by Xinhua writer Ren Ke
BEIJING, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- A group of over 60 Chinese business leaders have united to criticize short-seller Citron Research for issuing erroneous reports on U.S.-listed Chinese stocks.
It is a positive sign that after limited experience in the global market, Chinese enterprises are becoming mature enough to respond loudly to groundless charges.
Headed by former Microsoft and Google executive Kai-Fu Lee, these CEOs, investors and regional heads of global tech giants have abundant experience in international companies and are well-versed in the tech industry as well as practices in the capital market, so they are clear about how short-sellers can succeed in shorting Chinese stocks and the importance of public opinion.
Regardless of the result of the debate, the incident marks an important step for Chinese companies heading toward the global market.
Since March 2011, overseas short-sellers, especially Citron Research and Muddy Waters Research, have issued negative reports on U.S.-listed Chinese stocks, which led to slumps and even the suspension of these stocks.
Earlier in August, Citron targeted China's Internet search engine sector, arousing the fury of Lee and other business leaders who have great experience in the sector.
They signed an open letter condemning Citron for practicing fraud rather exposing it, and "some of these 'China short-sellers' started targeting legitimate companies with either no problems or minimal problems." The letter was posted on the newly-established website Citronfraud.com.
Mei Xinyu, a researcher at the International Trade and Economic Cooperation Institution under China's Ministry of Commerce, said one of the reasons why overseas-listed Chinese stocks often become targets for short-sellers lies in the information asymmetry in the capital market. It is also the biggest risk overseas-listed Chinese firms are facing on the micro-level.
U.S. investors lack understanding about Chinese companies as well as the country's full situation, so they cannot verify or disprove negative reports about Chinese firms that some short-sellers maliciously publish. Therefore, investors can easily believe this information and Chinese companies suffer great losses.
It has only been about two decades since Chinese companies began to go abroad on a large scale, and the time since they entered developed countries has been much shorter. However, Chinese companies are always studying international rules and practices, even though they have paid much in "tuition."
Due to differences in political systems, economic structures and culture, foreign investors are prone to view Chinese companies with suspicion and prejudice.
Moreover, the rapid development that China has achieved in recent years has hit a sensitive nerve in some people in the West, causing them to worry about Chinese companies' normal corporate behavior.
In 2005, China's offshore oil company CNOOC failed to purchase U.S.-based Unocal under heavy pressure from American political circles and public opinion. Earlier this year, Australia turned down China's leading IT company Huawei's bid for equipment for a pan-Australia broadband network project.
In addition to these setbacks caused by Western biases, these companies' lack of experience in contacting the local public and media has also been an issue.
It also has something to do with the Chinese tradition of working hard and making money in a low-profile manner. However, public image-building and public opinion are playing more and more important roles in a world featuring globalization and informationization.
Fortunately, Chinese companies are maturing and have already made some progress. In the face of falsified negative reports issued by Muddy Waters in 2011, Spreadtrum, a NASDAQ-listed Chinese IT company, responded with swift and transparent information disclosure and frustrated Muddy Waters' conspiracy to short the company.
Analysts said the joint counterattack by Chinese technology and business leaders this time was inevitable, as Chinese companies have accumulated enough experience to face the challenge.
Kai-Fu Lee and other tech giants have showed that Chinese companies are learning to protect themselves with rules and public opinion. They are also trying to wipe out the image of themselves as sheep for slaughter in foreign capital markets.