Alibaba, Meituan power Hang Seng on bets China crackdown on tech is ending

By Zhang Shidong
Bronze sculptures of bulls outside the Exchange Square in Central, Hong Kong. Photo: Warton Li

Hong Kong stocks rallied to near a four-week high as investors bet the worst is ending on tech sector crackdown following the end of a regulatory probe into Meituan.

The Hang Seng Index jumped 2 per cent to 25,325.09 at the close of Monday trading, taking the gauge to the highest level since September 14. The Hang Seng Tech Index surged 3.2 per cent while China’s Shanghai Composite Index slipped less than 0.1 per cent.

Meituan, the nation’s biggest on-demand delivery service firm, contributed to almost 40 per cent of the increase in the Hang Seng gauge as the company accepted a US$533 million fine and put behind its brushes with the state antitrust regulator. Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holding gained at least 3 per cent.

“With the result of the antitrust investigation out of the way, the policy risk has diminished,” said Zhang Liangwei, an analyst at Soochow Securities in Shanghai. “There’s no further bad news on that front.”

Sentiment on China’s technology stocks has improved this month after Beijing rolled out a raft of measures to rectify industry excesses, and traders scooped up values after some US$1 trillion sell-off in Hong Kong since May. The Hang Seng Tech Index is valued at 19.2 times earnings, rebounding from a record-low multiple of 15.2 times at end-August, according to Bloomberg data.

Meituan jumped 8.4 per cent to HK$277.40 for its highest close since July. The state antitrust regulator on late Friday fined the company 3.44 billion yuan (US$533 million) for monopolistic market practices, with some analysts calling it milder than the US$1 billion fine expected by the market.

Alibaba, the owner of this newspaper that was fined a record US$2.8 billion in May, gained 7.9 per cent to HK$167.80, extending to 24 per cent its rebound from an October 5 low. Tencent added 3 per cent to HK$496 and short-video platform operator Kuaishou Technology advanced 5.1 per cent to HK$88.

Lenovo Group, the Chinese maker of personal computers, tumbled 13 per cent to HK$7.63 for its biggest slide in three years after withdrawing a plan to list on Shanghai’s Star Market and a controversy surrounding its large executive pay.

In Shenzhen, chemical product maker Sino-High jumped 51 per cent from its initial public offering price to 46.90 yuan on the first day of trading.

Other major markets in Asia were mixed, with Japan’s stock gauges climbing more than 1 per cent while equities in Australia heading south. A government report on Friday showed US job growth last month significantly trailed estimates, but also showed a jump in wages. Markets in South Korea and Taiwan are shut for public holidays.

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