By Thomas Clouse
Expo frenzy: Shanghai expects 70 million visitors
China's consumer prices rose by the greatest margin in 18 months in April, while property prices increased by the fastest rate since the country began publishing the data in 2005. According to China's National Bureau of Statistics, consumer prices increased by 2.8% year on year in April, and real estate prices in 70 large and medium-size cities jumped 12.8%. Urban fixed-asset investment in real estate also rose sharply, up 36.2%. New lending likely fueled some of the increase, with Chinese banks extending an unexpectedly high RMB774 billion ($113 billion) in new renminbi-denominated loans in April, according to China's central bank.
With the government tightening lending restrictions, Chinese banks are considering a variety of methods to raise capital. The Agricultural Bank of China (ABC), the last of China's largest four banks to launch an IPO, submitted listing applications last month to regulators in Hong Kong and Shanghai. The dual listing is expected to raise $20 billion to $30 billion, which would make it the largest in history. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the nation's largest bank, announced the sale of RMB25 billion ($3.7 billion) in convertible bonds in April, and media reports indicate that the bank may offer $7 billion to $10 billion in stock on capital markets.
The largest World Expo ever opened in Shanghai on April 30. The Shanghai government expects more than 70 million visitors during the Expo's six-month run, more than 10 times as many as the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Shanghai reportedly spent $44 billion in preparation for the Expo, adding subway lines, repairing roads and renovating its riverfront, among other measures. Many Chinese visitors to the Expo view the event as an opportunity to experience foreign cultures, while country exhibitors hope to impress the many Chinese tourists attending. World Expos began in London in 1851 and have served as a venue for introducing new inventions and architectural feats, including the Eiffel Tower in Paris, throughout its history.