Volatility in China’s yuan linked to US trade friction

A Chinese bank employee counts 100-yuan notes and US dollar bills at a bank counter in Nantong in China’s eastern Jiangsu province. (AFP)
Updated 11 August 2019

Volatility in China’s yuan linked to US trade friction

  • The US is the IMF’s largest shareholder and has strong sway over who will be its new leader after Christine Lagarde resigned last month

SHANGHAI: Volatility in China’s yuan since August is a normal market reaction to escalating trade frictions stoked by the US and was caused, to some extent, by Washington’s decision to raise tariffs, a senior Chinese central bank official said.
Zhu Jun, director-general of the People’s Bank of China’s international department, made the comments to a forum held in the northern Chinese province of Heilongjiang.
The US Treasury Department on Monday labeled China a currency manipulator, hours after China let the yuan drop through a key support level to its lowest point in more than a decade. The moves jolted financial markets, fueling fears of a global currency war.
Days earlier, US President Donald Trump had vowed to impose a 10 percent tariff on $300 billion of Chinese imports from Sept. 1, ending a temporary truce and sharply escalating the trade dispute.
Zhu said that the yuan’s move was a normal reaction to Trump’s tariff threat. “The labeling ... violates basic, common economic sense and international consensus, and is unconvincing,” Zhu said, adding that the Chinese economy was resilient and capable of coping with various situations.
The year-long trade war between the world’s two largest economies has already spread beyond tit-for-tat tariffs on goods to other areas such as technology, and analysts caution retaliation could widen in scope and severity, weighing further on business confidence and global economic growth.
The yuan lost 1.6 percent against the dollar last week, but there were signs in the last few sessions that authorities were trying to stabilize it.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been reluctant to comment on the US move. The US is the IMF’s largest shareholder and has strong sway over who will be its new leader after Christine Lagarde resigned last month.
A US Treasury official said Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke with IMF Acting Managing Director David Lipton this week by telephone about currency consultations and also about the leadership succession.
On Friday, the head of the IMF’s China department, James Daniel, stood by the fund’s assessment last month in a report on currencies and trade balances that the value of China’s yuan was broadly in line with economic fundamentals.
He provided no clues to the path forward on the IMF’s engagement with Treasury.
“Our discussions with the US Treasury are ongoing on a range of issues,” Daniel told reporters on a conference call about the IMF’s annual review of China’s economic policies.
G7 officials have also declined to discuss the issue despite repeated queries.
Prominent economists, including former IMF chief economist Maurice Obstfeld and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, say there is no evidence to support the move.
China’s global current account surplus is close to zero and Beijing has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to prop up the yuan’s value in the face of mounting tariff pressures.
For the moment, European nations are in no mood to aggravate China or support Trump given his threats to impose tariffs on EU exports, said Stephanie Segal, a former senior Treasury official now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Any attempt to intervene on currency markets would be difficult to do alone, Segal said.
“Currency markets are just too big to act unilaterally, even if it’s the United States,” she said. “It’s not sustainable.”
Naoyuki Yoshino, dean of the Asian Development Bank Institute and former chairman of the Japanese Ministry of Finance’s council on foreign exchange, said the announcement was all about politics, not economic fundamentals.
“The best solution is (for China) to open its capital market,” he said. “Then, if their exports keep on going, capital inflows will come and then the (yuan) should automatically appreciate,” he said.
This currency move would not be the first time that the Trump administration has ignored established policy-making protocols to carry out the president’s directives.
Philip Diehl, a former senior US Treasury official who ran the US Mint when China was last labeled a currency manipulator in 1994, said the designation followed intense deliberations within the Treasury and State Departments that also weighed human rights issues.
He said the Trump administration’s actions call into question the legitimacy of the whole process for evaluating currency manipulations.
“They’re not well thought out, they’re impulsive and they do not appear to be coordinated with our allies,” Diehl said.


HP rejects Xerox takeover bid, says open to acquiring Xerox instead

Updated 18 November 2019

HP rejects Xerox takeover bid, says open to acquiring Xerox instead

  • In rejecting Xerox's $33.5 billion cash-and-stock acquisition offer, HP said the offer “significantly” undervalued the personal computer maker
  • Xerox made the offer for HP on Nov. 5 after resolving its dispute with its joint venture partner Fujifilm Holdings Corp.
NEW YORK: HP Inc. said on Sunday it was open to exploring a bid for US printer maker Xerox Corp. after rebuffing a $33.5 billion cash-and-stock acquisition offer from the latter as “significantly” undervaluing the personal computer maker.
Xerox made the offer for HP, a company more than three times its size, on Nov. 5, after it resolved a dispute with its joint venture partner Fujifilm Holdings Corp. that represented billions of dollars in potential liabilities.
Responding to Xerox’s offer on Sunday, HP said in a statement that it would saddle the combined company with “outsized debt” and was not in the best interest of its shareholders.
However, HP left the door open for a deal that would involve it becoming the acquirer of Xerox, stating that it recognized the potential benefits of consolidation.
“With substantive engagement from Xerox management and access to diligence information on Xerox, we believe that we can quickly evaluate the merits of a potential transaction,” HP said in its statement.
The move puts pressure on Xerox to open its books to HP. Xerox did not immediately respond on Sunday to a request for comment on whether it will engage with HP in negotiations as the potential acquisition target, rather than the acquirer.
HP on Sunday published Xerox CEO John Visentin’s Nov. 5 offer letter to HP, in which he stated that his company was “prepared to devote all necessary resources to finalize our due diligence on an accelerated basis.”
Activist investor Carl Icahn, who took over Xerox’s board last year together with fellow billionaire businessman Darwin Deason, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week that he was not set on a particular structure for a deal with HP, as long as a combination is achieved. Icahn has also amassed a 4% stake in HP.
Xerox had offered HP shareholders $22 per share that included $17 in cash and 0.137 Xerox shares for each HP share, according to the Nov. 5 letter. The offer would have resulted in HP shareholders owning about 48% of the combined company. HP shares ended trading on Friday at $20.18.
Many analysts have said there is merit in the companies combining to better cope with a stagnating printing market, but some cited challenges to integration, given their different offerings and pricing models.
Xerox scrapped its $6.1 billion deal to merge with Fujifilm last year under pressure from Icahn and Deason.
Xerox announced earlier this month it would sell its 25% stake in the joint venture for $2.3 billion. Fujifilm also agreed to drop a lawsuit against Xerox, which it was pursuing following their failed merger.

Test for new HP CEO
In 2011 as the centerpiece of its unsuccessful pivot to software. Little over a year later, it wrote off $8.8 billion, $5 billion of which it put down to accounting improprieties, misrepresentation and disclosure failures.
More recently, HP has been struggling with its printer business segment recently, with the division’s third-quarter revenue dropping 5% on-year. It has announced a cost-saving program worth more than $1 billion that could result in its shedding about 16% of its workforce, or about 9,000 employees, over the next few years.
Xerox’s stock has rallied under Visentin, who took over last year as CEO. However, HP said on Sunday that a decline in Xerox’s revenue since June 2018 from $10.2 billion to $9.2 “raises significant questions” regarding the trajectory of Xerox’s business and future prospects.