Highlights from the last week of China business news.
Who’s out, who’s in
The Chinese Communist Party’s 17th quinquennial congress (we so rarely get an opportunity to use that word), with its multiethnic pageantry and interminable state of the party speeches, came to an end on Sunday. Time for the announcement everyone was waiting for – the new roster for the party’s leadership group, the Politburo Standing Committee. Three members – Zeng Qinghong, Wu Guanzheng and Luo Gan – stepped down, making room for four people to complete the nine-seat committee with the death of Huang Ju earlier this year. Those four are Liaoning party secretary Li Keqiang, party secretary of Liaoning province and long-time protege of president Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping, the replacement of dead-to-the-party Shanghai party boss Chen Liangyu, He Guoqiang and Zhou Yongkang. The former two are the true rising stars – one or the other is expected to take Hu’s place as party secretary-general when he steps down in 2012 – while the former two will have reached the unofficial retirement age of 68 by then. Vice premiers Wu Yi and Zeng Peiyan have also retired from the party’s broader Central Committee. Notably (read: incredibly) still keeping his post is 67-year-old Jia Qinglin, who has close ties to ex-president Jiang Zemin and has been linked in the past to corruption in Fujian.*
3, 2, 1 … blast off
The title of this item could apply to China’s first lunar probe, which launched successfully in Xichang, Sichuan province on Wednesday to start a one-year mission to orbit the moon and take pictures of the surface with really cool cameras. It was seen as a big coup for national prestige, despite the fact that Japan launched its own unmanned lunar mission a few weeks back and India is planning one soon.
On the other hand, it could just as easily refer to the blockbuster IPO of PetroChina, which got off the ground Monday and will likely set yet another record for the mainland stock market. PetroChina set an indicative price range of RMB15-16.70 (US$2-2.23) for the sale, which should begin trading on November 5. The listing, along with strong performance of PetroChina’s Hong Kong-listed unit, could also push the state-owned energy giant past ExxonMobil as the world’s highest-valued publicly traded company. Defying the mob that will inveitably rush to buy in, Nebraskan mega-investor Warren Buffett sold the last of the 11.05% stake in PetroChina held by his firm, Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett denied speculation that he was selling because of outcry over the company’s dealings in Sudan, saying that it was simply a smart move. We find it hard to argue: He made a handsome US$3.5 billion from an initial investment of US$488 million.
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*Correction: We got it mixed up earlier. To our knowledge, Jia Qinglin had no ties to the Chen Liangyu affair in Shanghai, although he was questioned in the same anti-corruption probe that resulted in Chen’s demise.