Ten investment themesWe expect 2013 to be a transition year and bold new policies are more likely to come in 2014. Policy changes next year will be incremental and follow the path that has already been laid, such as financial reform and urbanisation, which are the low-hanging fruits for policymakers. Our survey indicates that consumers are optimistic about 2013 and will continue to spend, boosting consumption.
1) Interest-rate reform - We are likely to see loosening or removal of the lending-rate floor and another adjustment to the deposit-rate cap. This could be accompanied by another interest-rate cut in 2H13 similar to 2012. Bank margins will remain under pressure.
2) Price reform for energy - Price reform is critical to China’s energy security and increasing the efficiency of SOEs, which pay subsidised tariffs. Reform starts with setting petrol/gas prices according to market rates. Contract coal prices should also be more market-driven, allowing increases in electricity costs to be passed on to end-users. These plans have already been submitted to the State Council for approval. The most immediate priority is likely to be petrol/gas price reform, which should be positive for refiners such as PetroChina and Sinopec.
3) One-child policy - This is a low-hanging fruit for policymakers. The onechild policy is outdated and comes at a large social cost. Phasing it out would be a popular political move. There has already been gradual loosening in rural areas and couples that were both the only child in their own families can have more than one child. This could lead to higher demand for baby products. Prince Frog is our preferred play.
4) Hukou reform - This is another low-hanging fruit, as the hukou system has outlasted its usefulness and needs to be phased out. In February, the State Council announced that migrant workers can apply for urban household registration cards at county- and prefectural-level cities after three years of employment and residency. We could see this process accelerate or expand in 2013. Change in the hukou policy could provide a large boost to consumption.
5) Urbanisation - China’s infrastructure spending, social housing, property controls and hukou reform all point to faster urbanisation, which has become a buzzword for policymakers as it can boost consumption. The urban economy is expected to contribute more than 90% of GDP by 2025. Primary beneficiary are property developers.
6) Top domestic brands - Our consumer survey shows that consumers are optimistic about 2013 and there is a strong preference for high-quality local brands. Boston Consulting believes we have reached a tipping point for Chinese brands and name the top 10 Chinese brands that are best positioned to excel over the next eight years. We have positive ratings on six of them. Top brands in descending order are Baidu (BUY); Changyu Wine (N-R); China Mobile (Outperform); ICBC (Underperform); Lenovo (Outperform); Mengniu (N-R); Tencent (BUY); Tsingtao (Underperform); and Sinopec (BUY).
7) Healthcare - According to our consumer survey, healthcare has become a top concern for consumers mainly due to rising cost. This is despite government expanding basic health-insurance coverage to 95% of the population. Healthcare cost has risen by about 17% per year over the past two decades. McKinsey expects China’s healthcare spending to triple to US$1tn by 2020. Our top pick is Sino Biopharm and Mindray.
8) Travel - Leisure travel is again the top choice for spending on bigticket items in our survey. The government has been promoting domestic tourism to boost consumption and waived road tolls during the Golden Week holiday in October. Domestic travel expenditure has grown 17% over 2009-11 and shows no sign of slowing. Budget-hotel operators such as China Lodging are major beneficiaries, and also online travel-service provider Ctrip, which has a newly built platform targeting leisure travel.
9) Tough A-share market/good bond market - The government has been trying to promote domestic stock markets without much success. The number of IPO is expected to be down 40% YoY in 2012 and proceeds raised are likely to have dropped 55% YoY. We are not optimistic that the government can boost the stock markets, but there is less downside risk to market index and turnover next year. The natural beneficiary is the bond market, which should do even better in 2013 and Chinese securities companies, such as Haitong, stand to benefit.
10) Largest earnings rebound/acceleration - This year is likely to witness the largest deceleration in GDP in the past two decades, with the exception of the global credit crisis. Thus, a number of companies have suffered unusually large earnings declines. These names should rebound strongly next year as growth stabilises.