Beijing’s crackdown is scaring major funds away from putting ‘money into China right now’

October 6, 2021, 4:03 AM UTC

Western investors are backing away from Chinese companies, blaming politics and uncertainty for a souring stance on the world’s second-biggest market. 

On Tuesday, representatives of Man Group, Soros Fund Management and Elliott Management raised concerns about the outlook for Chinese stocks traded in New York and in Asia. Their comments came weeks after $59 billion investment firm Marshall Wace said some of those businesses have become “uninvestable.”

“We are not putting money into China right now,” Dawn Fitzpatrick, chief investment officer at Soros, said at the Bloomberg Invest virtual conference.

Fitzpatrick predicted that many companies listed in the U.S. would soon relocate to Hong Kong. While she didn’t name any firms, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., JD.com Inc. and Didi Global Inc. are among some of the largest Chinese businesses traded in New York. The three have been under pressure for most of the year as China cracked down on mega-cap tech companies. Alibaba and JD.com are each down at least 33% since mid-February, while Didi has plunged 47% since its market debut in late June. 

The Shanghai Composite Index has increased just 2.7% this year, trailing the 12% gain for the MSCI World Index.

The investor warnings follow Beijing’s sweeping anti-monopoly probes against Big Tech, cybersecurity reviews for foreign listings and a decision to ban profits in after-school tutoring companies, which sent shock waves through global financial markets. Investors now fret what’s coming next.

“If you are investing in markets, it’s impossible to have no view about China,” Man Group Plc Chief Executive Officer Luke Ellis, who runs the world’s biggest publicly traded hedge fund firm, said at the Bloomberg conference. He added that the country looks less attractive than a year ago amid the crackdown on the tech and education sectors. 

Ellis also recommended that investors need to be more nimble, as holding investments with a 10-year horizon doesn’t make sense in a world where interventions and significant policy changes are expected.

“What China is doing is quite explicit, but it’s not that different than what we see in a lot of the Western markets,” he said. 

Still, some top money managers see long-term potential. 

“It will continue to grow faster than the developed markets,” Blackstone Inc. Chief Operating Officer Jon Gray said at the Bloomberg conference. “They’ve got a very entrepreneurial culture, they’ve got a government that wants economic growth to improve quality of lives, and I think that means, broadly speaking, that China should do well.”

Jonathan Pollock, co-CEO of activist investor Elliott Investment Management also suggested there would be opportunities, though added that thinking of “big deployments” is difficult.

Meanwhile, Marshall Wace co-founder Paul Marshall told clients in August that it’s now more likely that China’s listings will be largely confined to the mainland. 

“The effect of these various interventions, especially the timing of announcements around the Didi listing in the U.S., has been to discourage many U.S.-based or international investors,” Marshall said. “You could argue that U.S.-listed Chinese American depositary receipts are now uninvestable.”

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