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Your Week in Asia

Jack Ma leaves Alibaba, TikTok ban, Honda's new 'workstyle'

Your weekly lineup of Asia's biggest business and political events

Alibaba founder Jack Ma will step away from the company he built on Sept. 30.    © Reuters

Welcome to the final Nikkei Asian Preview.

Before the National Day holiday starts in China on Thursday, one chapter will close and another will begin. Alibaba founder Jack Ma will step away from the company he built, while China will launch a new state-owned oil conglomerate. Domestic travel in China is expected to pick up during the eight-day break. Protesters in Hong Kong are planning demonstrations to mark the holiday.

The Bank of Japan's tankan survey is out Thursday, when central banks in India and the Philippines are also scheduled to meet.

And on Wednesday, Nikkei Asian Review becomes Nikkei Asia. This newsletter will still be delivered in your inboxes on Monday morning -- now known as Your Week in Asia.

Keep up with our reporting by following us on our Twitter @NAR.


TikTok skirts ban from app stores

Before a federal court blocked the ban last night, TikTok was set to be removed from U.S. app stores Sunday midnight (Monday 1:00 p.m. in Tokyo). The Trump administration's ban on the popular video-sharing app was due to take effect two weeks ago, but was delayed after Trump conceptually approved a deal between ByteDance, Oracle and Walmart. The companies, however, have not settled on final terms, and Beijing's approval on the partnership is still pending.

Results from Sina and Weibo

Sina, owner of China's Twitter-like platform Weibo, will report second-quarter financial results on Monday. The Nasdaq-listed company had a lackluster first quarter after the coronavirus hit ad sales, its main revenue stream.

Beijing Motor Show

The Beijing Auto Show 2020 opens to the public, but with only a few new launches by foreign automakers due to border controls. The biennial event will be dominated by Chinese manufacturers including Geely Automobile Holdings, which will showcase its first electric vehicle. The show ends Oct. 5.

Zai Lab debuts on HKEX

Nasdaq-listed biopharma company Zai Lab begins trading in Hong Kong after raising $769 million at 562 Hong Kong dollars a share. Zai Lab's performance on Monday, along with the Hong Kong debut for New York-listed delivery company ZTO Express ($1.27 billion at HK$218 a share) on Tuesday, will set the tone for other homecoming listings by U.S.-traded Chinese companies amid mounting tensions between Beijing and Washington.

A strong debut would improve sentiment among investors, who are becoming picky after a flood of primary share sales in Hong Kong. Investors are also looking to keep their appetites in check ahead of what could be the largest IPO in the world by Alibaba affiliate Ant Group. Ant's dual listing in Hong Kong and Shanghai is expected to open for subscriptions next month.


U.S. presidential debate

President Donald Trump faces former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday night in the first of three debates ahead of the November election. The 90-minute debate will cover the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, race and violence, election integrity and the Supreme Court.

Honda unveils new work system

Honda Motor will hold a briefing on Tuesday for its new workstyle system, which starts in October. The Japanese automaker is set to stop giving a fixed commuting allowance, instead paying the cost of employee commute to offices and plants. Honda will also launch a new allowance for working from home, aiming to alleviate the burden of increased utility costs and telework equipment.

Why it matters: Honda joins a growing list of Japanese companies that have shifted work systems during the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, a sign that the new workstyle will remain in place even after the coronavirus subsides.

Vietnam's quarterly GDP

Vietnam is expected to report third-quarter gross domestic product figures Tuesday, just a month after halving its GDP target for 2020 to 2-2.5% growth because of the pandemic. Vietnam is one of the few economies in the world to forecast growth this year, but output slowed in the second quarter, when GDP growth fell to 0.36%, the lowest in three decades. Another wave of COVID-19 in July, including Vietnam's first reported deaths from the disease, will further dim prospects for the once high-flying economy.


Don't cry for me, Alibaba

Jack Ma will officially leave the board of Alibaba Group, the company he started in a small Hangzhou apartment and built into China's largest e-commerce platform. Last year, Ma stepped down as board chairman and handed the role to his hand-picked successor, Daniel Zhang, who also became CEO. The annual shareholders meeting will be hosted on the last day of the group's three-day investor event, where Zhang will deliver a speech.

PipeChina begins operations

China Oil & Gas Pipeline Network Corp., or PipeChina, is set to officially start operating on Wednesday. The new state-owned conglomerate will accept oil and gas pipeline assets from major shareholders including PetroChina and Sinopec, pending approval by shareholders.

Why it matters: The establishment of PipeChina with a registered capital of 500 billion yuan ($73.2 billion) will consolidate strategic assets under a centrally controlled unit and streamline future investment needs. Chairman Zhang Wei stressed on PipeChina's website that the new company was "personally planned, arranged and approved by Secretary General Xi Jinping."

Go deeper: Chinese oil producers pump cash back to Beijing despite losses

North Korea envoy speaks at UN

North Korean Ambassador Kim Song will address the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, closing out the last day of high-level debate. In his speech last year, Kim blamed the U.S. for missing a "window of opportunity" for negotiations with North Korea. This year's speech comes amid the death of a South Korean official who was trying to defect to the North, shot by troops fearing that he carried the coronavirus. The full picture of how much the pandemic has affected the hermit state is unclear.


China launches complaint center for foreign investors

China's new rules on responding to complaints by foreign investors come into force Thursday, as Beijing seeks to boost confidence in its markets amid escalating tensions with the U.S. The scope of complaints will be expanded to include infringement of rights and interest by local regulations.

In a similar move to project a rule-abiding image, Shenzhen will become the first Chinese city to allow lawsuits on environmental pollution. NGOs will be able to file lawsuits at a reduced cost against polluters in the city. The city can thereafter issue stop-work orders against companies accused of hurting the environment.


FTSE Russell decides on STAR Market inclusion

Index compiler FTSE Russell will decide whether to include companies listed on Shanghai's STAR Market in its China and Global equity indexes. The STAR Market, which was launched in July last year, already has 179 listed companies. It is the third-largest new listing market in the world this year behind the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. More than 400 companies are still gearing up for listing, including the world's most valuable fintech company, Ant Group.


Kyrgyzstan parliamentary election

Kyrgyzstan goes to the polls on Sunday to elect a new parliament. The mountainous state, which borders China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, is the only country in Central Asia that holds competitive elections. Sixteen parties are contesting, with five or six parties expected to pass the 7% threshold to enter the 120-seat parliament.

Front-runners: Birimdik, linked with President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, and Mekenim Kyrgyzstan, which has close ties to the powerful Matraimov family, who have been accused of corruption.

What's at stake? With Jeenbekov at the midway point of his single term, this election will help determine how easy it will be for the president to manage the succession process to his liking.

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