The Virus, The Jobless And The Ant Man

The Virus, The Jobless And The Ant Man

“The situation is really severe and there is no sign that it is under control”, Carrie Lam said Sunday, as Hong Kong reported a record number of new coronavirus cases. “To combat the pandemic, I hereby urge citizens to be patient in order to contain this”, she added.

The government is stepping up efforts to curtail the spread. Civil servants are working from home and social distancing protocols have been extended, including restrictions on restaurants. An indoor mask mandate is in the cards, apparently.

The resurgence of the virus in the city is a warning sign to the rest of the world. Hong Kong’s “second wave” (if that’s what you want to call it) is worse than the first, and is mirrored to a certain extent in Australia and Japan, which are grappling with stubborn outbreaks.

For Hong Kong, this is just one more gut punch to the local economy. On Monday, the city said the unemployment rate rose above 6% for the April to June period.

That’s the highest in a decade and a half. Really, it seems like a small miracle it’s not markedly higher.

This of course comes as the international community shuns the city, not out of malice for its citizens, but for lack of better options when it comes to punishing Beijing for the new security law implemented last month.

The US has yanked Hong Kong’s special status, is weighing sanctions, and multiple countries are considering suspending extradition treaties.

Local stocks are holding up, and have been bolstered by flows from the mainland, in a testament to Beijing’s capacity to engineer outcomes against the odds. “Mainland investors were in line to be net buyers of the city’s equities for a 26th session”, Bloomberg noted on Monday.

Meanwhile, Jack Ma is set to take Ant Group public in a dual listing at a valuation of at least $200 billion. Ant chose China International Capital, Citi, JPMorgan, and Morgan Stanley for the deal.

In addition to Hong Kong, Ant plans to list on Shanghai’s STAR board, where sanity goes to die.

Recently, something called QuantumCTek Co (they make information security products) rose 924% in its debut, for example. It was the most successful IPO yet on the exchange, which turns all of one-year-old this month.

There are no limits on how much a stock can rise in its first five sessions after an IPO, so “sky is the limit” can be taken literally when it comes to Ant’s debut.

Of course, the dual listing is also good news for Hong Kong, and comes at an opportune time.

In addition to Alipay, Ant has its hands in pretty much everything under the sun, including AI, cloud computing, and blockchain. It was valued at $150 billion during its last round, eclipsing Goldman and Morgan combined.

“Ant has been accelerating its evolution into an online mall for everything from loans and travel services to food delivery”, Bloomberg notes, before reminding you that “Alipay now caters to a wide array of consumer needs from groceries to wealth management, and hotel booking to loan applications”.

It seems at least possible that Ant could raise more in its IPOs than Aramco’s local listing brought in late last year.

Ant conjured some $2 billion in profits during its December quarter.


 

5 thoughts on “The Virus, The Jobless And The Ant Man

  1. Seems apparent that Jack Ma answers to Xi. China does not have to use force to take over the world- just pay off those in their way.
    Next will be US Tech entrepreneurs who, instead of going through the brain damage of going public in order to get their payoff, just sell directly to the Chinese. Cut out the middle man. Then the world can’t accuse Chinese of stealing technology.

    1. Not just Xi makes timely payoffs. What else would you call Trump’s huge corporate tax cut but a bribe? Are any of the affected companies using any of their cut to help those in need from the effects of COVID? Not bloody likely, though I did see a company with profits of many billions commit to a charitable gift of $1 mil!!! Big whoop.

  2. New cases could simply be a matter of more testing. Sweden has more new cases; it has had steadily dropping deaths so that now very few are dying of Covid. My point is that rising cases may not be a key metric or cause for concern.

    1. Donsmoke, except to the extent that large case counts deter people from engaging in normal activities, thereby dragging down the economy.

      The large case counts make it clear that the virus is still “out there”, and most people I know still don’t want to roll the dice on a potentially lengthy and disruptive hospital stay (…even if they ultimately recover in full).

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