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China Resources in talks to take Sihuan Pharma private at $3 billion valuation -sources

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© Reuters. Flags of China and China Resources (Holdings) Co Ltd logo flutter outside a China Resources building in Beijing, China May 12, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

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HONG KONG (Reuters) -State conglomerate China Resources is in early-stage talks with Sihuan Pharmaceutical’s chairman about jointly taking the Hong Kong-listed company private in a deal valuing it at nearly $3 billion, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Sihuan is attractive to China Resources (Holdings) Co Ltd, they said, due to sharp growth for its medical aesthetics business after the company became the exclusive distributor in China for Letybo, a botox product made by South Korea’s Hugel Inc.

China Resources and Che Fengsheng, Sihuan’s chairman and largest shareholder, are considering offering HK$2.5 per share, the people said. That represents a premium of more than 60% to the firm’s average share price over the past three months of HK$1.53.

But just how much China Resources and Che would each own if the deal went ahead has yet to be determined, they added.

Che has a 36.2% stake, according to the company’s 2021 annual report. China Resources does not currently own Sihuan shares, said the sources, who declined to be identified as the companies have not disclosed the discussions.

Shares of Sihuan soared as much as 24% on Thursday after Reuters reported the plan but only finished 3.5% higher.

China Resources declined to comment and Che did not respond to a request for comment made via Sihuan.

Sihuan said in a statement that “there is no plan to privatize the group” but did not directly address a query about whether Che and China Resources were in talks to take the company private.

China Resources and Che aim to eventually list Sihuan on the mainland to take advantage of higher valuations there, one of the sources said.

The company, which also has generics and innovative drugs businesses, is trading at 12 times trailing earnings in Hong Kong. That’s far below multiples of 89 and 70 for Imeik Technology Development and Bloomage Biotechnology, both mainland-listed peers in medical aesthetics.

Amid surging demand for plastic surgery and products like botox, revenues for China’s medical aesthetics market almost tripled to 177 billion yuan ($26 billion) in 2019 compared to 2015 levels, according to iResearch. It predicts the market will be worth 312 billion yuan by 2023.

Sihuan saw revenue for its medical aesthetic division soar nearly 1,400% last year to 399 million yuan ($59 million), accounting for 12% of its total income. The division is also developing products such as skin repair gel.

Founded in 1938, China Resources is one of the country’s largest state-owned conglomerates with businesses spanning real estate, healthcare, consumer goods, energy and finance. Its unit China Resources Pharmaceutical manufactures a variety of drugs in China under well-known brands, including “999”, a popular cold remedy.

($1 = 6.7158 Chinese yuan)

Economy

Sri Lanka central bank holds rates; reiterates need for political stability

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People walk past the main entrance of the Sri Lanka’s Central Bank in Colombo, Sri Lanka March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

By Uditha Jayasinghe and Swati Bhat

COLOMBO (Reuters) -Sri Lanka’s central bank held its key interest rates steady on Thursday following a massive 700 basis points increase at its previous meeting and reiterated the need for more fiscal measures and political stability in the crisis-hit economy.

The Standing Lending Facility rate remained unchanged at 14.50% while the Standing Deposit Facility Rate was steady at 13.50%.

“It is envisaged that the recent tightening of monetary conditions and the strengthening of monetary policy communication will help anchor inflation expectations of the public in the period ahead,” the bank said in a statement https://www.cbsl.gov.lk/sites/default/files/cbslweb_documents/press/pr/press_20220519_Monetary_Policy_Review_No_4_2022_e.pdf.

The measures taken so far, “would continue to be further transmitted to the financial markets, while some signs of tighter monetary policy already being observed in real economic activity,” it added.

The CSE All Share index was trading down 0.9% at 0530 GMT, after earlier falling as much as 1.4%. There were no trades in the rupee. Traders said they were awaiting comments from the central bank governor at a post policy media briefing.

The central bank said inflation will remain elevated in the near term due to supply-side pressures while economic growth will also record a setback.

The nation of 22 million people is battling a devastating economic crisis as tax cuts by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa drained government coffers, COVID-19 hit the lucrative tourism industry and rising oil prices emptied foreign exchange reserves.

Foreign reserves have plunged to almost zero, leaving Colombo struggling to pay for such essentials as fuel, medicines and food.

“In terms of credibility of policy…keeping rates unchanged is not good in my view,” said Thilina Panduwawala, head of economic research at Frontier Research.

“But from an operational angle, given how tough the rates adjustment is for corporates and financial institutions is after a such large hike in April, I assume they saw fit to give the system time to adjust amidst the political uncertainty”.

Inflation hit 29.8% in April with food prices expanding by 46.6% year-on-year in the island nation.

The policy measures implemented by the central bank need to be reinforced by adequate and timely policy adjustments by the government, the bank said.

“Urgent measures are required to restore greater political stability through consensus governance and social harmony,” it wrote.

Central bank Governor P. Nandalal Weerasinghe told reporters earlier this month that without a political solution to the current crisis, the bank’s steps to revive the economy would not be successful and he would resign unless there was stability in two weeks.

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Economy

Investors jolted as U.S. retailers show inflation hitting consumers

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Shoppers are seen wearing masks while shopping at a Walmart store, in North Brunswick, New Jersey, U.S. July 20, 2020. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo

By Sinéad Carew

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The evidence of red-hot inflation seeping into the economy is sending a chill through investors after major U.S. retailers showed people are cutting back on buying bigger ticket items as they just try and get by.

Investors wiped almost 25% off Target (NYSE:TGT) shares on Wednesday after its profit halved as it had to discount bigger items, and Walmart (NYSE:WMT) has dropped more than 17% since it reported weak results early on Tuesday.

Target’s earnings showed consumers spending more on food and household essentials instead of high-margin discretionary items while Walmart showed shoppers moved to buy lower-margin basics.

Investors will on Thursday be focused on earnings due from Kohl’s (NYSE:KSS), which fell 11% on Wednesday and BJ’s Wholesale Club, which fell 16%.

The turmoil came a day after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell pledged the U.S. central bank would ratchet interest rates as high as needed to kill a surge in inflation.

“Retailers are starting to reveal the impact of eroding consumer purchasing power,” said Paul Christopher, head of global market strategy at Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) Investment Institute, on the same day his firm forecast a mild recession around year-end into early 2023.

“The consumer’s ability to spend is eroding at a faster pace than it was a month or two ago. We think that pace is going to accelerate further,” he said.

Wednesday’s sell-off saw the S&P 500 close down 4% on the day, 17.7% for the year-to-date and down 18.2% from its Jan. 3 record close. [.N]

The benchmark index’s consumer discretionary index lost 6.6% for its deepest one-day sell-off since March 2020 and is off 30.8% so far for 2022, putting it on track for its weakest year since 2008.

Cantor Fitzgerald said it was unwinding its expectation for a short-term bounce in equities and that if there is a lift, it would likely be shallow and “not worth playing.”

“The (Wal-Mart/Target) numbers are very concerning as they show the consumer is reducing discretionary purchases while company margins return to pre-pandemic levels,” said Eric Johnston, head of equity derivatives and cross asset at Cantor Fitzgerald.

While investors have been worried for some time about inflation, the latest results pile on worries about the impact of inflation on the consumer, said Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist at LPL Financial (NASDAQ:LPLA).

However, the sell-off came the day after data showing U.S. retail sales rose strongly in April as consumers bought more motor vehicles amid supply improvements along with increased spending at restaurants despite high inflation, souring consumer sentiment and rising interest rates.

Cliff Hodge, chief investment officer at Cornerstone Wealth said the narrative was “shifting from inflation scare to recession scare.”

Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services said retailer results appeared to be potentially “one more indication of perhaps a slowdown in the economy.”

“I just wonder if people are starting to really get pinched by fuel costs – both businesses as well as consumers … When you are paying north of $5 for a gallon of gas, that’s a hammer and that’s a hammer on everybody,” Carlson said.

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Economy

Aussie jumps, safe-haven dollar and yen ease amid Shanghai reopening signs

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. one dollar banknotes are seen in this illustration taken February 8, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration//File Photo

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By Kevin Buckland

TOKYO (Reuters) – The safe-haven dollar and yen eased on Thursday while the Australian and New Zealand dollars jumped amid signs of an easing in Shanghai’s coronavirus lockdown, although sentiment remained fragile as global equities sold off.

Shanghai will allow more businesses in some areas to resume normal operations from the start of June, an official said, stirring hopes for an end to a crippling weeks-long lockdown under the government’s strict zero-COVID policy.

That helped lift the mood in a market that was badly bruised on Wednesday by mounting concerns that aggressive tightening by the Federal Reserve and other global central banks could choke growth.

The Aussie gained 0.8% to $0.7008, just above the psychologically important 70 cent level, getting additional support from a tick down in Australian unemployment to the lowest in almost half a century. Overnight, the currency had retreated 1.1% from a high of $0.7046.

New Zealand’s kiwi bounced 0.6% to $0.6334, after losing 1.1% overnight from a top of $0.6370.

Preeminent haven currency the yen slid, with the dollar adding 0.48% to 128.845 yen after a 0.86% tumble on Wednesday.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against six major peers, edged 0.16% lower to 103.63, after a 0.55% jump overnight that ended a three-day losing streak.

Despite the moves in foreign exchange markets, a 1.9% slide in Asian stocks was evidence that risk aversion was still front of mind, a day after a 4% drop for the S&P 500 and a 5% plunge for the Nasdaq, said Ray Attrill, head of currency strategy at National Australia Bank (OTC:NABZY).

“Zero-COVID is here to stay, so to me the China outlook is no less grim today than it was yesterday,” he said.

“The macro backdrop that is supporting the dollar, either on relative interest rate grounds or on risk aversion, one or other of those forces is going to remain in play for the time being, so I don’t see a meaningful decline from these levels” in the dollar index, he said.

Poor U.S. housing data on Wednesday added to slowdown concerns, and Fed Chair Jerome Powell had ratcheted up the hawkish rhetoric the previous day by saying the U.S. monetary authority would push interest rates as high as needed to stem a surge in inflation that he said threatened the foundation of the economy.

Powell’s stance “makes it hard to achieve a ‘soft landing’ for the U.S. economy given the long lags between changes in monetary policy and changes in inflation,” Joseph Capurso, a currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia (OTC:CMWAY) in Sydney, wrote in a client note. “The darkening outlook for the U.S. economy supports the USD and safe-haven currencies.”

The euro rebounded 0.38% to $1.0501 after Wednesday’s 0.84% slump.

Sterling got some respite with a 0.37% gain to $1.23905, after dropping 1.2% overnight as a surge in U.K. inflation to a 40-year record fostered worries for a sharp economic slowdown.

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