Sino-Swiss Business News
China Construction Bank (CCB) officially opened its Zurich branch on January 14, 2016. In the five years since then, the institution has supported companies from Switzerland and China in establishing and expanding their business activities in the respective countries. On behalf of the Central Bank of the People’s Republic of China (PBoC), CCB has also established the renminbi hub in Switzerland since 2016 and has since been developing cross-border business with the Chinese currency in Switzerland as a clearing bank for the renminbi. Since its opening, the hub has recorded a transaction volume of CNY 4,300 billion yuan (about CHF 590 billion), of which around CNY 2,600 billion was accounted for in 2020 alone, the institution said. The hub today has 13 Swiss partner banks. As a Chinese bank in Switzerland, CCB’s Zurich branch focuses on providing first-class financial services to Swiss companies operating in China, Swiss import and export companies, Chinese companies operating in Switzerland, and Swiss and international financial institutions.
UBS Group AG aims to double staff at its China investment banking business in 3-5 years, seeking to capture growth opportunities unleashed by Beijing’s capital market reforms, a senior executive said on Monday. Eugene Qian, chairman of UBS’ China brokerage venture, also said there’s a price to pay for not investing in China, describing the Trump administration’s measures to restrict investment toward China as “unnecessary.” “As China continues to open up its capital markets, more foreign capital is coming in, making talents in China scarce,” said Qian, chairman of UBS Securities Co Ltd. The brokerage venture currently employs over 200 people in investment banking，brokerage and research roles – excluding back office and other support staff – and aims to double that number. “No global investor can ignore China. If you don’t invest in China, you would underperform those who do,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the UBS Greater China Conference in Shanghai. In addition to investment banking, UBS Group also plans to aggressively expand its wealth management and asset management business in China. Having more than doubled total China staff to nearly 1,300 since 2015, the Swiss group will continue to make “strategic hirings”, Qian said.
Dufry and Hainan Development Holdings (HDH), a fully state-owned company of the Hainan Provincial Government, have signed a strategic cooperation agreement to develop opportunities in Hainan’s travel retail market. The first step of this collaboration will focus on the development of new duty-free operations at the Mova Mall in Haikou, the capital of the island. Mova Mall is a major tourism and shopping destination in the city center of Haikou, featuring a vast leisure offer of shopping, dining and entertainment facilities, as well as over 2,500 luxury hotel rooms in walking distance. The Mova Mall complex welcomed 22 million visitors in 2019 and visitors from mainland China are allowed to buy duty-free items up to an amount of 100.000 RMB (approx. USD 14,000) per year. The new downtown duty-free shop will span over 38,920 m2 across two buildings of the Mova Mall, in three phases and the first phase is expected to be opening before the Chinese Spring Festival, at the end of February 2021.
President Xi presented his vision for the country’s reform and opening-up on a number of occasions last year. In a speech delivered via video link to the Global Trade in Services Summit at the China International Fair for Trade in Services in September, he said Beijing would remain steadfast in opening up wider to the world and would continue to work on a negative list system for managing cross-border services trade. “We will further ease market access for the services sector and will take greater initiative to increase imports of quality services,” he said. In Shenzhen, Guangdong province,－the country’s first special economic zone that celebrated its 40th anniversary in October－Xi said reform and opening-up must be moved forward at a higher level and new advances must be made on all fronts in such zones. Martin Mueller, chairman of the Swiss Chinese Chamber of Commerce, said he welcomed Xi’s policy statement about China’s opening-up. “We appreciate China’s commitment to multilateralism and its continued opening-up to more foreign trade and investment. China is now a very big factory for the whole world, and if it maintains this direction, the whole world will benefit,” he said. He added that the chamber welcomes every step taken toward opening-up and leveling the playing field for foreign businesses in China. “There were important improvements over the past year and we hope this can continue in coming years,” he said.
Nestlé launched its plant-based Harvest Gourmet brand in China, moving into the country’s meat substitute industry that has seen a surge of interest from investors and brands over the past year. The Swiss food and drink giant said the brand, which is available in Australia, would offer burgers, sausages, nuggets and mince, and will also sell dishes aimed to appeal to Chinese taste-buds, such as kung pao chicken, braised meatballs and pork belly. Demand for alternatives to regular meat is surging due to concerns about health, animal welfare and the environment. Entrants to China’s meat substitute market in recent months have ranged from domestic firms Zhenmeat and Starfield to U.S. firm Beyond Meat Inc, which has collaborations with Starbucks and Yum China’s KFC chain. Harvest Gourmet products sold in China will be produced by Nestlé’s faux-meat factory in Tianjin, its first in Asia. The brand will open an online store on Alibaba Group’s Tmall marketplace this month, and will gradually start offering products for sale from Alibaba’s Hema supermarket chain by the end of 2020, Nestlé said. “We see China leading the trend towards a new generation of plant-based food in Asia, as people look for options that are good for them and good for the planet,” Rashid Qureshi, chief executive of Nestlé Greater China, said in a statement.
Artificial intelligence expert SenseTime has entered into a strategic partnership in Shanghai with Swiss elevator leader Schindler to develop an escalator safety intelligent response system. The pair vowed to use AI to detect and manage prospective safety risks or concerns embedded in elevator systems while ensuring operational efficacy at the same time. Leveraging multiple AI technologies by SenseTime from object detection and behavioral recognition to density analysis, the system is designed to voice security alarms upon entrances of escalators to those with bulky luggage or wheelchairs, or alert of over-density in a certain space to prevent the occurrence of stampede accidents, the company said in a press release. Also, when no passenger approaches the escalator zone, the system can inform staff members to halt operations by remote so as to trim operational costs.
The cultural industries have suffered greatly due to restrained social gathering since the Covid-19 outbreak. However, along with the challenges, the Covid-19 has also motivated the transformation of traditional cultural industries, and the digitization of cultural activities is becoming a new trend. To promote the recovery of cultural industries as well as to accelerate international cooperation, the Yangtze River Delta International Cultural Industries Expo (YRDICIE) opened as planned and adopted a hybrid format combining on-site and online exhibitions. This is the first time for Switzerland to present at the YRDICIE. Creative Hub Switzerland, together with swissnex China has organized a Swiss Pavilion at the “Overseas Elite Sections” of the Expo to showcase six Swiss startups from product design, esports, and art business. During the four-day exhibition, the startups not only introduced their product and concept through live broadcasting but also joined the online matchmaking sessions to better connect with the Chinese market.
The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland (FDFA) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for cooperation in energy efficient buildings with the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MoHURD) in China. The Ambassador of Switzerland to China Bernardino Regazzoni met with Ni Hong, Vice Minister of China’s Housing and Urban-Rural Development on November 24th and signed the agreement. Under the MOU, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, acting for FDFA, will strengthen project cooperation and exchange technological expertise in energy-efficient and zero-emission buildings with its counterpart from MoHURD. “It is a great opportunity for the two countries to sign an MOU on energy efficient buildings this year as we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Switzerland and China,” said Ambassador Bernardino Regazzoni. Switzerland and China, both signed the Paris Agreement, are committed to tackling Climate Change. The Federal Council of Switzerland plans to reduce its net carbon emissions to zero by 2050 whereas China has pledged to reach carbon neutrality by 2060.
While this year’s pandemic has cast over the world a shadow of uncertainty, it also prompts business observers to reflect on how to achieve more sustainable development. “COVID-19 is a severe wake-up call for mankind. We realized that it is so important to respect nature. Globalization will take a new turn now,” said Wang Huiyao, president of the Center for China and Globalization, a think tank based in Beijing. “It is time to turn to sustainable concrete practices if we want to reach targets, such as the 2060 Chinese carbon neutrality goal,” he said during a panel discussing at the forum. Echoing Wang’s comments, Rashid Qureshi, chairman and CEO of Nestlé GCR, noticed that the pandemic changes consumer behaviors as they are now “more aware of the necessity to protect the environment”, which direct companies into more sustainable business models. He said sustainability cannot be finished by one country but through partnership; that’s why better cooperation between Switzerland and China counts. The Sino-Swiss Economic Forum started in 2010 and is a biennial event that is the biggest economic forum between Switzerland and China. Friday’s event, attended by more than 300 business and government leaders, marked the closing ceremony for this year’s forum, which saw a series of seminars in October.
Around 50 Swiss multinational corporations, including engineering company ABB, pharmaceutical firm Novartis, food and beverage giant Nestle, inspection group SGS as well as small and medium-sized enterprises are participating in the ongoing China International Import Expo in Shanghai from November 5th to 10th. The companies have displayed a slew of sustainable and innovative solutions such as fast charging stations for electric vehicles, environmentally friendly packaging and robot nurses using artificial intelligence and automation. “I think the CIIE is the perfect platform for constructive business dialogues with our potential partners. We decided on the idea of setting up a metering laboratory with Zhoushan Free Trade Zone when their leaders visited our booth in the previous expo. The laboratory has since come to fruition,” said Frankie Ng, CEO of SGS Group. Dan Brindle, President of Novartis Group, said, “We view the CIIE as an opportunity to connect with stakeholders here to collectively contribute to improving the business environment, help facilitate international exchange and further drive global trade.” Novartis is showcasing innovative medicines, breakthrough cell and gene therapies, and a pipeline of products that it plans to bring to China in the near future. On November 6th, the Swiss Consulate General in Shanghai organized a Sino-Swiss business reception to celebrate with the business community the 70th anniversary of bilateral relations.