We start the new year with three developments out of China.
Beijing flexes its muscle: China has halted planned cross-border listings between Shanghai and the London Stock Exchange because of political tensions with the United Kingdom, according to Reuters.
The suspension of the Shanghai-London Stock Connect is the latest example of fallout related to the Hong Kong protests to hit companies that are exposed to China.
According to Reuters, politics was behind the suspension of the stock connect mechanism, which has been touted as an important step in the opening up of China’s capital markets.
The suspension comes just weeks before the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, a departure that makes the country’s relationships with big economies such as the United States and China even more important.
The episode highlights the tough choices facing Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he seeks to negotiate new trade deals that are needed to boost Britain’s stagnant economy.
HSBC targeted: Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong attacked HSBC ( branches on the first day of the new year and vandalized a pair of bronze lions outside the bank’s headquarters in the city. )
Protesters accuse the bank of colluding with authorities and frustrating efforts to fund the demonstrations.
At issue is the closure of an HSBC account held by a nonprofit group raising funds for the protests, and the subsequent arrest of four of its members on money laundering allegations.
The bank said in a statement last month that the account closure was “completely unrelated” to the arrests. On Wednesday, it condemned the “repeated” vandalism of its branches.
HSBC was established in Hong Kong in 1865, and is the biggest bank in the financial hub. But like many other global companies that use Hong Kong as a base, it does a huge amount of business in mainland China.
Other companies to come under pressure from the Hong Kong protests include Cathay Pacific (, )Disney (, )Prada ( and )Swatch (. )
Central bank acts: The People’s Bank of China has moved to stimulate the country’s economy, giving banks the green light to increase lending by roughly $115 billion.
The PBOC on Wednesday announced a relatively small reduction in the amount of capital banks are required to keep in reserve, freeing up additional money ahead of Chinese New Year, when demand for cash increases due to holiday gift giving.
China’s economy is growing at the slowest pace in decades, and the country’s central bank made a series of adjustments last year aimed at stabilizing growth amid the fallout from the trade war with the United States.
Economists expect the country’s central bank to continue to act. Among the possible moves: another cut to the reserve requirement ratio, or an interest rate cut.
The latest on Carlos Ghosn’s great escape
Japanese authorities have raided the house where fugitive auto executive Carlos Ghosn was staying before he escaped to Lebanon earlier this week, possibly via Turkey.
- Local media reported that Tokyo district prosecutors entered the property where Ghosn had been living on Thursday.
- CNN affiliate TV Asahi said that prosecutors were working with police to access CCTV video around his home as part of their investigation.
- Turkish state media reported that seven people have been detained on suspicion of helping Ghosn flee to Lebanon. Police have reportedly detained four pilots of a private airline, two ground staff and the director of a cargo company.
Bottom line: It is still not clear how Ghosn, who is a citizen of France, Brazil and Lebanon, was able to slip out of Japan, where he was awaiting trial on charges of financial misconduct.
It’s very unlikely that Ghosn will be returning to Japan because the country does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon, where the former Nissan and Renault boss spent his childhood and enjoys popular support.
The implications: “No matter what [Japan does] now, it is very difficult to overcome the embarrassment of letting go one of the most high-profile suspects” of corporate scandal since World War II, said Keith Henry, the founder of Asia Strategy, a research and policy firm based in Tokyo.
Warren Buffett sticks to his guns
According to the Financial Times, Tiffany & Co. ( approached Warren Buffett about making a potential bid after the US company received an offer from luxury giant )LVMH (. )
But the Berkshire Hathaway boss rejected Tiffany’s advances. Why? He thought the asking price was too steep, according to the FT.
Buffett has lamented the fact that valuations for many companies have become prohibitively expensive given that the stock market keeps hitting new record highs. And he has continuously stressed that he won’t overpay for deals.
Yet Berkshire Hathaway ( is now sitting on $128 billion in cash. And Buffett wrote in the company’s annual shareholder letter in February that he hopes to make “an elephant-sized acquisition.” )
There was intermittent chatter last year that Berkshire may be interested in struggling California utility PG&E, and there were rumors that Buffett may want to buy a major US airline, such as Southwest (. Berkshire already owns shares in Southwest, as well as )Delta (, )American ( and )United (. )
For now, though, it looks like Buffett will continue to resist the urge to splash out.