017)
Alibaba is launching a program to help US businesses sell to Chinese consumers through its website. It’ll hold a conference in June at which it will offer training on all the ins and outs of doing business both through Alibaba specifically and in China generally, and all this is by way of fulfilling a promise CEO Jack Ma made to Donald Trump back in January. The US currently has a massive trade imbalance with China – exports from the US in 2015 were $161.6 billion, while imports were $497.8 billion – so rectifying that balance is a key priority for the US administration. But much of the current export volume to China is in categories that would be a poor fit for a platform like Alibaba – soybeans come top, both consumer and commercial vehicles are also major contributors, and much of the rest is made up by other commercial and industrial products. The US sells very few small consumer goods of the kind well suited to a platform like Alibaba, so any contribution made by Alibaba to reducing the trade deficit is going to be far more symbolic than material. In addition, the complexity of selling into China, where foreign-owned businesses are severely limited, will make it a fairly unappealing proposition for most US-based businesses relative to selling into the massive market on their own doorstep. I suspect this will be just another example of a Chinese tech company struggling to bring its model to the US (just as almost all US tech companies struggle going the other way).
via USA Today
LeEco Suspends Shares on Chinese Exchange Before Wednesday Restructuring Announcement (Apr 17, 2017)
Huawei to Create Cloud Business Unit, US Remains a Secondary Focus – Mobile World Live (Apr 11, 2017)
Huawei is holding its annual analyst summit in China this week, at which it offers an update on the different parts of its business. Two notable items are mentioned in this summary of the first day presentation by the CEO. Firstly, the company is creating a cloud business unit, which will sit alongside existing carrier, consumer (device), and enterprise business units. That’s a sign of the growing commitment of the company to the cloud, but also of the close ties between network equipment (and the telecoms operators who deploy it) and the cloud services which run over it. Separating cloud in this way is a public signal to operators that Huawei wants to provide more than just the guts of cloud services and wants to establish more of a partnership relationship, something which may be challenging, especially given its home base of China, which has already created issues in the US and elsewhere for its network business. Secondly, the CEO stated that (partly for the reasons I just mentioned) the US isn’t a focus for the network business, and even for the devices business it’s not a major focus, as Huawei continues to struggle to break into the mainstream here with its smartphones. Lastly, though there was strong growth in parts of Huawei’s business, the CEO didn’t address the lack of margin expansion, something which was reported on previously and was likely due to aggressive growth of the smartphone business at the expense of margins in 2016.
Here’s our second LeEco story of the day, both fairly momentous (the first was news that the Vizio acquisition had fallen through). This one fits with the recent narrative of financial troubles at LeEco, and if the numbers in here are right, then things are indeed going very badly, with revenue of $15 million versus a target of $100 million in 2016 and layoffs of around a third of the US employee base planned. I’ve been skeptical of LeEco’s strategy from the beginning, and have only become more so as we’ve seen that strategy play out in the shadow of the financial troubles of the parent company. More broadly, LeEco’s struggles in the US demonstrate how different the US and China still are as markets, and how hard it is for companies to go either way across that chasm. No big Chinese company has yet been successful in the US, and Apple remains something of an exception as a US company that has done well long-term in China. LeEco was up against this from the beginning and its focus on an ecosystem play was always going to struggle without a big known brand like Vizio at the center of it here in the US.