China Goes Bargain-Hunting
Every year, friends of mine head up to Hong Kong to go shopping. Not at the swanky boutiques in Central or the funky shops in Causeway Bay. Nope, they go to the warehouse outlets on the other side of Hong Kong Island. Why? Because there they can buy designer goods at bargain-basement prices. They've said to me repeatedly, "Nver pay full price for something you can get at a discount."
You could probably say the same thing about the SWFs and value-investors like Warren Buffet who have, just this past week, made high-profile investments in venerable Wall Street institutions like General Electric, which, by the way, is the parent company of CNBC.
But just because something's branded and cheap doesn't mean it's suitable for everyone (really, when am I going to wear those Gucci 'babouska' 4.1" high heel with horsebit ring buckle and studs? Give me my Scholls!)
That's why Bank of China is looking elsewhere. BOC's Group Executive Vice President Zhu Min told me the firm isn't ready to buy a major U.S. investment bank.
Instead, the bank (one of China's "Big Four") recently paid $378 million for a 20% stake in France's La Cie Financiere Edmond de Rothschild, more commonly referred to as LCFR. They're starting an asset-management and private banking joint-venture to sell Rothschild's financial products through BOC's network of 11,000 branches throughout China.
Compared to the billions of dollars in investments we hear about in the financial sector these days, that's not a whole lot of cash. But it's one of several strategic moves BOC hopes will show them the money. Bring on them Scholls please.
Should Chinese banks seize the opportunity to snap up Wall Street bargains?
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