Chinese And Burmese Lobbyists

Today we have an exotic annual report to cover and lots of news after the snow has been cleared or melted here. The goods range from China to India, from Mexico to Sweden, from Qatar to Israel, from Myanmar to Japan, from Switzerland to Britain, plus lots of points in between.

China At Work

*Reporting today in RMB under IFRS standards, China Eastern Airlines, NYSE-CEA, missed on sales but beat on profits, and the stock rose over 4% this morning. Its sales in 2017 were down 3.5% from 2016 levels at RMB 102,475 billion, partly reversed by other China revenues, namely refunds of local taxes paid to municipalities for their facilities (like airports, I guess.) This boosted revenues to RMB 109,956 billion, up 5.2% on 2016.

Operating expenses were down 9% because of lower fuel costs but higher wages hit, so operating profit was down 30% y/y to RMB 9,431 mn. Then financial and currency hedge income chipped in to boost pre-tax profiss by 20% to RMB 8,131 mn. Taxes were lower proprotionately, a sign that some of the boost was not accepted by the fiscal authorities. Net income, the bottom line, was RMB 6,810 mn, or 44 Chinese cents/sh, up exactly 25%. The market treated the numbers as real. I am not a believer but I think the CEA stock has the ability to take off.

*Chinese lobbyists on behalf of Tianqi Lithium, a huge producer, met with Chilean stock market regulators to try to lift the ban on their buying the 33% of Soquimich. SQM is being auctioned off under Chinese anti-trust demands because the merger of ex- Agrium and ex- Potash risks creating a potash giant which can hurt Chinese farmers. Protectionism works differently for China across the Pacific than at home. Backing Chinese demands to be allowed to buy SQM are two big owners in Chile: Pampa Calichera and Potasios de Chile who have wrapped themselves in the mantle of shareholder rights. In fact PC and PdC are controlled by Julio Ponce, who used to run SQM, the ex-son-in-law of Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean dictator.

As shareholders of SQM we naturally want to be heard, but I am not willing to join up with the Clan Pinochet. Alas, the novice editor of, Carl Surran, applauded Ponce's move to open up the board to more representatives.He calls the Ponce move a “corporate governance shake up”/.

I go back further than they do. I worked for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when it examined the overthrow of Allende and the murder in Washington, DC of the dissident Chilean Ambassador (and innocent by-standers). Putin learned from the right and it appears that Xi does too.

*Today's Financial Times says that Tencent, TCEHY, of Hong Kong, is beating US-listed Alibaba in on-line payments handled. This is by number not value. It will all end in tears just like the US tech battles for supremacy.

Solar Power

*Azure Power Global (AZRE) is up an amazing 10.23% today after landing a 200 megaWatt contract to build a solar project for Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam at INR 3.06, the equivalent of 5 ¢/kWh, some 25% higher than the lowest solar tariff in India. I hope the deal was reached honestly but the valuation was not revealed. The station goes live next year. AZRE is run out of Mauritius and is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, so it probably is honest. With an Indian-born brother-in-law I am sometimes too hard on the former Raj.

*A solar micro power plant in Myanmar being built by a pro-government Singapore holding company won funding from the private arm of the World Bank, the International Finance Corp., plus the government of Canada which will provide $28 mn in equity and debt. I wonder if they have seen how former Burma treats its Muslims?


*The arbs are coming. Irish Shire Pharmaceuticals, which may become a Takeda target, reported to the SEC that there had been buying by Northern Cross and Maverick Capital, which acquired 1.4% of the outstanding shares and 1.5% resp. In fact they bought ADRs which went up while London was closed yesterday. However today SHPG was accused by The Times of having bribed healthcare professions with as much as 4.4 mn euros to get their business. JP Morgan dropped its overage of Shire last week perhaps because it is advising Takeda.

*Zacks raised GlaxoSmithKline to buy from hold today. But Thomson-Reuters downgraded it to sell from hold. GSK allowed the OTC part of Pfizer to slip from its grasp and instead went for the part of a jv with Novartis (NVSit did not own, for less money and more likely synergies. Now Procter & Gamble is the possible PFE buyer.

*Switzerland led the way in approving Alocensa from Roche, RHHBY. It treats advanced or metastatic anaplastic kinase-prone lymphoma, a form of lung cancer. Roche faces some issues over its new Hemlibra drug as 5 pateints taking the drug died from causes it says had nothing to do with the hemophilia drug now approved only for those who have antibodies to blood factor VIII. Shire with two older drugs, Feiba and Advate will gain if worries about deaths stop Roche's potential blockbuster. I think that with open information on those who died while taking the drug (who didn't have factor VIII) the status of Hemlibra remains promising. It would help to know how many were in this trial altogether.

*TEVA may gain from new US Medicare regs which allow seniors to be given generics at any point in the year even they began it getting the patented version of the drug. More and cheaper drug options will help cut costs both for the program and its beneficiaries, as well as helping restore the generics firms' profits. The maker of patented medicines offer patients co-pay discount coupons to keep them on board even if cheaper generics are available.

Teva also plans a 49% price rise for its inhaled asthma drug in early May, which California state officials have publicized (as they can under a new law) to try to stop it. California is taking the lead among states to block coupons.

However Reuters reports that Teva may be a federal target as the DoJ is now joining the Ohio state settlement talks over excess sales zeal selling opioids early in this decade. My Cleveland daughter had a painful ankle operation and I can be sure that some surgeons in Ohio were smart enough not to let their patients become addicted. Drug reps who serve people with medical degrees are unlikely to push patients into addiction and overdoses unless they are complicit in illegal marketing or leakage into the addiction supply system. The DoJ will be filing an “amicus curae” brief on non-monetary remedies.

Industrials and Energy

*Mexichem was the 2nd best performer among the Mexican large caps in Q1, writes Eduardo Garcia in today. MXCHF gained 14.4% in pesos, more in US$s, unlike Cemex which lost nearly 5%. I suspect it is less well-covered than NYSE-listed CX, but it also gains from its major deals closing.

*ValuEngine upgraded Autoliv two notches today, from hold to strong buy. Swedish ALV is incorporated in Delaware for historic reasons and faces a US suit over governance. I think its governance is fine although I note that there are no obvious women on the roster for the board I just got a proxy to vote on, unless it is Xiaozhi Liu or Kazuhiko Sakamoto.

*Zacks raised Kuboto, KUBTY , from sell to hold.

*Ecopetrol of Colombia rose another 2.5% today apparently because EC issued a second press release about how it has halted the pollution from its offshore Lisama 158 well near Barcameja; we reported on this last week.

*Suntrust raised Schlumberger Ltd of Curacao from hold to buy. SLB.

*ValuEngine downed Cameco to sell from hold. I like CCJ because I like nuclear power.

Tech & Telephone

*Vodafone sold to Qatar its 51% stake in their jv. Price was not given. VOD.

*To find a tech stock to dump, today Japanese investors sold down Fanuc 2.5% in Tokyo. FANUY here.

*Thomson-Reuters dropped coverage of Magal Security Systems. MAGS is Israeli.

*Zacks dropped coverage of Naspers, NPSNY of South Africa. It owns 31.3% of Hong Kong's Tencent, TCEHY.


*Aberdeen Chile Fund is now expected to gobble up 4 other Aberdeen funds this month, although others will require a second proxy vote. The funds the sub of Standard Life Aberdeen will manage via CH are: Israel Fund (ISL), Singapore Fund (SGF), Asia Tigers Fund (GRR), and Indonesia Fund (IF). The consolidation will cut costs for the group which merged last year.

*Mexican Equity & Income Fund was boosted by City of London, a UK-listed fund of funds managed by Barry Olliff, buying $219,000 worth of MXE shares. El PresidenteTrump wants a deal by next week on NAFTA so he can look good at the Perus summit April 13 and he will use access to his office to achieve a breakthrough. The next time he threatens to pull out of NAFTA I will buy more.

*Templeton Emerging Income Fund got a $706,000 buy of its shares by Saba Capital, a Caymans outfit run by the US hedge fund run by Boaz Weinstein. Saba owned 12.91% of TEI at the close of Q1, so it now owns about 14% of TEI. It may just be harvesting the dividends.

Disclosure: None.

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