(Bloomberg) — Didi Global Inc.’s surprise rebuke from Beijing proved at last that there are limits to investors’ seemingly insatiable appetite for Chinese stocks.
The Nasdaq Golden Dragon Index — which tracks some of the biggest Chinese firms listed in the U.S. — saw its worst week since March with a 6.4% slump. Of the index’s 98 members, only 15 managed to finish in the green this week, while 17 suffered a decline of at least 10%, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
China’s plans to tighten oversight of data security and overseas listings has battered U.S.-traded Chinese shares, already reeling from a security review by their internet regulator last week and a demand for app stores to remove Didi Chuxing. The crackdown came just days after Didi’s $4.4 billion initial public offering.
“No one has a handle on how far this crackdown will go and exactly how things will eventually wind down,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda Corp. “The risk is significant and I think for a lot of investors they‘re going to say it’s probably not worth it.”
The pain was also felt by traders in Hong Kong, where a gauge of Chinese stocks listed there extended its plunge from a February high to just shy of bear market territory.
The dramatic plunge came to a head on Thursday as risk-off sentiment coursed through markets amid growing worries that economic growth expectations may be undermined by the spread of new Covid-19 variants. The S&P 500 Index dropped by its most in almost three weeks and a Bloomberg gauge of 37 so-called meme stocks extended its recent declines to nearly 20%.
U.S.-listed Chinese companies staged a rebound Friday, with the benchmark gaining 2.6%, the most since June 1. Didi rose by 7.3% even as China’s cyberspace regulator ordered websites and online platforms to ban downloads of 25 more company-linked apps that have already been removed from stores. Still, its shares remain 14% below their $14 IPO price and 33% from a June 30 high.
Other American depository receipts of China firms also took a hit this week. Newly-listed Full Truck Alliance Co. and Kanzhun Ltd., both named in China’s crackdown, lost 16% and 0.4% respectively. Chinese electric vehicle makers Nio Inc. and Li Auto Inc. also fell. Tech heavyweights Baidu Inc. slumped 7.8% and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. lost 5.4%.
With about $130 billion in market value erased in the U.S. this week, investors must now decide whether the latest crackdown is the last they’ll see from China or just the tip of the iceberg as President Xi Jinping attempts to rein in his country’s biggest corporations.
China’s crackdown on overseas listing also threatens about 70 other private firms based in Hong Kong and China that are set to go public in New York, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Some firms were quick to react. On Thursday, Beijing-based LinkDoc Technology Ltd. became the first known company to shelve an IPO in the wake of the newly proposed changes. Since then, it’s been reported that Chinese fitness app Keep and vegetable startup Meicai have both scrapped plans for U.S. listing.
The decision may end up being made for them, according to Cowen analyst Jaret Seiberg, who wrote in a note Thursday that the delisting of Chinese companies trading in the U.S. “appears inevitable.”
“China’s response to the Didi Global IPO is reinforcing our view that the Chinese government will not give U.S. market regulators the power to inspect the audits of Chinese companies listed on U.S. exchanges,” he said.
Investors should expect a bumpy ride. “These will be choppy waters for the foreseeable future,” said Hans Albrecht, portfolio manager at Horizons ETFs Management. “Perhaps these names trade at a decent discount to industry but are the discounts acceptable enough yet? I’m not so sure.”
(Updates share price moves throughout.)
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