You can take your pick of the good, the bad or the ugly when it comes to this weekend’s news, but we would prefer to start Monday with a glass half full. Agricultural Bank of China saw its profits rise by 19.1% to US$7.48 billion, what the lender’s president called “a great improvement in profitability.” No word yet on when ABC will list its shares or whether it will invite foreign or domestic investors on board. There is some bad news, though. Toy exports dropped by 17.8% for the first 11 months of 2008. But HSBC is helping stave off Monday morning blues with a prediction for 2009: It won’t be as bad here as elsewhere. HSBC predicts that earnings for companies on the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index will be down just 5% for 2009, compared to a projected 15% decline for all Asian companies outside Japan that HSBC tracks. And it appears we have found one of those outperformers, and its name is Alibaba. While tech firms across the globe are making cuts, Jack Ma’s firm is looking to hire an extra 5,000, bringing the total headcount to 17,000. Most of the hires will be made in China though the company will expand in the US and Europe.
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