(p. B1) HONG KONG — Wang Shidong and his two partners were still finishing graduate school two years ago when they raised $45 million in less than two months to start a venture capital fund. His wife, an elementary-school teacher in their home village, was “terrified” that he got to manage so much money, Mr. Wang said.
Things are different this year. After three months and visits with more than 90 potential investors all over China, Mr. Wang and his partners raised only $3 million for a second fund. In June, they shut down the firm.
Their fund, East Zhang Hangzhou Investment Management Ltd., was one of nearly 10,000 founded over the past three years amid a technology gold rush powered in part by China’s government-guided economic growth engine. Now they have become the latest sign (p. B2) that China’s engine is slowing down.
“All industries, institutions and individuals are running short of cash,” said Zhang Kaixing, founder and chief executive of an online asset management company in Shenzhen called Jinfuzi, which means “golden ax.” Jinfuzi, which manages over $4.5 billion in assets, is the type of investor that technology funds court.
“Many investors in private equity and venture capital funds want to take their money back,” Mr. Zhang said.
. . .
“In China we believe in Keynesian economics,” said Mr. Zhang, the Jinfuzi chief executive, referring to the economic theory that favors a bigger role for government. “If what’s going on in China were happening in the U.S., it would have been called a recession. But in China, the government will step in to interfere in significant ways.”
Under President Xi, even economics has become a delicate topic. Many people in China are not willing to speak publicly because even economists aren’t allowed to make downward forecasts.
Yet in private conversations, investors, entrepreneurs and economists admit that with the high debt level and a trade war with the United States, the room for government maneuvering is shrinking. The degrees of pessimism vary, but many of them are bracing for a tough ride ahead.
. . .
Venture funds like East Zhang came into existence in part because, starting in 2014, Beijing made innovation and entrepreneurship top priorities. Leaders hoped that start-ups would help elevate China from a manufacturing power to a technology power. Corporations, banks and wealthy individuals fought to give money to venture funds to invest in start-ups.
“We ended up with a lot of dumb money, managed by inexperienced investors,” said Ran Wang, chief executive of the investment bank CEC Capital Group in Beijing.
For the full story, see:
Li Yuan. “Latest Sign of China’s Slowdown: A Technology Cash Crunch.” The New York Times (Tuesday, July 17, 2018): B1 & B2.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 16, 2018.)