By Thomas Clouse
China's Internet users present a rich potential market
Growth in consumer and producer prices in China continued to accelerate in November, prompting policy makers to raise reserve ratios and direct the country's state-owned banks to further limit lending. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced on December 11 that the consumer price index (CPI) had risen by a 28-month high rate of 5.1% in November. Producer prices jumped more drastically, up 6.1%. The acceleration in inflation comes despite an interest rate increase and other moves in recent months to slow monetary expansion. Government leaders last month implied that the tightening would continue, indicating through state-owned media that the country's monetary policy would shift from an "appropriately loose" to a "prudent" stance. Policy makers also identified controlling inflation as a top priority in 2011.
Chongqing Rural Commercial Bank became the first of China's regional rural commercial banks to list overseas with its successful IPO last month in Hong Kong. The bank, based in China's southwest, has the highest nonperforming loan ratio of any listed Chinese bank and is priced at a lower book-to-price ratio than its listed peers. According to the prospectus, the bank estimated an annual increase in profits in 2010 of 51%.
Two of China's most popular Internet companies also took advantage of overseas markets to raise money last month with online retailer Dangdang and online video company Youku both launching successful IPOs in New York on December 8. Dangdang attracted $272 million in investment, while Youku raised $203 million in its IPO and saw its stock price soar 161% during its first day of trading.
China boycotted the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and blocked domestic news coverage of the event after the Norwegian Nobel Committee chose political dissident Liu Xiaobo as the prize's recipient. Liu is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence after being convicted for subversion. The conviction stemmed from a document drafted in part by Liu and circulated on the Internet calling for political reform in China. Eighteen other countries joined China in its boycott of the event.