There's a battle taking place in China over who will lead the country as its wealthiest person. Driven mostly by rising company valuations, CEOs at the biggest and best-performing companies are fighting for the title. While this war wages on, these companies' valuations seek to leave Hollywood and Silicon Valley wondering where all the money has gone.
Hollywood is about to be rivaled by entertainment production in China
Entertainment and real estate mogul Wang Jianlin had gained enough wealth by August 2013 to claim the title of China's richest person. Under his company Dalian Wanda Group, he is currently building the entertainment metropolis of the century.
Located in the coastal temperate city of Qingdao, China, the USD $8.2 billion (about RMB 50 billion) investment will include a 10,000 square foot (929 square meters) main studio, 19 smaller studios, a full theme park, seven separate hotels, an IMAX (NYSE:IMAX) research center, a film museum, a waxworks center, and even a year-round automobile and yacht trading center. This "Oriental Movie Metropolis" is set to open in 2016.
Wang has said that China will have the world's largest film industry by 2018. He predicts that China will surpass the U.S. in box-office revenues by 2018, and double U.S. box office sales by 2023.
Entertainment is one of the industries most positively affected by growing national incomes. Given the forecast rise of 75% of China's urban population into the middle class by that date, Wang's statement is believable.
What does this mean for Hollywood companies?
The Walt Disney Co (NYSE:DIS) is the market leader in diversified media networks and the company gains from years of hard-won consumer loyalty, brand recognition, and diversification among income streams that include media, networks, and theme parks. Could this new megaproduction center in China threaten Hollywood and companies like Disney?
Actually, the center could become a huge boost to the American industry. One way to take advantage of the growing Chinese entertainment industry is to look for partnerships and production deals. One company that is already making the most of partnerships with the growing players in China is IMAX. The film-screen technology company will have a research center built into the new Qingdao production center, and it will likely see huge benefits from the increased production and technological advancements of these new facilities. Additionally, IMAX has already benefited from the Wanda Group with an inked deal that promises to build at least 40, and as many as 120, new IMAX theaters in China by 2021 at properties owned by the Wanda Group.
Baidu and Tencent look to be leaders in search and e-commerce
Robin Li, founder of the search engine Baidu, edged Wang in December 2013 to claim the position of China's wealth leader. Baidu, the most widely used search engine in China, makes money from advertising, e-commerce, and integrated Internet applications, much in the same way as Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL). Google has had a tough history with its work in China, which led to the company closing most of its operations in the country in 2010 following a disagreement with the local government over Internet censorship. Baidu happily took the opportunity to become the search engine of the masses in China, and as of the third quarter of 2013 it had 531 million total users, as well as 100,000 daily mobile search users.
Now, a new name has risen to the top of the charts. Tencent CEO Pony Ma has now taken the lead after shares of his company, listed in Hong Kong, have soared with 92% growth over the last year alone. Tencent is an e-commerce services company which also provides online and mobile games, applications across various platforms, and other mobile value-added services such as mobile music and mobile books. Recently, the company announced that it bought almost 10% of the logistics center operator China South City Holdings Ltd., a trade center for industrial materials, for $193 million. The move appears to be an attempt to further challenge existing leaders in online presence and e-commerce.
Is the rise of these tech giants a threat to Google and Amazon?
Tencent and Baidu, along with a slew of Chinese companies also competing to gain global market share, continue to strengthen and grow their e-commerce businesses. This is important in China where online retailing has more than doubled each year from 2003 to 2011 and is projected to continue growing to $395 billion in 2015 according to research by McKinsey & Co. and as high as $1.64 trillion according to estimates at China Internet Watch.
For companies like Google and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), these Chinese companies will be tough competition in the coming years. For example, Amazon has grown significantly not just in the United States, but also internationally. During 2013, 40% of Amazon's revenue came from regions outside of North America, down from 42% in 2012. While shares of the company are up 435% in the last five years, the company now needs to prove that its strategy can keep it on top and justify its P/E multiple of 587. With heavy competition coming from these Chinese behemoths, not just in China but increasingly in other markets abroad, this may get harder and harder.
Foolish conclusion: watch these Chinese behemoths for what they might mean to your U.S.-listed portfolio
Companies in China are continuing to grow and compete for leadership positions, not just in China but increasingly throughout the world. While most of these companies are listed on Chinese stock exchanges so they are not easily accessed by U.S.-based investors, it's important to understand what their growth means for their U.S. based competitors.