Ping An’s tech transformation, Volkswagen and other stories you may have missed

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 July, 2017, 11:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 July, 2017, 11:19am

Chinese insurance titan Ping An to take on internet giants as it evolves into a tech powerhouse

What’s the story: Ping An Insurance (Group) is gearing up to take on mainland China’s internet giants, while pursuing international expansion, under its audacious plan to become a full-fledged technology company.

Why it matters: Ping An is China’s second-largest life insurer, with more policy holders than the population of Japan. It’s also one of the industry’s most innovative, expanding both its size and its business scope in leaps and bounds since its establishment in 1988. Its ambitions to now turn itself into a technology company, making use of its huge customer base, underscores the innovativeness of Chinese companies, with the huge population as their advantage.

The ‘People’s Car’ has big dreams in the People’s Republic

What’s the story: Volkswagen AG, the world’s largest carmaker and one of the earliest foreign automotive investors in China is banking on the biggest vehicle market on the planet to drive its ambitions in developing electric cars. The assembler of the “People’s car” has set a target to sell 1 million electric cars by 2025, and the Chinese market is a major driver of that growth.

Why it matters: Due to the size of its market, and the increasing spending power of its expanding middle class, China is the testing ground for many global brands, and technologies. New energy vehicles account for a mere 2 per cent of total autos sold in the country, while battery-powered cars are less than 1 per cent, indicating there’s plenty of room to grow.

A public works programme could keep Hong Kong’s sky high building costs out of reach

What’s the story: The construction cost of a high rise apartment in Hong Kong is on average about HK$26,000 per square meter, more than double what it costs in Singapore. A slew of government projects, involving up to 10 major infrastructure works, will suck up all the available workforce in the construction industry, keeping building costs high.

Why it matters: As the government’s public works projects are expected to stretch out, more demands will be exerted on the labour force, far exceeding the industry’s ability to replenish the ageing workforce.

China adds fewer new stock investors on weakness in small caps, curbs

What’s the story: The number of new stock investors grew at the slowest pace in three months last week, as smaller firms continued a downward slide and Beijing banned anyone aged over 80 from opening accounts. Some 228,700 new investors were added on the mainland last week, the fewest since April, according to data from the China Securities Depository and Clearing Corporation. That excluded the week starting May 29, when there were only three trading days because of public holidays.

Why it matters: At its peak, China had more than 127 million stock trading accounts, which means 1 in almost 10 Chinese person had an account. The population creates Asia’s largest capital market, one that’s increasingly opening itself to global investments.

These core global themes are possible investment winners

What’s the story: A decade after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the global economy seems to be settling into a stable, synchronised recovery path for the first time. As the global economic picture brightens, equities are considered as one of most attractive investment assets, in particular techs in the US and China and multinational conglomerates in Europe and Japan.

Why it matters: These are global themes for the savvy investor to watch out for. Asset managers and strategists have set their sights on two types of equities which offer the most upside in the current environment -- sector benefiting from technological innovation and multinational companies.