China vs. USA – The Big Tech Great Divergence, What is Underneath the Surface?

Don’t miss our next trade idea. Get on the Bear Traps Report Today, click here

Breaking July 9:

Biden Administration to Give Technology Mergers Greater Scrutiny

Many of the large platforms’ business models have depended on the accumulation of extraordinary amounts of sensitive personal information and related data.

In the Order, the President:

Encourages the FTC to establish rules on surveillance and the accumulation of data.

Big Tech platforms unfairly competing with small businesses: The large platforms’ power gives them unfair opportunities to get a leg up on the small businesses that rely on them to reach customers. For example, companies that run dominant online retail marketplaces can see how small businesses’ products sell and then use the data to launch their own competing products. Because they run the platform, they can also display their own copycat products more prominently than the small businesses’ products. BN

Institutional investors can join our live chat on Bloomberg. Since 2010, a groundbreaking venue with participants now in 23 countries.

Please email

Thank you. LGM.

An Important Message from Jason Hsu and Larry McDonald

30% off sale – “Didi Extends Drop to Fresh Lows as China Weighs Rule Changes – Ride-hailing company has lost $17 billion in value this week – China plans changes to block firms from listing overseas” – Bloomberg

The future of Chinese Tech and ADRs: What can we learn from DiDi and Ant?

Much has happened this week in the Chinese tech and ADR space. Below are our thoughts in response to some of the questions I’ve been receiving from investors and others.

“The US IPO conveyor belt needs to slow down. US banks MUST do more due diligence. With 30 more China-based IPOs in the pipeline, look for the SEC to put the breaks on any day now.”

Larry McDonald, Founder of the Bear Traps Report

China Internet KWEB vs. Nasdaq 100 NDX
Equity markets have been pricing in pain for weeks in China big tech.

Is DiDi Ant Financial redux?

On July 6th, DiDi plunged 20% following the news of (1) a formal investigation by the Chinese Cyber Security Administration and (2) a temporary removal of its app from all app stores in China. Many western investors viewed this the same as Ant Financial’s scuttled IPO last year. Their analysis started and ended with, “What did DiDi say to piss off Beijing?!”

This is far from the correct interpretation; Didi is not Ant Financial Redux. Let us explain why these two are not even close.

“The SEC should rescind the DIDI offering and protect US investors from China’s shenanigans. It’s time to protect US investors from Xi Jingping. Yet another example as to why China’s companies should BE FORCED TO ADHERE to the same standards as US companies.”

Kyle Bass, CIO Hayman Capital Management

An obvious indicator of the difference between these two is that the Chinese regulator halted the Ant Financial IPO in its tracks. By contrast, it politely waited until one week after the DiDi IPO before announcing a formal investigation. If the Chinese regulator believed DiDi’s deficiencies could not be resolved to its satisfaction or would jeopardize DiDi’s operations in mainland China, it would have asked DiDi to pull its U.S. IPO – and DiDi would have complied. The fact that it allowed DiDi’s IPO to proceed is significant.

Some have suggested Beijing has exercised enforcement unevenly against DiDi and Ant Financial, unfairly targeting Jack Ma for harsher treatment. Again, this is not the correct interpretation. For starters, Ant and DiDi are both incredibly plugged-in and aided by the most connected powerbrokers in China. Rounds of informal but deliberate conversations will have occurred and agreements reached in both cases before anything formal is announced in the press. The key difference is that for Ant Financial, the regulatory deficiency was too great to be remedied under the existing model. To the extent there is reasonable dissatisfaction with Beijing’s handling of Ant Financial, it is that the regulator waited too long to act.

Didi’s IPO was allowed to proceed precisely because, unlike Ant Financial, Beijing believed the company’s deficiencies can be remedied. The concerns regarding data privacy are easily addressable and the punishment—temporary removal of the DiDi hailing app from app stores—insignificant in the long-term. DiDi’s hailing app is, after all, already on every smartphone in China through WeChat.

There is no doubt that Beijing intended to make a point with by announcing the formal investigation. Sending a signal to other industry players is often a primary objective when there are public sanctions against the clear industry leader for industry-wide infractions. However, the issue at hand is relatively minor. The regulator was apathetic enough to be willing to agree to a delay in the formal investigation until after the IPO, and that tells you everything you need to know about the difference between DiDi and Ant Financial.

Don’t miss our next trade idea. Get on the Bear Traps Report Today, click here

Is Beijing going after Chinese tech firms listed in the U.S.?

Some of the issues the China regulator is investigating regarding DiDi are industry-wide, which means the government action has broader implications. This was on display when major indexes tracking Chinese tech ADRs took a major nosedive on July 6 – even though most of them had not yet added DiDi!

This is One, Unsustainable – Yet Impressive Divergence
In the USA, close to 92% of corporate profits sit in the hands of the largest 100 companies, up from 57% in the 1990s, per the Wall St. Journal. Monopoly power is on the rise as Washington is on the sidelines, for now.

Clearly, the market is reading something much bigger into DiDi’s cybersecurity investigation. Investors are now concerned about all tech firms that store massive amounts of data and perform analyses on Chinese citizens and businesses. The Chinese government, like the U.S. government, does not want those servers to run on foreign hardware and software, which could make them vulnerable to foreign spyware. Tech firms are squarely in the regulator’s bullseye.

Meanwhile, the government’s claim against many of the same tech giants for anti-competitive business practices also looms large. The Ant Financial action served to signal zero-tolerance for innovations the regulator feels may circumvent financial stability regulations. This has caused tech players to abandon one of their core business strategies—taking a slice of the massive Chinese consumer finance market while avoiding the high compliance cost of distributing financial products. This was a valuable business. So yes, it appears a revaluation might indeed be warranted for all Chinese consumer tech giants. But that is hardly due to Beijing turning anti-tech or even anti-capitalism— it is just Beijing discharging its duty as the steward of China, Inc.

It may appear to some outsiders that China is targeting the firms that have chosen to list in the U.S.. After all, many of the most highly scrutinized firms –like Alibaba, JD.Com, Meitun and now DiDi – are widely held ADRs. But this is far from the truth, and it is a matter of correlation rather than causation. Stated differently, these firms are not being targeted because they are listed in the U.S.

Most of the U.S.-listed consumer-tech firms pursued listing in the U.S. not because they were “defecting” from China in pursuit of a better venue. These Chinese firms listed in the U.S. because they could not receive approval for listing back home. Alibaba, for example, could not gain approval for listing in mainland China or Hong Kong because of its corporate governance deficiencies, where Jack Ma as a small shareholder could always out-vote everyone. DiDi also actively explored listing on the mainland exchanges in addition to HKEX before it decided those paths were nearly impossible due to their various unresolved compliance issues related to China’s labor laws and tax codes (think Uber in the U.S.). The growing concern around DiDi’s ability to generate positive cashflow and reach profitability also made local regulators queasy about approving the company for listing, especially given the recent froth in tech shares. For DiDi, the quickest path to unlock liquidity for its founding core and its PE backers before the global tech euphoria recedes was to dash for the U.S. From filing to listing, DiDi took only 20 days, and priced at the top of the range. Heck, if Lyft can list successfully while stating in its prospectus that it has no business model toward eventual profitability, then surely DiDi can make a fine listed company on the NYSE.

When you consider that many firms listed in the U.S. are tech firms that listed here precisely because there were facing domestic regulatory concerns, it should be no surprise to find that a disproportionate number of the firms facing investigation are those listed in the U.S.

Don’t miss our next trade idea. Get on the Bear Traps Report Today, click here

Understanding Chinese Regulators

Those seeking to understand Ant Financial, DiDi, or other regulatory actions in China should start their analysis by understanding the differences between the U.S. and Chinese regulatory approaches.

Chinese regulators are interventionist. They so this, in part, because their financial markets are dominated by unsophisticated retail investors. Appealing to the wise invisible hand of an efficient market is a luxury that Beijing does not have. Thus Chinese regulators have to set P/E caps for IPO pricing to avoid irrational retail investors bidding prices to astronomical ranges during the subscription period. Thus Chinese regulators chose to take time to vet company financials and business model independently before approving listings. There is real personal career risk for the regulator who approves a firm that turns out to be a fraud or that craters in price due to its inability to execute on the promised business plan.

What Is An Investor To Do?

Foreign investors wishing to invest in Chinese firms must also accept a higher frequency of government intervention at the market, industry, and firm level. They should also understand that this intervention is not driven by senseless bureaucracy or a desire to punish success. The China’s regulator intervenes because it has a foundational (and sensible) lack of trust in its own inefficient capital markets. In China, the invisible hand wears a red glove.

About our Associate Jason Hsu

Jason Hsu is the founder and chairman of Rayliant Global Advisors. Throughout his accomplished career, Jason’s commitment to academic rigor and investor advocacy have led him to research, develop, and bring to market investment strategies that create significant value for investors. At Rayliant, Jason is continuing that commitment by educating investors and offering products to transform the investment ecosystem in Asia and beyond. Prior to his current role, Jason was the co-founder and vice chairman of Research Affiliates.

Jason is at the forefront of the smart beta revolution and is one the world’s most recognized thought leaders in that space. Building on his pioneering work on the RAFI™ Fundamental Index™ approach to investing with Rob Arnott in 2005, he has published numerous articles on the topic, notably his articles “A Survey of Alternative Equity Index Strategies,” which won a 2011 Graham and Dodd Scroll Award and the Readers’ Choice Award from CFA Institute; and “The Surprising Alpha from Malkiel’s Monkey and Upside-Down Strategies,” which won the 2013 Bernstein Fabozzi/Jacobs Levy Award for Outstanding Paper in the Journal of Portfolio Management. In 2015, Jason received the Bernstein Fabozzi/Jacobs Levy Outstanding Article Award for “A Study of Low-Volatility Portfolio Construction Methods” published in the Journal of Portfolio Management. He has twice received the William F. Sharpe Award for Best New Index Research (2005 and 2013), which is awarded by Institutional Investor Journals.

Don’t miss our next trade idea. Get on the Bear Traps Report Today, click here


One for the History Books, a New Control Regime in Oil


Don’t miss our next trade idea. Get on the Bear Traps Report Today, click here

Institutional investors can join our live chat on Bloomberg. Since 2010, a groundbreaking venue with participants now in 23 countries.

Please email

Thank you. LGM.

One has to give pause when you think that the only news in markets that mattered today is OPEC+ and what is their next move. We live in a world with growing oil demand and shrinking supply – the stakes are sky high. ESG matters, climate change, inflation, Iran, etc, mean nothing today in the global crude market. All people want to know is – what is OPEC+ going to do next? So clearly, IT is an important issue for the market before we tackle anything else. The sticking point in the talks – the UAE (United Arab Emirates) want a higher baseline after large-scale CAPEX investments in recent years’ production capacity and wants to boost production by 700mbd. On the other hand, the Saudis do not want to offend the Russians and other players by adjusting the UAE baseline.


See our full energy report here.

Gasoline, Summer Driving Season
After the U.S. handed far more control over the price of oil to the Saudis and Russians, consumers are paying the price. The White House wants this problem fixed by the time the 2022 midterm elections come around. Brent now up close to 116% since the eve of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.

We are told OPEC+ is proud their “control of price” regime is back. A mere year ago, it was hard to grasp that they had any control after a 10-year hiatus as the dictator of pricing. We feel they canceled today’s planned meetíng just to save the pain of having to create more anxiety in the market when they admit OPEC+ could not land on a solution. Frankly, the agreement likely lies behind closed doors with a few parties and not the whole group. That is likely what is happening. But there are a bunch of people out there that say they have ‘inside contacts’ that likely know or think they know. “The deal we see is, no extension past April 2022, gives time for UAE to argue for a higher baseline, both are sides committed. Larry, there is a low probability of a destructive breakdown with a large boost in production, that´s not happening.” Energy Fund CIO in Canada, in our live Bear Traps, chat on the Bloomberg terminal.

The market hanging on the outcome of the weekend along with the meteoric rise of Saudi control of the market over the last year. All should be seen as a sign that they (OPEC+) don’t want to blow this opportunity. The March 2020 testosterone show inflicted a lot of pain on all sides, those scars are still healing. Oil price risk is to the upside. The likely UAE deal is a kick of the can to April 2022. The world is watching them again for signs of control or lack of it. OPEC lost control for 10 years when the Shale drilling spewed new non-OPEC supply into the market in ’09 and they don’t want to lose control like that again.

We are in a period of strong demand and weak supply. The UAE weekend proposal says no extension past April 2022, OPEC + wanted the extension for all of 2022. In recent months, years, the Saudis have worked many other members into contained quotas, baselines. A total breakdown is highly unlikely, “the oil market globally is in a sweet spot, there is too much money on the line for all the players. Demand globally is strong, we are looking at a deficit of 2.3 to 2.5mbd in June, the highest since last year coming out of covid” CIO, Pension Fund in Canada. If OPEC can’t make that perfect scenario work then it is sending a signal of significant weakness to the market. If they go down that disruptive road, volatility to pricing will be back. That is the last thing the Kingdom wants at this juncture. In other words, derivatives players will start controlling the price and we could see dramatic whipsaws in Brent – WTI as we did in the last decade prior to COVID rebalancing the market. While Saudi is in control, you won’t see the shorts show up. They have warned the speculators to stay away or be hurt. They listened for the most part but would show up again if this cartel were to start showing significant cracks. We just don’t think that OPEC+ is that unwise to let all of their great efforts go to waste over this quota issue. Demand surge is real, summer driving. Overall market dynamics best in decades, the risk to oil prices is to the upside. “All the emergency spare capacity is outside the USA now Larry.” Portfolio Manager in the U.S. Midwest. Spare capacity globally is mostly inside core OPEC, the ESG overdose has crushed US shale investments. “There is too much money in the hands of core OPEC, two years ago this was NOT the case with shale cranking” CIO, Macro Fund in NYC.

Further to that, there is an agreement that all parties are saying they are obligated to work with until Apr ’22. Even UAE says they are not trying to be a thorn or break up the cartel or even the agreement. So we think we can assume this agreement will be honored and we have relative stability until then. That is a lifetime in this market lately. Iran’s new supply risk is out in November in terms of getting oil to mkt, current shale new rigs coming online are not sufficient to impact prices near term. “Watch RIG equity as CAPEX investment start to come in, Q3. Very tight global market through year-end. One producer needs to produce 2.3mbd to get the mkt into a surplus, that is a high bar, not in anyone´s interest.” CIO Energy Fund in Canada.

US shale is not a threat as it is very high-cost production and requires higher prices or contango in the curve to see incremental supply enter the system. Also, the ESG (backfire) narrative still weighs heavy on their ability to grow. In this cycle, companies are being forced to return capital to shareholders. There is far less cowboy-up speculation, drilling. Frankly, this ‘noise’ around OPEC+ stability only shakes the ground under the US producer to remember how quickly prices could collapse again. After the colossal financial hit in Q1 – Q2 2020, shale speculators took their ball and went home.

The Curve is Telling
“It is time to think of the oil curve CL1 (front-month futures contract) is priced at $75.16 vs. CL36 (36 months out futures contract) down at $57.95. As you can see above the spread above is eye-opening looking back from 2005 to 2021. “Larry, the one-year backwardation roll is 11%, just wow” says a Veteran oil trader in our live chat. “Spikes in oil prices have triggered economic slowdowns historically. Remember, oil isn’t a forward-looking product. It is a ‘demand is here now’ product.. The curve shows it, CL36 at 2y highs vs. CL1 at 7y highs speaks volumes. WTI is saying this is a short-term supply and demand imbalance, Otherwise, PBR would be at $50/sh, its closer to $12.” Veteran Energy Sector portfolio manager, in Brazil.

Inventories are dropping and global demand is on the rise via economic re-opening, a massive increase in driving and massive unprecedented infrastructure spending around the world. We have yet to see the impact of global travel amongst countries via airlines which will add almost 3 mil b\d of demand. We don’t see any increase in OPEC+ production being considered as a threat to the current price. In this status quo market, we need more of their supply or we are going to see higher oil prices. The current situation is a very unique opportunity for OPEC to cash in. Non-OPEC – Ex USA production spare capacity around the world in decline. “We see strong demand (India, Europe) with real supply risk, it is not in OPEC´s interest to blow this opportunity.” CIO in London. Oil has a shot at $90 to $100 in, next 6 months.

We do not believe that a price-destructive “non-deal” is in the cards at this time. This is the strongest period OPEC+ has had in the market in decades and they don’t want to give that all up.