people looking at people looking at things

Xi Jinping happened to be in Australia just when Chinese icebreaker Xuelong or ‘Snow Dragon’ (雪龙号) called at Hobart some two weeks ago. He boarded the ship and inspected it.

Meanwhile in Svalbard, staff at Huanghe (‘Yellow River’) Station (黄河站) followed the whole thing on TV, the PRIC reports.

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$13m olive oil deal signed during Li Keqiang’s visit to Greece

Among the deals signed during Chinese premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Greece is a $13m “long term cooperation agreement” between Alagni, Crete-based olive oil producer Emelko (ΕΜΕΛΚΟ ΕΠΕ) and importer Shanghai Chaoshang Food Ltd (上海巢尚食品有限公司). Emelko have already been selling oil to China for several years.

Last year I wrote in some length about Chinese interest in olive oil in Greece, Spain and Australia (‘China hits the grove‘).

China to Australia: we’ll rather have our olive oil without the phthalates, thank you very much

ABC Rural reports fear among Australian olive oil exporters of not being able to get their merchandise through Chinese customs unless it tests free of plasticisers, for example one called DEHP (di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate 邻苯二甲酸二(2-乙基)己酯).

It’s not particularly clear if a new regulation, a decision to enforce an old one, or anything specific at all motivates the fear and the ABC story. The Chinese have been testing imported goods for phthalates for more than a year: in March 2013, for example, a consignment of Greek olive oil with too much DEHP was rejected in Nanjing, and French wine and spirits were hit around the some time. That particular round of foreign-targeted inspections followed, characteristically enough, reports that high levels of the toxic substance were present in local top-brand baijiu Maotai. The distiller said the reports were false, and that neither the authorities cared nor the company was able to check as they didn’t have the equipment. An industry association apparently does have it: they checked, and reported that all booze in China has some plasticiser, the higher-end, the more of it.

If stricter tests are actually being applied to Australian olive oil, some of the affected might actually be Chinese: around one sixth of Australian olive-growing land by my calculations are in Chinese hands, and the WSJ quotes industry sources as attributing 10% of current production to “Chinese and Asian investors”. Some time ago I discussed (‘China hits the grove‘) Chinese interest in olive groves and processing plants, not just in Australia but also in Greece (where in particular Chongqing Grain 重庆粮食集团 bought a plant, possibly but unconfirmedly Nutria) and Spain (where e.g. Xilu Kangyuan owns plantations; another deal said to involve HNA 海航 apparently didn’t materialise).

Birubi resort “like a bomb site in Beirut”

That’s how the mayor of Port Stephens, New South Wales describes the site of Birubi Beach Resort, a $50m tourist development started in 2011 and stalled not much later over a dispute between the developer and its Chinese financer, the rather ominously named CSST (China Security and Surveillance Technology). The resort was supposed to be built with Chinese prefabricated units by the now-liquidated Quick Home Australia. Its Hong Kong parent is suing CSST. As its name suggests, CSST comes from a rather different sector, but has gone into real estate both in China and abroad, with mixed results (witness the Henderson, NV stadium debacle, or the health village in Iceland). (Mostly from the Port Stephens Examiner.)

beached in Birubi

Posted on Tumblr on Oct 3.

In the months since I mentioned it among other CSST-financed developments, the Birubi Beach Resort in Anna Bay, New South Wales, hasn’t advanced much. Contractors had walked off the site in mid 2012 over a payment dispute that was later settled, but work stopped again early this year. Last April, Newcastle, NSW-based NBN TV reported claims the developers had “gone into hiding”, and in June it emerged the builder, Quick Home Australia, had been liquidated. Quick Home’s Hong Kong parent is now said to be claiming $1m from CSST in a suit filed in NSW last month. The developer (not in hiding apparently) expects work to resume “in the very near future”.

reverse merger to reverse-merge

Posted on Tumblr on Sep 30.

After listing in New York through a reverse merger, then going private in 2012 with CDB money, chairman Tu Guoshen 涂国身 is now marching a subsidiary of China Security and Surveillance Technology (中国安防技术有限公司) towards another reverse takeover – only this time in Shanghai. CSST had aired an intention to list domestically right after going private, but an IPO is not an option at the moment: a 900-long queue has grown since China suspended IPOs last year. It’s a peculiar operation. First, Feilo (上海飞乐股份有限公司), the Shanghai-listed auto part manufacturer expected to buy CSST subsidiary China Security and Fire Technology (中安消技术有限公司), isn’t quite a shell: it’s reported to have a higher revenue than CSST, yet they’re planning to abandon their current business. Shanghai city gov’t-owned Inesa (上海仪电控股集团公司) owns about a sixth of Feilo. Second, Feilo is said to be paying about $750m for one unit of CSST. That’s a third more than gu it cost Mr Tu to delist the whole company last year, and more than ten times Security & Fire’s June net asset value. Rumours that have been around for some time, now joined by unnamed sources on Chinese media, claim that Mr Tu’s success in listing CSST back in 2010 owed more than a bit to creative accounting, and that it was fear of SEC scrutiny what led him to delist it two years later. CSST’s activities abroad have included purchasing a row of Asian security firms (UTC’s HK unit Guardforce among them), as well as some involvement in (not always successful) construction projects in Iceland, Hungary, Australia, Bulgaria and Henderson, Nevada.

swap it

Posted on Tumblr on Oct 8.

The central banks of China and Iceland have renewed a 2010 $550m three-year currency swap agreement (PBOC, Seðlabanki). That’s two orders of magnitude below similar deals with Australia, Brazil, South Korea or the UK, and about the worth of last month’s swap with Albania, a similarly sized economy. Last year, Iceland imported $354m worth of goods (CIF) from China (Statistics Iceland).