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China stocks could surge 20-40% on untapped reform upside - Goldman Sachs

Published 04/23/2024, 09:24 AM
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Since 2021, China stocks have been on a downward trend, prompting the government to implement a series of measures aimed at rejuvenating the market.

In August 2023, the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) introduced a comprehensive set of initiatives designed to boost the flagging stock market. These measures included reducing stamp duty on stock trading, supporting corporate share buybacks, and promoting long-term investments.

These efforts were followed by additional strategies, such as purchases of local ETFs by China's state fund and a surge in share buyback and purchase plans by numerous listed companies, presumably aligning with Beijing's directive to bolster the market.

There are several factors that have increased the headwinds faced by China stocks.

The stringent three-year zero-COVID policies significantly undermined business confidence and stifled domestic demand, production, and investment. Even after the policies were lifted in early 2023, the economic recovery has been erratic, with faltering consumer spending and rising deflation risks that impact corporate earnings.

Furthermore, the real estate sector, a major component of the GDP, continues to struggle, marked by significant price declines and defaults by major developers, further shaking confidence in China stocks.

Sino-U.S. tensions have also escalated, affecting investments as geopolitical competition extends from technology to trade and finance.

On top of all this, a crackdown by the Chinese government on the tech sector has erased substantial market value and driven foreign direct investment to a 30-year low as businesses relocate to other regions amid increasing regulatory challenges.

In the latest effort to spur market recovery, China's state fund Central Huijin Investment bought blue-chip stocks worth approximately $41 billion during the first quarter, as indicated by ETF quarterly reports.

These purchases contributed to a 14% rebound in the CSI300 blue-chip index from five-year lows in February, which was also helped by market-friendly policies and the appointment of a new top securities regulator.

China stocks could surge - Goldman

Earlier this month, the CSRC announced the "9 Measures," a crucial policy directive issued once every decade that outlines the future trajectory of capital markets.

This latest set of guidelines marks a shift in focus from the themes of "reform and opening up" in 2004 and "development" in 2014, to "supervision" and "high quality" now, aligning with the broader economic and strategic objectives established by senior policymakers.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs identified three main areas where they anticipate policy actions based on recent directives, including strengthening capital market supervision and governance; efforts to increase the quality of listed companies, which could involve raising the thresholds for initial public offerings (IPOs); implementing more rigorous delisting mechanisms, and improving shareholder returns.

Additionally, enhancing investor protection is a priority, “notably more transparent disciplinary mechanisms, better disclosure, and higher representation of long-term, institutional capital in A shares,” analysts wrote.

“Necessary changes are well recognized, but effective, decisive, and prudent execution will hold the key for success,” they added.

In light of, improvements in shareholder returns, corporate governance standards, and institutional investor ownership, Goldman’s analysts project significant potential upside for A-shares.

In particular, their analysis indicates that if A-shares can narrow the gaps with international averages in these areas, they could see an approximate 20% increase in value. In a more optimistic "blue-sky" scenario, where A-shares match the standards of global leaders, they “could re-rate as much as 40%,” said analysts.

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