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Gadgets

Ride-hailing giant Didi wants to be more than just the Uber of China


A user opens the Didi Chuxing ride-hailing smartphone app in Shanghai, China, on Sept. 18, 2020.

Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

BEIJING — China’s version of Uber, Didi Chuxing, is trying to use car travel as a way into multiple aspects of daily life from grocery shopping to finance.

Didi filed Thursday to list in New York in what many expect could be the largest initial public offering in the world this year. Founded in 2012, the company ranks among the five largest privately held start-ups in the world and counts SoftBank, Uber and Tencent as major investors.

Smartphone-based ride hailing in China remains Didi’s primary business, generating $20.4 billion in revenue last year amid overall net losses of $1.62 billion, according to the prospectus. But as Didi swung to a profit in the first quarter of this year, the revenue share of “other initiatives” rose to 5%, from 4% for all of 2020. That’s up from 1.2% in 2018.

A quick look at Didi’s smartphone app reveals a slew of other products tied to bike sharing, movers, personal finance and gas stations. The array of icons resembles that of Alibaba-affiliated Alipay, whose app is not only a mobile pay platform but one that allows users to book airplane tickets and pay for utilities. Similarly, Southeast Asia’s prevailing ride-hailing app Grab delivers food and wants to become a regional leader in mobile payments.

Eight kinds of car services

Didi is the primary app for ride hailing in China, even with the entry of several other players, including ones that focus on the high-end (Shouqi) or new energy vehicles (Cao Cao).

Users can choose from eight options on Didi, ranging from carpooling to luxury car service. Didi also lets users hail taxis through its app, and runs a chauffer business that assigns drivers to car owners who may have had too much alcohol or cannot drive their own vehicle for other reasons. These temporary drivers can travel between assignments on fold-up bicycles.

The company said it had 377 million annual active users and 13 million annual active drivers in China for the 12 months ended March 31. Didi said it made 133.64 billion yuan ($20.88 billion) in the “China mobility” category last year.

Including Didi’s other services like e-bikes and freight, customer costs for different kinds of products can run from 15 cents to more than $100, the prospectus said.

Building up a finance arm

Didi has also partnered with China Merchants Bank for supporting credit card applications through the ride-hailing app and offering installment purchase plans for cars. A Didi subsidiary works with Ping An Insurance to sell financing and lease-related products, as well as insurance.

The start-up leases vehicles to drivers at prices it claims are about 20% lower than outside Didi’s platform. While more than 600,000 vehicles are available for lease, about half of these are owned by roughly 3,000 vehicle leasing partners, reducing the amount of assets Didi is responsible for, the prospectus said.

Anecdotally, Didi was recently promoting its own mobile payment system to some users in Beijing by setting it as the default payment option — with a discount. Users had to manually select other options such as WeChat pay, after which the discount was removed.

Didi’s ride-hailing app also works with international credit cards. The company operates in 15 countries, including Brazil, Mexico and Japan.

Bets on electric

Many analysts expect that self-driving, shared vehicles will become a major mode of transportation in the future, rather than individual car ownership.

Didi has invested in its own autonomous driving unit, which launched “robotaxis” in part of Shanghai in June 2020. The ride-hailing company announced in November it co-developed an electric car with BYD called the D1, which would roll out to major Chinese cities in subsequent months.

In May, the autonomous driving unit and state-backed GAC Aion New Energy Automobile agreed to work toward mass production of fully self-driving new energy cars.

Didi claims it has the largest electric vehicle charging network in China, based on self-commissioned research.

Data privacy and other risks



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Future

Stock futures are flat to kick off week with S&P 500 inches from record high


Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

NYSE

Stock futures are flat as the S&P 500 attempts to make a run at a record high this week amid optimism about the economy’s ongoing reopening this summer.

S&P 500 futures added less than 0.1%. Dow Jones Industrial average futures gained 15 points, or less than 0.1%. Nasdaq Composite futures rose less than 0.1%.

The S&P 500 sits just 0.2% from its intraday record high earlier in May. The benchmark advanced 0.6% last week to bring its 2021 gains to more than 12%. The Dow and Nasdaq also posted gains last week.

Friday’s jobs report showed the unemployment rate dropping to 5.8% from 6.1% and that 559,000 jobs were added in May. The report was seen as strong enough to keep investors’ confidence in the economy, but light enough to keep the Federal Reserve from rushing to change its easy money policies.

Investors are focused on inflation data in the week ahead, with May’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) scheduled to be released Thursday. In April the CPI rose 4.2% from the previous year, the fastest increase since 2008. If prices continue to rise it could cause the Federal Reserve to step back from its easy policies.

Over the weekend the G-7 nations reached an agreement on global tax reform, calling for the world’s largest corporations to pay at least a 15% tax on their earnings. That’s lower than the Biden administration’s initial suggestion of a minimum 21% tax rate, which didn’t garner much enthusiasm in other countries. Major companies including Facebook and Google have responded favorably to the agreement.

Meme stocks will be back in the spotlight again this week. Most of these speculative stocks, including GameStop, AMC and BlackBerry, ended the week in the red despite massive gains after a volatile trading week.



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Future

Stock-market futures slip, bond yields pop near 1% amid razor-thin Georgia races


Wall Street had Georgia squarely on its mind Tuesday night, with equity futures and bonds mostly in the crosshairs as investors eyed dual contests for key Senate seats coming down to razor-thin margins in early returns.

MarketWatch’s Victor Reklaitis reported that analysts are describing the Georgia races as “about as close as you can get,” and there are expectations that the winners won’t be declared until Wednesday morning.

At last check, tallies from populous Democratic-leaning counties, particularly in Dekalb, which could swing the vote tally, were looming.

Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff was trailing incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue, with over 90% of the vote counted, after enjoying a handy lead earlier, according to data aggregated by the Associated Press.

In the other runoff, Democrat Raphael Warnock was also running slightly behind against incumbent GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

The Senate races are runoffs from the November general election, when none of the candidates hit the 50% threshold required to be declared winner.

At stake for the markets is the prospect of a slim Democratic majority in the Senate if candidates can upend GOP incumbents.

Senate Republicans, if either Loeffler or Perdue wins Tuesday night, can be expected to block further coronavirus relief legislation and crimp any Democratic plans for expansive spending after President-elect Joe Biden takes office, experts said.

A Democratic sweep in Georgia, however, would give that party virtual control of that chamber because Vice President–elect Kamala Harris would cast tiebreaking votes as the chamber’s president.

Futures for the S&P 500 index
ESH21,
-0.64%

ES00,
-0.64%

were off 0.7%, while those for the Dow Jones Industrial Average
YMH21,
-0.24%

YM00,
-0.24%

were 0.3% lower, and Nasdaq-100 futures
NQH21,
-1.34%

NQ00,
-1.34%

were off 1.3% late Tuesday.

In the regular session, the Dow
DJIA,
+0.55%
,
S&P 500 index
SPX,
+0.71%

and the Nasdaq Composite Index
COMP,
+0.95%

finished the session solidly higher ahead of the political face-offs.

However, some of the biggest moves were emanating from the bond market, with the 10-year Treasury yield
TMUBMUSD10Y,
1.000%

knocking on the door of 1%, at around 0.985%, as prices fell, after rates finished at 0.955%, marking its highest 3 p.m. Eastern close since Dec. 4, according to Dow Jones Market Data. The 30-year Treasury bond
TMUBMUSD30Y,
1.762%

also was up nearly 4 basis points yielding 1.744% vs. an afternoon close at 1.705%, also its highest rate in a month.

For the bond market, Democratic wins could add to the bearish pressure on Treasurys as analysts say inflation expectations have risen in response as Congress may be more inclined to pass additional fiscal spending measures with a majority, which would weigh on bond prices, dragging yields up.

“It looks like a couple of the larger democratic counties haven’t been totally counted yet so my belief is this may very well swing to the Democrats,” Tom di Galoma, managing director of Treasurys trading at Seaport Global Securities, told MarketWatch.

“If that does happen rates will continue to rise over the next few days. We could very well see 10yr yields near 1.2% shortly,” he wrote.

It is nearly impossible to surmise what outcome Wall Street deems is best suited to push stocks further higher in 2021. Last year, market participants had been wagering that a Biden presidential victory, coupled with Democrats achieving a majority in the Senate, would provide the best scenario for additional financial relief measures to help sustain the economy’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, a blue wave failed to manifest and markets surged into the final weeks of 2020 regardless.



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