What China's Focus on Private Enterprise Means for U.S. Investors

TAIPEI, Taiwan (TheStreet) -- In a startling turnaround, China is hoping that private enterprise -- not government-run companies -- will fuel economic growth in the years ahead.

For American investors, that means new opportunities to take advantage of an economy that is expected to grow 7.4% this year, a slowdown from previous years but still well above what other countries, including the U.S., are experiencing.

"China is encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation among the people to build new engines for the economy in pursuit of a moderate to high speed of economic growth," Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was quoted saying Wednesday in the state-run China Daily newspaper.

Chinese A shares -- usually regarded with suspicion due to poor transparency and bad deals for minority shareholders -- have gained 35% so far this year following measures to make the country's stock market more accessible to foreign investors. Institutions such as BlackRock  (BLK) that already have stock market investment quotas from the Chinese government can pick from among the most promising A shares. 

Individual investors are free to trade shares in more than 200 such institutions or in exchange-traded funds that track China, for example the New York-traded iShares FTSE/Xinhua China 25 Index Fund  (FXI) .

Some fast-growing, unlisted Chinese firms will need private equity investment, a $10.8 billion market that's open to foreign capital. KKR  (KKR) , for example, joined CDH Investments and Modern Dairy, both of China, last year in a $140 million dairy joint venture and sold its share for $80 million this year. New York-based KKR declined comment for this article on movement expected in China next year. 

Profits over several years for homegrown companies would elevate already robust Chinese IT and e-commerce.

China's burgeoning e-commerce sector will stay hot as shoppers find it easier in polluted traffic-choked cities to let someone else make deliveries. The intensity of e-commerce has led American retailers Best Buy  (BBY) and Wal-Mart  (WMT) to cut back conventional stores in China.

Some of their business will go to China-based, China-traded rival Suning Appliance, an offline-and-online seller that's something of an icon for where retail is headed. It ranks as the country's No. 3 B2C e-commerce seller. "In general, Suning is pursuing a much more comprehensive, ecosystem-focused offline-plus-online strategy than Best Buy's China business is," says Mark Natkin, managing director of the research firm Marbridge Consulting in Beijing.

Still, the World Bank warns, economic growth will slip to 7.2% next year.

That's because the country has accepted a "new normal" of slowing growth as the government eases away from investment to consumption, discourages factory expansion to control air pollution and augments social services, China Daily said last week. 

As part of that shift, the government is cooling real estate prices and nodding as the cost of factory operations goes up, even for state-owned enterprises. Two years of anti-corruption work have drained some fizz out of F&B.

When Beijing says it's making economic changes, it really is. It did in the 1950s with the nationalization of enterprises. It did in the 1980s with the creation of special economic zones. Post-2000 it has opened to foreign investment. When it says now private enterprise will soar, expect a lot of them to profit.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

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