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Singles Day Winner - (BNN)
21/11/2016 (119264)

Singles Day Winner

This Thursday, November 24, families all across America gather to spend the day stuffing themselves with turkey and cranberry sauce as they celebrate Thanksgiving. Then, as darkness falls, it is off to the Mall to grab a place in the queue for bargains on Black Friday, the nation's biggest spending day of the year, with stores open from midnight and local TV stations lighting up an orgy of consumer abandon and idiocy.

Last year, Black Friday brought sales of $4.5bn. Amazing - yet in China this year they rang up more than $5bn in the first hour on Singles Day, November 11. It is a new festival, devised to encourage single people to treat themselves and celebrate, and has become the planet's biggest online shopping day ever. This year, sales hit a staggering $17.79bn, up from $14.3bn, with Alibaba hosting a four hour show with founder Jack Ma performing magic trick, and the ubiquitous David Beckham and wife on hand to lend a little spice.

They are bickering a bit about the precise figures, returns and such, but by general consent, over 80% of sales was spent using mobile phones, up from maybe 69% a year earlier. The surge in smart phone use in China means mobile is taking over from online. Which brings us somewhere close to BNN Technology (BNN), and will bring us even closer given time.

Among the many beneficiaries of China's internet boom is Xinhua News Agency (XNA), the State-backed agency through which the President speaks to his people. XNA owns 82.5% of Xinhuanet, the online platform of XNA. It floated on the Shanghai Stock Exchange on October 28, with a public offer price of Yuan 27.69. It immediately soared by the daily limit, and kept on soaring until the last few days, when it has eased off, but still trades at Yuan 118.73, a massive premium. As Xinhuanet floated, it raised new money to expand internet services and such and upgrade in a way which will enhance all of the XNA operations.

Xinhuatong is the software arm of XNA. Go back to the BNN announcement of the DJI rebranding and so on from September 22 (as mentioned in the message from BNN finance director Scott Kennedy posted on our bb by ongreenhill on November 17) . BNN has taken a 10% stake in Xinhuatong, and has a seat on the board. Xinhuatong has the exclusive rights to develop services on the Xinhua News mobile app, and so BNN has access to future commercial opportunities XNA may develop with Xinhuatong.
Refer again to the September 22 announcement, and BNN chief executive Darren Mercer is quoted as saying "We are tremendously excited about the opportunity to deepen our relationship with Xinhuatong through New Net (MW note - BNN) . New Net's investment further secures a long term partnership in which we are one of the leading technology providers to the company, allowing us to benefit from its strong commercial relationships in major industries such as insurance and other key financial services markets.
"Xinhuatong has the exclusive rights to provide payment processing facilities within the Xinhua News Mobile App and is in the process of applying for a national payment processing licence. Upon a successful application, the benefits to our company will be significant, not only in allowing us to participate in one of China's largest industries, but also to substantially increase the net margin across our platform."

It can be hard to follow, but piece it all together, and you have BNN playing a key role (providing the technology platform) as XNA builds a bigger presence in mobile in China - and mobile is the fastest-growing, most dominant strand of growth.

If Xinhuanet has come to market at a staggering premium, what could happen should the XNA mobile operation come to market at some future date? The value could be breath-taking, and the impact on BNN's balance sheet staggering. This is speculation at this stage, of course, and might never come to pass, but adds to the many exciting possibilities. Short term, the ability to develop new trading links, new businesses, is the pay-off, but longer-term there could be an enormous capital enhancement.

The Xinhuanet premium reflects the respect in which XNA is held, and underlines yet again the importance of relationships in China. BNN is tightly allied to XNA, and has been moving with Government support in the background, step by step. That is not won easily, and it must be no surprise that each deal takes time to reach a formal conclusion with the Chinese Government involved.

Everything suggests that a little patience with BNN, which has been moving at a rapid pace, ought to pay off in the months ahead. The shares appear to have been hammered by dumping from one non-investment source which has hit trouble, and are beginning to regain their poise. There has been a beauty parade in New York to narrow the number of potential US advisers to help with the Nasdaq listing, and after a brief wobble on the Trump election, interest in new flotations has rebounded.

There are no guarantees in the share game, but BNN still looks an outstanding gamble on ecommerce in China, with so many opportunities beginning to unfold. If it was easy, instantly concluded, they would not be so well worth chasing. But if BNN can do clinch the deals, watch out.

I have a holding in BNN.


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