China’s GDP growth grinds to near 30-year low as tariffs hit production

China’s third-quarter GDP growth was the slowest since the first quarter of 1992. (AP)
Updated 18 October 2019

China’s GDP growth grinds to near 30-year low as tariffs hit production

  • China’s trading partners and investors are closely watching the health of the world’s second-largest economy
  • The third-quarter GDP growth was the slowest since the first quarter of 1992

BEIJING: China’s third-quarter economic growth slowed more than expected and to its weakest pace in almost three decades as the bruising US trade war hit factory production, boosting the case for Beijing to roll out fresh support.
Gross domestic product (GDP) rose just 6.0 percent year-on-year, marking a further loss of momentum for the economy from the second quarter’s 6.2 percent growth.
China’s trading partners and investors are closely watching the health of the world’s second-largest economy as the trade war with the United States fuels fears about a global recession.
Downbeat Chinese data in recent months has highlighted weaker demand at home and abroad. Still, most analysts say the scope for aggressive stimulus is limited in an economy already saddled with piles of debt following previous easing cycles, which have sent housing prices sharply higher.
Nie Wen, a Shanghai-based economist at Hwabao Trust, pinned the worse-than-expected GDP growth mainly to weakness in export-related industries, especially the manufacturing sector.
“Given exports are unlikely to stage a comeback and a possible slowdown in the property sector, the downward pressure on China’s economy is likely to continue, with fourth-quarter economic growth expected to slip to 5.9 percent,” Nie said.
“Authorities will loosen policies, but in a more restrained way.”
The third-quarter GDP growth was the slowest since the first quarter of 1992, the earliest quarterly data on record, and missed forecasts for 6.1 percent growth in a Reuters poll of analysts. It was also at the bottom end of the government’s full-year target range of 6.0 percent-6.5 percent.
In a briefing after the GDP data release, Mao Shengyong, a spokesman for China’s statistics bureau, announced Beijing’s plans to bring forward some 2020 special local government bond issuance to this year, in a move to spur regional infrastructure investment.
Even recent signs of breakthrough in the protracted trade war between Beijing and Washington are unlikely to change the economic outlook any time soon.
US President Donald Trump said last week the two sides had reached agreement on the first phase of a deal and suspended a tariff hike, but officials warn much work still needed to be done.
A slide in China’s exports accelerated in September while imports contracted for a fifth straight month.
The drags on demand, both domestic and global, have hit several key parts of the economy with weakness seen in freight shipments, factory power generation, employment and entertainment spending. In September, factory gate prices fell at their fastest pace in three years.
Mao from the statistics bureau said there was ample room to change monetary policy, as rising consumer inflation has been mainly driven by volatile food prices.
The International Monetary Fund has warned the US-China trade war will cut 2019 global growth to its slowest pace since the 2008-2009 financial crisis, but said output would rebound if their dueling tariffs were removed.
Beijing has relied on a combination of fiscal stimulus and monetary easing to weather the current slowdown, including trillions of yuan in tax cuts and local government bonds to fund infrastructure projects and efforts to spur bank lending.
But the economy has been slow to respond with business confidence shaky and local governments facing increasing strains as tax cuts hit revenues, weighing on investment.
In contrast to the disappointing headline GDP number, China’s industrial output grew a better-than-expected 5.8 percent in September, faster than the 17-year-low posted in August.
The uptick was in line with signs of increased domestic orders, though overall demand remains at historically weak levels. Analysts had expected industrial output to grow 5.0 percent in September.
September’s industrial production was also in line with recent business surveys that noted new domestic orders in food processing, textiles and electrical machinery, although growth in other products such as cement, crude steel and cars slowed further.
Hwabao Trust’s Nie does not expect stronger manufacturing to last given slowing global demand, which would suggest a pick up in broader economic growth remains unlikely.
Fixed asset investment grew 5.4 percent from January-September, matching expectations, but slowing from the 5.5 percent in the first eight months.
Private sector fixed-asset investment, accounting for 60 percent of the country’s total investment, grew 4.7 percent in January-September, down from 4.9 percent in January-August.
Retail sales rose 7.8 percent year-on-year last month, in line with expectations, and faster than 7.5 percent in August.


HP rejects Xerox takeover bid, says open to acquiring Xerox instead

Updated 18 November 2019

HP rejects Xerox takeover bid, says open to acquiring Xerox instead

  • In rejecting Xerox's $33.5 billion cash-and-stock acquisition offer, HP said the offer “significantly” undervalued the personal computer maker
  • Xerox made the offer for HP on Nov. 5 after resolving its dispute with its joint venture partner Fujifilm Holdings Corp.
NEW YORK: HP Inc. said on Sunday it was open to exploring a bid for US printer maker Xerox Corp. after rebuffing a $33.5 billion cash-and-stock acquisition offer from the latter as “significantly” undervaluing the personal computer maker.
Xerox made the offer for HP, a company more than three times its size, on Nov. 5, after it resolved a dispute with its joint venture partner Fujifilm Holdings Corp. that represented billions of dollars in potential liabilities.
Responding to Xerox’s offer on Sunday, HP said in a statement that it would saddle the combined company with “outsized debt” and was not in the best interest of its shareholders.
However, HP left the door open for a deal that would involve it becoming the acquirer of Xerox, stating that it recognized the potential benefits of consolidation.
“With substantive engagement from Xerox management and access to diligence information on Xerox, we believe that we can quickly evaluate the merits of a potential transaction,” HP said in its statement.
The move puts pressure on Xerox to open its books to HP. Xerox did not immediately respond on Sunday to a request for comment on whether it will engage with HP in negotiations as the potential acquisition target, rather than the acquirer.
HP on Sunday published Xerox CEO John Visentin’s Nov. 5 offer letter to HP, in which he stated that his company was “prepared to devote all necessary resources to finalize our due diligence on an accelerated basis.”
Activist investor Carl Icahn, who took over Xerox’s board last year together with fellow billionaire businessman Darwin Deason, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week that he was not set on a particular structure for a deal with HP, as long as a combination is achieved. Icahn has also amassed a 4% stake in HP.
Xerox had offered HP shareholders $22 per share that included $17 in cash and 0.137 Xerox shares for each HP share, according to the Nov. 5 letter. The offer would have resulted in HP shareholders owning about 48% of the combined company. HP shares ended trading on Friday at $20.18.
Many analysts have said there is merit in the companies combining to better cope with a stagnating printing market, but some cited challenges to integration, given their different offerings and pricing models.
Xerox scrapped its $6.1 billion deal to merge with Fujifilm last year under pressure from Icahn and Deason.
Xerox announced earlier this month it would sell its 25% stake in the joint venture for $2.3 billion. Fujifilm also agreed to drop a lawsuit against Xerox, which it was pursuing following their failed merger.

Test for new HP CEO
In 2011 as the centerpiece of its unsuccessful pivot to software. Little over a year later, it wrote off $8.8 billion, $5 billion of which it put down to accounting improprieties, misrepresentation and disclosure failures.
More recently, HP has been struggling with its printer business segment recently, with the division’s third-quarter revenue dropping 5% on-year. It has announced a cost-saving program worth more than $1 billion that could result in its shedding about 16% of its workforce, or about 9,000 employees, over the next few years.
Xerox’s stock has rallied under Visentin, who took over last year as CEO. However, HP said on Sunday that a decline in Xerox’s revenue since June 2018 from $10.2 billion to $9.2 “raises significant questions” regarding the trajectory of Xerox’s business and future prospects.