Foreign firms to watch out for in 2016
Updated: 2016-01-08 07:57
(China Daily Europe)
Despite slowdown in China's economy, these global companies see strong prospects ahead as they eye mainland expansion plans
Is Google set for a mainland return?
Google Inc advertised as many as 60 jobs in Beijing and Shanghai on professionals' online network LinkedIn, report is said recently. The buzz that the Internet giant may be mulling a comeback to the Chinese mainland became louder.
Sources working with Google on projects related to its return to the Chinese mainland say the company may make an announcement in the next six months.
The BBC quoted co-founder Sergey Brin in November as saying that some Google services would return to the mainland. The company withdrew most of its operations in 2010.
According to the BBC, Eric Schmidt, the Google chairman, echoed Brin's comments during a speech at the Tech Crunch Beijing conference. He said the US-based company had a lot of partners in China and was in regular contact with the government about its presence and services. However, he he did not elaborate on what Google planned to launch or expand on the mainland.
The Wall Street Journal reported in September that Google was talking with Chinese officials and smartphone manufacturers about launching an Android app store in the mainland.
The report, which quoted anonymous sources, said Google has been working on a version of its Play store that includes only apps and services approved by the government. The store would come installed on new smartphones made for the Chinese market that run on Google's licensed version of Android.
Meanwhile, China Daily found that Google has registered a shell company in a high-rise office building in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone. Google Ireland Holdings - a European subsidiary of the multinational - is listed as a sole shareholder.
In October, Google also invested an undisclosed amount in Mobvoi, a Beijing artificial intelligence startup that aims to develop smart wearable technologies. The company, created by a former Google researcher, is believed to have raised $75 million in equity financing. This was seen another indication that Google is set to return to the mainland.
Security vow as Apple Pay nears launch
On Dec 18, Apple and China UnionPay announced a partnership to bring Apple Pay, the US company's mobile payment system, to Chinese customers. The system looks likely to be rolled out in early 2016.
China UnionPay cardholders will be able to add bankcards to Apple Pay on the iPhone, Apple Watch and iPad to enable the function.
Apple has said that security is at the core of Apple Pay, so when users add credit or debit cards, the actual card numbers are not stored on the device or on Apple servers. Instead, unique "device account numbers" are assigned, encrypted and securely stored in dedicated chips on devices. Each transaction is also authorized with a one-time unique security code.
However, no reports have disclosed how much Apple will charge for purchases made through Apple Pay in China. The company gets 0.15 percent of all credit card transactions and 0.5 cents per debit transaction in the United States, the Wall Street Journal said.
Uber plans to ramp up competition
Uber Technologies Inc has an ambitious expansion plan for China, despite facing fierce competition in the car-hailing market. Earlier reports said the company aims to target cities with more than 2 million people in 2016 - of which there are at least 250 in China.
The company is already active in 21 Chinese cities and in the third quarter of 2015 stood in second place in China's car-hailing market, with 16.2 percent of the market. Local rival Didi Chuxing dominated with 83.2 percent, according to Analysys International.
Reports in December suggested Uber has been seeking local investors in China in an attempt to be recognized as a local company by industry regulators. It has already teamed up with the state-owned Guangzhou Automobile Group, which will help with equity investment, car sales, after-sales services and insurance.
Uber is reportedly concerned that its US origins could put it on a collision course with China's regulators, especially as there are no firm regulations in place for the car-hailing sector.
The Ministry of Transportation published a draft regulation in October that would effectively ban private vehicles from being used for car-hailing apps.
Tesla to expand further despite low sales
Elon Musk announced in October that Tesla Motors Inc could begin producing cars in China in two years. He also said local production had the potential to slash the sales prices of its models in the Chinese market by one-third, according to media reports.
The electric-vehicle maker is confident of its performance in China in 2016 and has begun expanding, despite low sales and the fact it cut its workforce by 30 percent in the first three months of 2015.
The company opened an "experience center" in Beijing on Dec 25, bringing the number of such centers in China to six.
Tesla has also been in contact with local automakers to find partners, according to reports.
In addition, the Chinese government's preferential policies for new-energy vehicles will provide opportunities for Tesla to develop. The State Council asked local authorities to lift purchase restrictions and remove traffic controls for new-energy vehicles in September.
Many cities in China, including Beijing and Shenzhen, have made e-cars exempt from their license plate lotteries. Some cities have also started to provide subsidies to encourage buyers.