Blog Post

Chart: Alibaba IPO underlines rise of Chinese private sector

Alibaba’s coming of age underlines a continuous trend of the last half-decade. For all the fashionable talk of China’s dominant state capitalism and “Guo Jin Min Tui” (“the state advances, the private sector retreats”), the numbers tell a slightly different story.

By: Date: September 20, 2014 Topic: Global Economics & Governance

On Friday, September 5, Alibaba Group filed details about its forthcoming Initial Public Offering, suggesting a mid-range valuation of 155 billion US dollars. This would make the Hangzhou-based web retailer the most valuable listed private-sector company headquartered on the Chinese mainland, ahead of its Shenzhen-based online rival Tencent Holdings.

For all the fashionable talk of China’s dominant state capitalism and “Guo Jin Min Tui”, the numbers tell a slightly different story

Alibaba’s coming of age underlines a continuous trend of the last half-decade. For all the fashionable talk of China’s dominant state capitalism and “Guo Jin Min Tui” (“the state advances, the private sector retreats”), the numbers tell a slightly different story, as illustrated by the following chart:

This chart shows the shares of four categories of companies in the aggregate market value of the largest listed Chinese firms, namely those that feature in the FT Global 500 list of the world’s 500 largest listed companies by market capitalization which is regularly compiled by the Financial Times. Companies are included irrespective of the location of their main stock market listing, whether Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Shanghai or, in Alibaba’s case, New York. The three main groups are state-owned enterprises (SOEs) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), such as Petrochina, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, or China Mobile; companies from Hong Kong and Macao (mostly private-sector but also including municipal companies such as MTR, which operates the profitable Hong Kong metro system), such as Hutchison Whampoa, AIA Insurance, or Sands China; and private-sector companies from the mainland, such as Tencent or Ping An. A smaller fourth group includes banks with hybrid ownership of state and private-sector shareholders (with a public-sector majority), such as China Merchants, Industrial Bank, or Shanghai Pudong Development Bank.

The numbers are as of December 31 of each year except in 2014, where the ranking as of June 30 is used. In the right-hand bar, Alibaba is added to the list on June 30 with the notional market value of USD155bn. This inclusion results in a corresponding expansion of the relative share of the mainland private sector. (The other companies’ market values were not adjusted from their June 30 amount, but this would not materially change the overall picture.)

Alibaba’s IPO is likely to be remembered as the symbolic moment of a momentous transformation of the Chinese corporate landscape

The chart suggests three observations. First, with about two-thirds of the total, the PRC’s government retains a firm control of the “commanding heights” of Chinese business, as has been plain since the massive IPOs of state-owned enterprises in the mid-2000s. Second, however, this measure suggests a continuous erosion of state control for the past half-decade, as new entrants such as Tencent and Alibaba gain ground – and as private firms in Hong Kong and Macao have also comparatively recovered somewhat from their low point of the late 2000s. Third, and for the first time with Alibaba’s addition to the mix, large private-sector companies from the mainland collectively weigh as much as their peers from Hong Kong and Macao when measured by aggregate value.

As always in China, one must keep in mind that the distinction between public and private sector remains somewhat fuzzy. Ultimate ownership of private-sector firms is often unclear, and the Communist Party of China retains ways to influence the strategy and behaviour of many nominally private-sector companies. Nevertheless, the gradual rise of private-sector companies as compared with the state-owned giants is too continuous to be ignored. Alibaba’s IPO is likely to be remembered as the symbolic moment of this momentous transformation of the Chinese corporate landscape.


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint. Anyone is free to republish and/or quote this post without prior consent. Please provide a full reference, clearly stating Bruegel and the relevant author as the source, and include a prominent hyperlink to the original post.

Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Opinion

Could the RMB dislodge the dollar as a reserve currency?

The dollar remains the world’s largest reserve currency, but it is facing both domestic and external risks.

By: Alicia García-Herrero Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: July 14, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Podcast

Podcast

CCP's 100th Anniversary: Reflecting and looking forward

As the Chinese Communist Party celebrates its 100th anniversary, we looked into the past, future and present of the country's economic development.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: July 7, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Podcast

Podcast

Challenges and growth of China's private sector

Is the dynamic role of the private sector in China under threat by its economic model and the United States?

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: June 9, 2021
Read article
 

Blog Post

For the climate, Asia-Pacific must phase out fossil-fuel subsidies

An exit from coal in the Asia-Pacific region is a global decarbonisation priority.

By: Alicia García-Herrero and Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Energy & Climate, Global Economics & Governance Date: May 31, 2021
Read article More by this author
 

Parliamentary Testimony

House of Lords

The UK’s security and trade relationship with China

Testimony before the International Relations and Defence Committee at the House of Lords, British Parliament on the UK’s security and trade relationship with China.

By: Alicia García-Herrero Topic: Global Economics & Governance, House of Lords, Testimonies Date: May 27, 2021
Read article Download PDF More on this topic
 

Policy Contribution

How difficult is China's business environment for European and American companies?

Contrary to some narratives, China's business practices have improved, with a business environment that is generally more favourable than that in other large countries at similar levels of development.

By: Uri Dadush and Pauline Weil Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: May 26, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Podcast

Podcast

New kid in the playground: China's antitrust push

How is China’s antitrust push being weaponised to counter western sanctions?

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: May 12, 2021
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

Global value chain reshuffling: From tight coupling to loose coupling?

As the focus shifts from efficiency to resilience in global supply chains, what does this mean for China?

Speakers: Erik Berglöf, Alicia García-Herrero, Niclas Poitiers and Kristy Tsun-Tzu Hsu Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: May 11, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Opinion

Europe's crusade to fend off Chinese interference falls short

It is in everybody's interest for China to level the playing field among state-owned, private, and foreign companies so that no new distortionary measures need to be taken elsewhere.

By: Alicia García-Herrero Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: May 10, 2021
Read article More on this topic
 

Blog Post

China’s M&A activity rebounds with a clear focus on Europe

Despite the pandemic, China’s interest in overseas M&A started to rebound in late 2020, with European industrial companies still of particular interest.

By: Alicia García-Herrero and Jianwei Xu Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: May 4, 2021
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

Form a climate club: United States, European Union and China

Can the three biggest economies agree a carbon tax on imports to catalyse climate action globally?

Speakers: Simone Tagliapietra, Sheldon Whitehouse and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: May 3, 2021
Read article More on this topic
 

Blog Post

China has a grand carbon neutrality target but where is the plan?

China’s new long-term targets, to reach peak emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, are yet to be matched with a consistent short-term action plan.

By: Alicia García-Herrero and Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Energy & Climate Date: April 14, 2021
Load more posts