MNCs in the News-2020-September

China

In mid-September, China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) issued rules relating to China’s “unreliable entities” list, a list China has been promising to issue a list in late 2019. While no formal list has yet been issued, MOFCOM has indicated that it will “target foreign firms and individuals violating normal market transactions in China, interrupting deals with Chinese firms, or taking discriminatory measures against Chinese firms.” Some have conjectured that the list will target American companies such as Apple, Boeing, and Qualcomm (Cheng Leng and Kevin Yao, “China’s Commerce Ministry Issues Rules on ‘Unreliable Entities’ List,” Reuters, September 18, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trade-china-entities/chinas-comme...)

Rejecting the worries of foreign companies about the “unreliable entities” list, a MOFCOM spokesperson stated the list “is not targeted at any specific country or company, will be applied in accordance with the rules…[and] there is no preset list of enterprises in the list.” He emphasized “creditworthy and law-abiding foreign entities have nothing to worry about,” China is committedly to “firmly protecting the legitimate rights and interests of various market players,” and that the government is working to “provide foreign investors with better services” (Zhong Nan, “New Entity List is Not Biased, Assures Govt,” China Daily, September 25, 2020, www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202009/25/WS5f6d41cea31024ad0ba7bbd0.html)

China’s State Administration for Market Regulation is readying an antitrust investigation into Google, the charge being that Google “leveraged the dominance of its Android mobile operating system to stifle competition” and caused damage to Chinese companies. Interestingly, China’s Huawei, a telecommunications giant, proposed the case and the matter currently is being reviewed by China’s State Council. In the backdrop is the escalating United States (US)-China technology war as well as evolving Chinese antitrust laws allowing for potentially much higher fines (Cheng Leng, Keith Zhai, and David Kirton, “Exclusive: China Preparing an Antitrust Investigation into Google-Source,” Reuters, September 30, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-google-china-huawei-tech-exclusive/ex...)

A joint MOFCOM, National Bureau of Statistics, and State Administration of Foreign Exchange report on Chinese outward foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2019 indicated that it totaled USD $136.91 billion, falling 4.3 percent year-over-year (YOY), with the vast percentage going into leasing and business services, manufacturing, finance, wholesale, and retail. At the end of 2019, Chinese total outward FDI (OFDI) stock reached $2.2 trillion. According to the report, Chinese firms overseas paid $56 billion in taxes, employed 2.27 million individuals, and held assets worth $7.2 trillion (Liu Zhihua, “Country ODI Stays Robust, Says Report,” China Daily, September 17, 2020, https://global.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202009/17/WS5f62a2b7a31024ad0ba7a050....)

Chinese OFDI (COFDI) to the US plummeted to its lowest level in almost a decade due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and broader political frictions between China and the US. The situation actually could get worse due to pressures from the US government to unwind deals Chinese firms already have concluded. Wong MNC Center Executive Director Jean-Marc F. Blanchard argued part of the decline had to do with the drop in COFDI from the Chinese conglomerates which were aggressive in the mid-2010s (Thomas Hale, “China-US Investment Falls to Lowest in Almost a Decade,” Financial Times, September 16, 2020)

India’s Minister of Electronics and Information Technology stated in response to questions in the Indian parliament that “there are no proposals to ban all China-linked mobile apps or exclude Chinese companies from 5G contracts for wireless equipment.” This was comforting news to Indian telecommunications companies that feared Chinese firms would not be allowed to participate in 5G trials and roll-outs. Some were skeptical, however, given all the economic sanctions India has imposed, to date, including the banning of nearly 300 Chinese mobile apps (Chu Daye, “Wary Response to India’s ‘Softening’ on Banning Chinese Products,” Global Times, September 22, 2020, https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1201732.shtml)

Japan

The US recently banned the shipment of all semiconductors made with American technology to Huawei, which will affect Japanese chipmakers in Japan as well as around the world. Japanese firms like Renas Electronics, Sony, and Toshiba, which supplied around $10.4 billion in parts to Huawei in 2019, will have to find new customers for their products (many Huawei competitors) as well as new market segments. They also will have to be careful that the goods they sell are not diverted to Huawei (Yoichiro Hiroi, “Japanese Chipmakers Scramble to Replace Huawei Sales after US Ban,” Nikkei Asia, September 16, 2020, https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Huawei-crackdown/Japanese-chipmakers-s...)

Friction between Epic Games and Apple over the latter’s App Store policies “has sparked new scrutiny…and discussion about how to counter the tech giant’s dominance.” In the wake of their public legal spat, Japan’s antitrust regulator said that it will increase its monitoring of Apple. For their part, Japanese app firms, which generate tens of billions of dollars in revenues for Apple, complain Apple inconsistently enforces its App Store guidelines, makes unpredictable content decisions, and is a poor communicator (Takashi Mochizuki, “Apple App Stores Draws Fresh Scrutiny in Japan, the Epicenter of Gaming,” The Japan Times, September 4, 2020, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/09/04/business/apple-app-store-sc...)

Covid-19 and the resignation of Abe Shinzo from the Prime Ministership are having an adverse impact on the expansion of Japanese OFDI in Africa. Abe had been quite supportive of increased Japanese OFDI into Africa as well as measures to facilitate it. While there still is interest in countries such as Nigeria—one JETRO executive opining “‘Japanese companies’ enthusiasm about business in Africa has not weakened,’” the loss of a “‘political driving force’” likely will have notable ramifications (“Japanese Firms’ Africa Expansion Hit by Covid-19 and Abe Exit,” The Japan Times, September 21, 2020, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/09/21/business/japan-companies-af...)

In January 2019, Hitachi froze its multi-billion-dollar project to construct two nuclear power plants in North Wales because of failures in obtaining the funding needed to cover increasing project costs that flowed from soaring safety costs. Negotiations with the United Kingdom (UK) government proved fruitless perhaps because of Brexit and the UK government’s preoccupation with Covid-19. In any event, Hitachi may terminate the reactor projects, a “severe blow to efforts by Tokyo to promote infrastructure exports as a key driver of economic growth” (“Hitachi Eyes Dropping Plan to Build Nuclear Plant in Britain,” The Japan Times, September 15, 2020, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/09/15/business/corporate-business...)

South Korea

Like Japanese firms, Korean firms faces serious consequences as a result of US President Donald Trump’s efforts to limit Huawei’s access to semiconductors using or that were manufactured with American technology. More specifically, firms such as Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix will stop providing chips such as DRAMS, NAND flashes, and system semiconductors to the Chinese telecommunications giant, which represents a significant portion of their total sales (Michael Herh, “Korean Chipmakers to Stop Supplying Semiconductors to Huawei Beginning Sept. 15,” BusinessKorea, September 9, 2020, http://www.businesskorea.co.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=51488)

The Korea Free Trade Commission (FTC) signaled at a press conference in early September that it would pay more attention to fair competition in the App market especially regarding changing fees. While the FTC did not explicitly mention Google, some believe its remarks were a warning to Google which has fueled complaints because of the high percentage cut it takes from in-app payment systems. The FTC also seems to be interested in researching if Google abused its market dominance when it increased its purchase cut (Nam Hyun-Woo, “Korea to Tighten Reins on Google’s Monopoly,” Korea Times, September 9, 2020, https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/tech/2020/09/129_295756.html

A Hyundai Engineering & Construction (E&C) led consortium, which includes one other Korean firm as well as a Filipino firm, has won a project to construct the first section of the Malolos to Clark Railway for $573 million. This project, which should take four years to complete and was awarded by the Philippines Department of Transportation, will involve not only railway construction, but also the construction of ground stations and a bridge. Hyundai E&C has not undertaken a major infrastructure project in the Philippines since 1986.

(Michael Herh, “Hyundai E&G Wins US$573 Mil. Railway Project in the Philippines,” BusinessKorea, http://www.businesskorea.co.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=52158)

*The information compiled in the MNCs in the News digest is gathered from sources believed to be reliable, but the Wong MNC Center does not guarantee their accuracy. The content of the MNCs in the News digest does not necessarily represent the view of the Wong MNC Center, its Board of Directors, or its Advisory Board, but is intended for the non-commercial use of readers in order to foster debate and discussion and to facilitate and stimulate research.