Advisory Board

  • Cai Hongbin
  • Peking University Guanghua School of Management
  • Peter Clarke
  • Barry Diller
  • IAC/InterActiveCorp
  • Fu Chengyu
  • China National Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec Group)
  • Richard J. Gnodde
  • Goldman Sachs International
  • Lodewijk Hijmans van den Bergh
  • De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek N.V.
  • Jiang Jianqing
  • Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Ltd. (ICBC)
  • Handel Lee
  • King & Wood Mallesons
  • Richard Li
  • PCCW Limited
  • Pacific Century Group
  • Liew Mun Leong
  • Changi Airport Group
  • Martin Lipton
  • New York University
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
  • Liu Mingkang
  • China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC)
  • Dinesh C. Paliwal
  • Harman International Industries
  • Leon Pasternak
  • BCC Partners
  • Tim Payne
  • Brunswick Group
  • Joseph R. Perella
  • Perella Weinberg Partners
  • Baron David de Rothschild
  • N M Rothschild & Sons Limited
  • Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara
  • Temasek International Pte. Ltd.
  • Shao Ning
  • State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council of China (SASAC)
  • John W. Snow
  • Cerberus Capital Management, L.P.
  • Former U.S. Secretary of Treasury
  • Bharat Vasani
  • Tata Group
  • Wang Junfeng
  • King & Wood Mallesons
  • Wang Kejin
  • China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC)
  • Wei Jiafu
  • Kazakhstan Potash Corporation Limited
  • Yang Chao
  • China Life Insurance Co. Ltd.
  • Zhu Min
  • International Monetary Fund

Legal Roundtable

  • Dimitry Afanasiev
  • Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev and Partners (Moscow)
  • William T. Allen
  • NYU Stern School of Business
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (New York)
  • Johan Aalto
  • Hannes Snellman Attorneys Ltd (Finland)
  • Nigel P. G. Boardman
  • Slaughter and May (London)
  • Willem J.L. Calkoen
  • NautaDutilh N.V. (Rotterdam)
  • Peter Callens
  • Loyens & Loeff (Brussels)
  • Bertrand Cardi
  • Darrois Villey Maillot & Brochier (Paris)
  • Santiago Carregal
  • Marval, O’Farrell & Mairal (Buenos Aires)
  • Martín Carrizosa
  • Philippi Prietocarrizosa & Uría (Bogotá)
  • Carlos G. Cordero G.
  • Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Panama)
  • Ewen Crouch
  • Allens (Sydney)
  • Adam O. Emmerich
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (New York)
  • Rachel Eng
  • WongPartnership (Singapore)
  • Sergio Erede
  • BonelliErede (Milan)
  • Kenichi Fujinawa
  • Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu (Tokyo)
  • Manuel Galicia Romero
  • Galicia Abogados (Mexico City)
  • Danny Gilbert
  • Gilbert + Tobin (Sydney)
  • Vladimíra Glatzová
  • Glatzová & Co. (Prague)
  • Juan Miguel Goenechea
  • Uría Menéndez (Madrid)
  • Andrey A. Goltsblat
  • Goltsblat BLP (Moscow)
  • Juan Francisco Gutiérrez I.
  • Philippi Prietocarrizosa & Uría (Santiago)
  • Fang He
  • Jun He Law Offices (Beijing)
  • Christian Herbst
  • Schönherr (Vienna)
  • Lodewijk Hijmans van den Bergh
  • De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek N.V. (Amsterdam)
  • Hein Hooghoudt
  • NautaDutilh N.V. (Amsterdam)
  • Sameer Huda
  • Hadef & Partners (Dubai)
  • Masakazu Iwakura
  • TMI Associates (Tokyo)
  • Christof Jäckle
  • Hengeler Mueller (Frankfurt)
  • Michael Mervyn Katz
  • Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs (Johannesburg)
  • Handel Lee
  • King & Wood Mallesons (Beijing)
  • Martin Lipton
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (New York)
  • Alain Maillot
  • Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier (Paris)
  • Antônio Corrêa Meyer
  • Machado, Meyer, Sendacz e Opice (São Paulo)
  • Sergio Michelsen Jaramillo
  • Brigard & Urrutia (Bogotá)
  • Zia Mody
  • AZB & Partners (Mumbai)
  • Christopher Murray
  • Osler (Toronto)
  • Francisco Antunes Maciel Müssnich
  • Barbosa, Müssnich & Aragão (Rio de Janeiro)
  • I. Berl Nadler
  • Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP (Toronto)
  • Umberto Nicodano
  • BonelliErede (Milan)
  • Brian O'Gorman
  • Arthur Cox (Dublin)
  • Robin Panovka
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (New York)
  • Sang-Yeol Park
  • Park & Partners (Seoul)
  • José Antonio Payet Puccio
  • Payet Rey Cauvi (Lima)
  • Kees Peijster
  • COFRA Holding AG (Zug)
  • Juan Martín Perrotto
  • Uría & Menéndez (Madrid/Beijing)
  • Philip Podzebenko
  • Herbert Smith Freehills (Sydney)
  • Geert Potjewijd
  • De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek (Amsterdam/Beijing)
  • Qi Adam Li
  • Jun He Law Offices (Shanghai)
  • Biörn Riese
  • Jurie Advokat AB (Sweden)
  • Mark Rigotti
  • Herbert Smith Freehills (Sydney)
  • Rafael Robles Miaja
  • Robles Miaja (Mexico City)
  • Alberto Saravalle
  • BonelliErede (Milan)
  • Maximilian Schiessl
  • Hengeler Mueller (Düsseldorf)
  • Cyril S. Shroff
  • Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (Mumbai)
  • Shardul S. Shroff
  • Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co.(New Delhi)
  • Klaus Søgaard
  • Gorrissen Federspiel (Denmark)
  • Ezekiel Solomon
  • Allens (Sydney)
  • Emanuel P. Strehle
  • Hengeler Mueller (Munich)
  • David E. Tadmor
  • Tadmor & Co. (Tel Aviv)
  • Kevin J. Thomson
  • Barrick Gold Corporation (Toronto)
  • Yu Wakae
  • Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu (Tokyo)
  • Wang Junfeng
  • King & Wood Mallesons (Beijing)
  • Tomasz Wardynski
  • Wardynski & Partners (Warsaw)
  • Xiao Wei
  • Jun He Law Offices (Beijing)
  • Xu Ping
  • King & Wood Mallesons (Beijing)
  • Shuji Yanase
  • OK Corporation (Tokyo)
  • Alvin Yeo
  • WongPartnership LLP (Singapore)

Founding Directors

  • William T. Allen
  • NYU Stern School of Business
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
  • Nigel P.G. Boardman
  • Slaughter and May
  • Cai Hongbin
  • Peking University Guanghua School of Management
  • Adam O. Emmerich
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
  • Robin Panovka
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
  • Peter Williamson
  • Cambridge Judge Business School
  • Franny Yao
  • Ernst & Young

DUTCH UPDATE – Shareholders’ Rights Directive implementation bill now before Parliament

Editor’s Note: Leo Groothuis advises clients on public M&A and on a wide variety of other domestic and cross-border transactions, as well as take-over defenses and shareholder activism. Geert Raaijmakers specializes in corporate governance, corporate structuring and joint ventures and on pension fund governance.  Maarten Buma and Suzanne Rutten specialize in corporate law. 

Shareholders’ Rights Directive implementation bill now before Parliament

On 16 October 2018, the bill for the implementation in Dutch law of the revised Shareholders’ Rights Directive (EU 2017/828) was submitted to the lower house of the Dutch parliament (Tweede Kamer). In this newsletter, we will describe the changes in the bill compared to the earlier consultation version published on 27 February 2018, which was the subject of our newsletter dated 9 March 2018.

RENUMERATION POLICY

The consultation version of the bill contained a new provision on the remuneration policy of listed companies. This gave rise to confusion, because the Dutch Civil Code (“DCC”) already contains a provision on the subject. Under the bill as submitted to Parliament, it has now been clarified that listed companies will be subject only to the new provision, which will become section 2:135a(5) DCC. This sets out the information that must be given in the company’s remuneration policy, some of which is already required. New items of information that will be required include:

  • an explanation of the way in which the policy contributes to the company’s business strategy, long-term interests and sustainability;
  • an explanation of the decision-making process followed for the policy’s determination, review and implementation; and
  • in the event that the policy is revised, a description and explanation of how it takes into account the votes and views of shareholders on the policy and remuneration reports since the most recent vote on the policy by the general meeting of shareholders.

In the case of the remuneration report it has likewise been clarified that listed companies will be subject only to the new section 2:135b DCC, which sets out a number of new requirements in addition to existing ones. It should be noted, however, that pursuant to section 2:135b the current requirements in sections 2:383c-e DCC will continue to apply. One of the new items of information that will be required is an explanation of how the total remuneration complies with the remuneration policy and how it contributes to the company’s long-term performance. All information must be given in respect of each individual management board member.

TRANSACTIONS WITH RELATED PARTIES

The bill introduces the term “material transactions” (unlike the consultation version, which referred to “significant transactions”) and sets out a definition in which price sensitivity is taken as the point of departure. A transaction will be material if it meets both of the following two criteria:

  1. the information about the transaction constitutes inside information under the Market Abuse Regulation (Regulation (EU) 596/2014); and
  2. the transaction is concluded between the company and a related party (as defined under the International Accounting Standards). Related parties in any event include:
    • one or more shareholders who individually or collectively represent at least 10% of the company’s issued share capital (“stichting administratiekantoor” foundations and foundations holding preference shares can fall within this category);
    • members of the company’s management board; and
    • members of the company’s supervisory board.

A provision has been added prohibiting a management board member or supervisory board member from participating in the decision making on a related party transaction in which that board member is involved. Lastly, the period over which non-material transactions with the same related party must be aggregated, potentially resulting in an obligation to disclose those transactions, has been changed from 12 months to “the same financial year”.

TRANSPARENCY REGARDING LONG-TERM SHAREHOLDER ENGAGEMENT

The definition of “asset manager” has been amended to clarify that it refers to those providing asset management services to institutional investors. The term “proxy advisor” has been replaced with “voting advisor” (stemadviseur), as this is more in line with the terminology commonly used in the Netherlands, including in the Dutch Corporate Governance Code. In addition the obligation on the part of institutional investors and asset managers to disclose and explain “the most significant votes”, and the possibility of excluding “insignificant votes” in this regard, have been elaborated upon.

The proposed reporting requirements overlap with those imposed under other EU directives and regulations, such as the AIFM, UCITS and MiFID II directives. The explanatory memorandum to the bill clarifies that it will be sufficient if asset managers include the relevant information in their other reports or include references to such information (for example using hyperlinks), provided it is made clear to the relevant institutional investors where the information can be found.

NEXT STEPS

The deadline for the implementation of the Directive in national law is 10 June 2019. It is possible that the bill will be amended as it makes its way through Parliament. We will of course keep you updated on any significant amendments and on the entry into effect of the new legislation. It is also worth mentioning that both the government and the Corporate Governance Code Monitoring Committee are of the opinion that, in connection with the implementation of the Directive, the section of the Code relating to shareholders should be re-examined; we will likewise inform you of any developments on that front.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and have not been endorsed, confirmed, or approved by XBMA or any of the editors of XBMA Forum, nor by XBMA’s founders, members, contributors, academic partners, advisory board members, or others. No inference to the contrary should be drawn.

The Future of the Corporation

Editor’s Note: This article was authored by Martin Lipton of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

November 7, 2018

The Future of the Corporation

A project of the British Academy—“The Future of the Corporation” reached a major milestone on November 1, 2018 with the public discussion of a framework and supporting papers.  The project is led by Oxford Prof. Colin Mayer.

In his framework, Prof. Mayer puts forth a radical reinterpretation of the nature of the corporation that focuses on the corporate purpose, its alignment with social purpose, the trustworthiness of companies and the role of corporate culture in promoting purpose and trust.  This view of the corporation rejects shareholder primacy—that the sole social purpose of the business corporation is to maximize shareholder wealth.

Instead, Prof. Mayer “puts forward an alternative approach that emphasizes the role of corporate purpose, commitments, trustworthiness and culture in which companies specify their purposes, clarify their associated commitments and demonstrate how their ownership, governance, performance measurement and management enable them to fulfil their obligations. Corporate and social purposes are aligned in companies and activities of particular social significance but not necessarily elsewhere.”

Prof. Mayer would implement his view of the corporation of the future by:

  • The starting point should be to recognize that the purpose of corporations is not simply to maximize shareholder value.
  • Corporations should specify their corporate purposes.
  • They should clarify the commitments that they make to the different parties to the firm associated with their purposes.
  • They should demonstrate how they can be trusted to uphold their commitments.
  • In particular they should record how their ownership, governance, performance measurements and incentives promote commitments to their purposes.

The ways in which corporations are encouraged to demonstrate commitment to purpose are in Prof. Mayer’s view:

  • Corporate law should require companies to specify their corporate purposes.
  • It should enable companies to adopt structures that are best suited to the delivery of their purposes.
  • It should require companies to demonstrate how their ownership, governance, performance measurements and incentives encourage them to commit to the delivery of their purposes.
  • It should require certain classes of companies that perform particular public and social functions, such as utilities, banks and companies with significant market power to align their corporate with their social purposes.
  • The regulatory system should promote an alignment of corporate with social purposes where required and ensure that companies’ ownership, governance, measurement and incentive systems are appropriate for this.

The foregoing and much more is set forth in a just-published, must-read book by Prof. Mayer, Prosperity.  The Mayer proposal for corporate governance and the policy changes that are necessary to develop it will return corporations to long-term sustainable investment, combine profitable operations with adherence to ESG and CSR principles, and sharply reduce short-termism and activist attacks.

Interestingly, on the same day as the British Academy program, the British Government agreed to amend the law to make it clear that pension plans have a fiduciary duty to protect long-term value by considering environmental risks of the companies in which they invest.  The British Government stated that the new rules “will push consideration of long-term value and environmental risks down the investment chain to investee firms.”

The objectives of the British Academy project parallel those of the World Economic Forum’s The New Paradigm:  A Roadmap for an Implicit Corporate Governance Partnership Between Corporations and Investors to Achieve Sustainable Long-Term Investment and Growth, the difference being the means by which they are achieved.  The latter by voluntary action by corporations and investors, the former by legislation.  Recent actions by the British Government and proposed legislation such as the Accountable Capitalism Act introduced in August 2018 by Senator Elizabeth Warren show that legislation impacting both corporations and investors is a distinct possibility.  The case for change is compelling.  One way or the other, Prof. Mayer’s concept of the corporation of the future will be achieved.

Martin Lipton

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and have not been endorsed, confirmed, or approved by XBMA or any of the editors of XBMA Forum, nor by XBMA’s founders, members, contributors, academic partners, advisory board members, or others. No inference to the contrary should be drawn.

GLOBAL STATISTICAL UPDATE – XBMA Quarterly Review for Third Quarter 2018

Editors’ Note: The XBMA Review is published on a quarterly basis in order to facilitate a deeper understanding of trends and developments. In order to facilitate meaningful comparisons, the XBMA Review has utilized generally consistent metrics and sources of data since inception. We welcome feedback and suggestions for improving the XBMA Review or for interpreting the data.
Executive Summary/Highlights:
  • Global M&A in 2018 is at record levels, and at the current pace could approach 2007’s all-time high of almost US$5 trillion.
  • Cross-border dealmaking has surged, with the volume of cross-border M&A over the first three quarters of 2018 already far surpassing that of all of 2017.
  • Likewise, the market for mega-deals remains strong, and each of the three largest deals announced in 2018 is larger than any deal announced in 2017.
  • European M&A volume has already exceeded US$940 billion through the first three quarters of 2018, well in excess of any full year since the beginning of 2009, including 2015 when European M&A reached a recent peak of US$914 billion.
  • Dealmaking has been helped by the strong global economy, robust corporate earnings, the continued availability of relatively inexpensive debt capital, the search for growth through acquisition of new products or markets and the need to adapt to technological disruption. A significant wild card that may dampen or disrupt the trend is the risk of a serious trade war or other geo-political instability.

Click here to see the Review.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and have not been endorsed, confirmed, or approved by XBMA, nor by XBMA’s founders, members, contributors, academic partners, advisory board members, or others. No inference to the contrary should be drawn.

GLOBAL STATISTICAL UPDATE – XBMA Quarterly Review for Second Quarter 2018

Editors’ Note: The XBMA Review is published on a quarterly basis in order to facilitate a deeper understanding of trends and developments. In order to facilitate meaningful comparisons, the XBMA Review has utilized generally consistent metrics and sources of data since inception. We welcome feedback and suggestions for improving the XBMA Review or for interpreting the data.

Executive Summary/Highlights:

  • The global M&A environment continued to show historic strength in 2018, as global deal volume reached nearly US$1.3 trillion for the second quarter and US$2.5 trillion for the first half of the year.
  • Global M&A activity has enjoyed a steady climb over the last several quarters and has increased sharply since Q3 2017, with global deal volume exceeding US$1.0 trillion in each of the ensuing three quarters. Q1 and Q2 2018 were two of the most active quarters for global M&A ever.
  • Cross-border transactions have continued to comprise a significant portion of global deal volume, accounting for 41% of overall M&A in Q2 2018. Cross-border M&A activity has already exceeded US$1.0 trillion for the first half of 2018.
  • In emerging markets, inbound M&A volume into the BRIC countries reached US$63 billion in aggregate in Q2 2018. Most notably, the volume of inbound M&A activity increased significantly in China and India during Q2 2018 as compared to prior quarters.
  • Q2 was highlighted by a number of headline-grabbing mega-deals across sectors, including T‑Mobile’s combination with Sprint. The volume of transactions with values of more than US$500 million is on pace to increase approximately 65% in 2018 compared to 2017.
  • The blistering pace of global M&A activity in 2018 continues to be driven by the impact and the anticipation of disruptive technologies across industries, and in the media and entertainment, telecommunications and healthcare sectors, in particular.

Click here to see the Review.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and have not been endorsed, confirmed, or approved by XBMA, nor by XBMA’s founders, members, contributors, academic partners, advisory board members, or others. No inference to the contrary should be drawn.

CHINESE UPDATE – The Future of Automotive JVs under the New Policy of Opening Up the Automotive Industry in China

Contributed by: Adam Li (Li Qi), Jun He Law Offices (Shanghai)

Editors’ Note: Contributed by Adam Li, a partner at JunHe and a member of XBMA’s Legal Roundtable. Mr. Li is a leading expert in international mergers & acquisitions, capital markets and international financial transactions involving Chinese companies. This article was authored by Mr. Michael Weng, and Mr. Daniel He, both partners at JunHe. Mr. Weng has broad experience dealing with complicated foreign direct investment and cross-border M&A transactions, and Mr. He is specialized in merger and acquisition projects, joint venture transactions, and strategic investment projects in various industries.

Summary

There are numerous examples of Automotive JVs that have been operating successfully and profitably in China for more than a decade. With the imminent removal of the shareholding cap on foreign investment in automotive manufacturing, there will be opportunities for Chinese and foreign parties to alter their equity holdings, including being able to buy out the JV partner or exit in part or completely. It is our assessment that Chinese and foreign parties are unlikely to immediately implement any major changes. Rather, we expect them to maintain the status quo for a considerable period of time, until larger commercial incentives trigger a withdrawal of one of the joint venture partners.

 

Main Article

At the recent Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2018, the Chinese President Mr. Xi Jinping announced that “China will remain unchanged in its adherence to reforming and opening up, and will continue to launch new major measures to pursue further opening up.”  Since then, both the National Development and Reform Commission (“NDRC”) and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in their respective Answers to Reporters’ Questions have committed to gradually opening up automotive manufacturing to foreign investment before 2022 by removing the shareholding limit for foreign investors and also the restriction on foreign investors being allowed to invest in no more than two automotive joint ventures. The reforms and their implications for the future are of great relevance to the many long-standing, active Sino-foreign automotive joint ventures (“Automotive JVs”). In this article, we will discuss several possible development paths for Automotive JVs, and some of the issues arising from the reforms.

 

I.       Possible Development Paths for Automotive JVs

 

1.   Chinese Partner Acquires All or Part of the Equity Held by Foreign Investor

Thanks to the massive growth in demand in the Chinese automotive market, many of the Automotive JVs have been highly profitable. The Chinese partners of those Automotive JVs have primarily been very large central or local state-owned enterprises (“SOEs”) with solid foundations and extensive connections, enabling them to make a vital contribution to Automotive JVs’ swift localization and expansion within the Chinese market. It may be that these Chinese partners will hope to acquire the equity interest held by their Automotive JV foreign partners in order to further strengthen their control within the Automotive JV and to improve their profit earnings. However, Automotive JVs are still largely reliant upon their foreign partners for business resources including branding, new ideas, technology and equipment, and the auto groups to which the foreign partners belong are unlikely to willingly give up the substantial revenue and profits generated by the Automotive JVs. Hence, it will likely prove difficult, at least in the short run, for the Chinese partners of any successful Automotive JV to disrupt the structural balance by acquiring all or part of their foreign partner’s equity.

However, for an Automotive JV that is struggling and not profitable, it is possible that the Chinese partner may be able to acquire their foreign partner’s equity. Indeed, it may well be that a foreign partner in such unsuccessful Automotive JV has already been contemplating an exit. The gradual removal of restrictions on foreign investment in automotive manufacturing presents the opportunity for foreign partners to leave an unsuccessful Automotive JV and set up their own entity. However, before making such a decision, a foreign partner should first make a full assessment of its ability to operate the business independently.  Success in the Chinese market requires not only branding, technology and management expertise, but also access to and control of sales channels and an in-depth understanding of local consumers and markets.

 

2.  Foreign Partner Acquires All or Part of the Equity Held by Chinese Partner

Removing the shareholding cap of foreign investments in automotive manufacturing has eliminated the legal barrier preventing foreign partners from acquiring the equity held by their Chinese partners, but is of course dependent upon the willingness of both sides to pursue this option. It seems highly unlikely that a Chinese partner would be inclined to relinquish its equity interest in a profitable Automotive JV. Moreover, from a strategic perspective, a Chinese partner aiming to build up its own brands may use the leverage of its involvement in an Automotive JV, which brings with it indirect support in the expansion and influence of the Chinese partner’s own independent brands, by having access to the Automotive JV’s upgraded products and technologies, and skills development. In addition, with only very limited licenses to manufacture traditional fuel vehicles, it is highly unlikely that any newly established automotive manufacturer would be able to attain the necessary regulatory approval. Ultimately, the Chinese partner is highly unlikely to hand over control of the Automotive JV with the required manufacturing license. For an under-performing Automotive JV, while the acquisition of a Chinese partner’s equity may not bring immediate financial benefits, the foreign partner could use the existing manufacturing approval, production lines and personnel to start production right away. Provided the acquisition price of the Chinese partner’s equity is reasonable, this could be an effective shortcut for a foreign brand seeking to obtain production capacity and operate independently.

 

3.  Maintain the Status Quo

After the NDRC released its information on easing restrictions on foreign investment in automotive manufacturing, some of the foreign partners of existing Automotive JVs were quick to confirm their intention to continue to support the development of their respective current joint ventures in China. It is our assessment that both the Chinese and foreign parties should take a pragmatic approach to the new policy and, at least in the short-term, focus on maintaining the current structure. It seems unlikely — at least until the expiry of the operation term of the existing joint venture contract — that the Chinese and foreign parties of most of Automotive JVs automakers will initiate a change in the balance of ownership by seeking to acquire all or part of the equity held by their partner.

 

II.      Key Factors Influencing the Possible Development Path

Once the shareholding limits for foreign investors in automotive manufacturing have been phased out, a variety of factors will determine whether foreign automakers choose to remain with their Chinese partners or to make their own way. Some of the key factors for consideration are listed below.

 

1.  Continuing Product Upgrade

At present, many of the Automotive JVs’ products are based upon foreign brands’ original overseas car models. The production of core components, such as vehicle engines and gearboxes, is primarily based upon foreign partner’s technology. Therefore, the prosperity of the Chinese automobile market driven by the Automotive JVs is essentially attributable to foreign automakers’ products. The continuing survival and success of Automotive JVs is at least in part dependent upon foreign partners providing access to upgraded products and technologies. The growing sophistication of Chinese consumers and the emergence of local automotive brands builders means that Automotive JVs are facing an ever more demanding and competitive market. Only those Automotive JVs that continuously innovate will survive. The removal of the shareholder cap means that a foreign automaker with strong product R&D and upgrade capabilities and whose Chinese partners lack product input capabilities may be able to use their relative strength to persuade their Chinese partner to transfer some of their equity. If a foreign automaker is able to obtain continuing regulatory approval to manufacture on their own (as mentioned above, the possibility of obtaining new licenses is very slim), it may be possible for the foreign automaker to set aside the existing Automotive JV in order to establish a separate company, manufacturing and selling their own automobiles in a wholly-owned company.

 

2.  The Trend toward New Energy Vehicles

The growth in purchases of traditional fuel vehicles has slowed down in recent years. In the meantime, sales of new energy vehicles are increasing, attributable at least to some extent to Chinese government efforts to promote these upgraded, clean energy automobiles. Nowadays the vast majority of Automotive JVs’ production is traditional fuel vehicles. However, this is likely to change, with declined growth in demand for fuel vehicles, the implementation of government policy incentives for new energy vehicles, and preemptive dominance of the new energy car market by the Chinese traditional and new automakers. Given that the first shareholding cap to be eliminated will be on new energy car manufacturers, in 2018, foreign automakers will need to decide how they intend to manufacture new energy vehicles in China, whether by taking advantage of a current Automotive JV to apply for cross-category production of new energy vehicles, or by establishing a new wholly-owned subsidiary to undertake this task. The Measures for the Parallel Administration of the Average Fuel Consumption and New Energy Vehicle Points of Passenger Vehicle Enterprises (“Points Administration Policy”) that have been implemented since April 1, 2018, require foreign automakers to take into account the impact on the production of fuel vehicles by the existing JV automaker in their overall production plans. Starting from 2019, according to the Points Administration Policy, there will be a points system under which Automotive JVs will be subject to production limits for fuel vehicles. When this limit is reached, they will be required to produce a certain proportion of new energy vehicles in order to be permitted to continue the production of fuel vehicles. Points will be accrued for the manufacture of new energy vehicles by Automotive JVs and additionally will be available for purchase, through an official platform, from third parties with surplus points. As it stands, the simplest way for foreign automakers to satisfy the new energy vehicle points requirements and to continue production of fuel vehicles is to maintain their current Automotive JV, while introducing new energy vehicle models.

 

Influences of the Tariff Cut

On May 22, 2018, the Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council issued an announcement stating that, effective from July 1, 2018, there will be a reduction of tariffs on imported vehicles and car parts. Tariff rates on vehicles will be reduced from their current levels of 20% and 25%, down to 15%. Even after the adjustment, tariffs will remain higher than in developed countries such as Europe, the United States and Japan. Moreover, the final price of imported cars will also be subject to VAT, consumption tax, dealer profits, and other factors. While the tariff cuts may initially have a short-term stimulating effect on sales of imported vehicles, their impact is not forecasted to be significant in the long run. In an environment where foreign investment restrictions are gradually being lifted, foreign automakers seeking to become more competitive will need to take into consideration the relative costs and factors – economic and non-economic – of establishing or acquiring a wholly-owned local automaker compared with the option of exporting vehicles to China under a lower tariff regime.

 

3.  Difficulties in Going Solo

One of the Chinese government’s original intentions in formulating the automotive joint venture policy was a “market-for-technology” strategy. In return for providing their technology, foreign automakers have gained Chinese market share through their partnerships with China’s central and local SOEs and large-scale private enterprises. In addition, the foreign automakers have obtained special support and benefits in aspects such as regulatory approvals, land acquisition and factory construction, fiscal subsidy and tax preferential treatment, and so on, without which their foreign automotive products might not even have been brought into China. If, after removal of the foreign shareholding cap, a foreign automaker chooses to operate completely independently and without the support of Chinese partners, there is no certainty that they will continue to enjoy such special benefits. Specifically, approvals for new energy vehicle manufacturing are currently on hold and there are unlikely to be many more licenses issued to manufacture traditional fuel vehicles. While it is anticipated that the approval process for new energy vehicles will recommence soon, it seems likely that entry thresholds will rise substantially. Against this background, it may be unwise for foreign automakers to abandon their current joint ventures and start over on their own. Building an automobile sales and after-sales network is a costly and time-consuming process, further complicated by the range of differing local business environments around China. Without Chinese partners to help navigate local markets, foreign automakers will likely face barriers to a quick set-up and roll out of sales and after-sales networks, particularly on dealing with the existing dealers of the JV Automakers and balancing their relationships and interests.

 

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In the decades since Automotive JVs were first established, there have been numerous reforms to the legal environment as well as changes in the range of products offered, fluctuating market conditions, the introduction of new domestic brands, increases in labor and other production costs, a shifting international business environment, and the emergence of new energy cars. As is so often the case in China, the only constant is change itself.

 

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and have not been endorsed, confirmed, or approved by XBMA or any of the editors of XBMA Forum, nor by XBMA’s founders, members, contributors, academic partners, advisory board members, or others. No inference to the contrary should be drawn.

 

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