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Is Your China Business Recession Resistant? What Is?

Posted in China Business

One of the things I have always found fascinating is how macro economic issues can have such widely varying micro economic impacts. By this I mean that when an economy starts tanking, let’s say 10%, the impact on individual businesses can be all over the map.
I remember becoming starkly aware of this during the 1997 Asian Crisis, as I spent a considerable amount of time in Korea that year. The news was doing a story on the drop in imported goods coming into Korea. Now I do not remember the numbers very well at all, but I think imports had declined about 20%. But the really interesting part was how unevenly this fall in imports was among various products. The one that stands out for me is that some fruit (I am 99% sure it was either kumquats or quinces) had gone from $20 million in imports the year before to absolutely zero. Zero. The reason given for this was that it was a luxury and that such luxuries were no longer in demand. Some staple food products had seen virtually no decline.
I have a lawyer friend who represents a huge number of medical practices. He told me of a surgeon client of his whose practice had been decimated when insurance companies reduced their payments and stiffened their reviews. Giving my best guess to the numbers again, he said that surgery rates had declined about 5% across the board in the country, but this guy’s practice had been hit so hard, his income had gone from something like $450,000 a year to around $50,000. There were various reasons this had happened, but obviously this particular surgeon contributed a lot more than most of the others to the overall 5% decline in surgeon payments.
I mention all this because I have seen very little written about how China’s decline has impacted businesses differently. My firm has seen increased business of late from companies related to energy and fuel savings, food companies, gaming companies, health care companies, education related companies, and, (no surprise here) collection companies. All of these companies seem to have relatively stable (or even rising) income flows and they are seeking to expand in China or take advantage of China cost savings. Those businesses which seem to have been hit hardest are in luxury goods companies, clothing companies, and financial services companies. Currency fluctuation can also have a huge impact. We are seeing increasing numbers of Japanese, Russian and Korean companies looking to purchase US business and real estate assets. The strength of the Japanese Yen has made US assets relatively cheap, while Korean and Russian companies are looking here out of fear for further declines in their currencies.
What are you seeing out there?
UPDATE: China Business Blog says something similar in its post, “Don’t let China’s lower GDP numbers be a distraction, say strategists at Technomic Asia.”
FURTHER UPDATE: Just came across this article, entitled, “Ni Hao, Would You Like Fries With That?” on how fast food restaurants are still thriving in China (h/t The Life of a “Foreign Expert” in Zhangye, China)

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