8 Brands Under Pressure in China Again

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Global equities markets dipped sharply early Monday morning following a pair of tweets from President Donald Trump threatening to impose U.S. tariffs on another $325 billion in goods imported from China. U.S. stock futures fell by as much as 2% before markets opened but that deficit has since been cut in half.

The president is ratcheting up the pressure on the Chinese to reach a deal acceptable to the United States, and as recently as Friday negotiators appeared to be making some progress. The key issue, as we noted earlier, appears to be China’s recognition and treatment of intellectual property of companies doing business in China. Several large American companies took a hit to their stock prices this morning.

The threat of additional U.S. tariffs further imperils an already soft global economy and puts more pressure on an already slowing Chinese economy. It also puts pressure on some of the strongest American brands currently operating in China.

China’s massive developing middle class has been a driver of several top U.S. brands for several years now, but the Trump tariffs likely have tamped down Chinese demand for these brands. Combined with higher prices caused by China’s tit-for-tat reaction to U.S. tariffs, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call to spend less on foreign goods plays well with his calls for supporting home-grown Chinese enterprises.

Here are eight U.S. brands that could feel some sharp pains as the U.S.-China trade war heats up again. Most of these eight stocks were trading closer to the 52-week highs on Friday than to their annual lows, so the Monday losses aren’t biting too hard.

Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX) has opened nearly 3,800 stores in China and had plans to double that number over the next four years. But a new China-based competitor, Luckin Coffee which is planning a U.S. IPO soon, opened nearly 2,100 stores last year and plans to have some 4,500 scattered around the country by the end of this year. A trade war with China is definitely not in Starbucks’ best interests. The company’s shares closed at $78.05 on Friday and traded down about 0.5% Monday morning, at $77.65 in a 52-week range of $47.37 to $78.40.

Yum China Holdings Corp. (NYSE: YUMC) operates about 5,900 KFC and 2,200 Pizza Hut restaurants in China. Unlike Starbucks, the company faces no direct China-based competitors, but the growth has been tied to a solution to the trade war. Shares traded down about 2.2% Monday morning to $46.30, in a 52-week range of $30.10 to $48.27.

Tyson Foods Inc. (NYSE: TSN) reported quarterly results this morning that were better than expected and the share price is rising. But the company was whacked hard by the April 1 introduction of a tariff on chicken imported from the United States. As with Yum China, steady progress toward a trade agreement has been good for the company, lifting shares for the year to date by about 45%, although the stock remains about $5 below its most recent high posted in November 2017. Shares traded up about 2.7% Monday morning to $77.11. The 52-week range is $49.77 to $77.26, and the high was posted this morning.

Tiffany & Co. (NYSE: TIF) is a proxy for the luxury market and it was battered Monday morning. In late March, CEO Alessandro Bogliolo touted the company’s domestic business in China as an offset to weaker U.S. sales to Chinese tourists, saying the sales in China were “growing nicely, growing strongly.” Once again, however, an end to the trade dispute between the United States and China likely figured into the calculation. Tiffany stock traded down about 4% Monday morning, at $105.14 in a 52-week range of $73.04 to $141.64.

General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) sells more cars in China than in any other country in the world, including the United States. Sales volume in China dropped by 17.5% in the first quarter. A 25% tariff on vehicles imported into China has been temporarily suspended while negotiations were continuing, but those could be reimposed on short notice. Cadillac brand sales dropped nearly 19%, while Buick sales fell 17% and Chevrolet sales fell 13.8%. GM’s two joint ventures with Chinese carmakers Baojun and Wuling fell 30.6% and 8%, respectively. GM’s stock traded down about 2.4% Monday, at $37.88 in a 52-week range of $30.56 to $45.00.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has taken some serious hits to its iPhone brand in China, primarily as a result of the premium prices Apple charges for its iPhone in a rapidly maturing market for smartphones. The company cut its price and created trade-in and financing deals to boost sales in China, but it also got some government help when taxes on the iPhone were reduced. That break could disappear fast if the White House continues its hardline approach to tariffs. Apple stock traded down about 1.7% to $208.06, in a 52-week range of $142.00 to $233.47.

Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE) has been a dominant player in China’s $31 billion market for sportswear, but two China-based challengers, Anta and Xtep, have been boosting investments and making a dent not only in Nike’s business but in that of other foreign sports gear giants like Adidas. Both Anta and Xtep have made strategic moves into the high-end of sportswear rather than trying to build premium brands on their own. While foreign brands like Nike remain dominant, Chinese firms may have an advantage with their larger retail and distribution networks along with a better understanding of local markets. Nike stock traded down about 2.8% Monday morning, at $83.27 in a 52-week range of $66.53 to $90.00.

Wynn Resorts Ltd. (NASDAQ: WYNN) owns and operates one of Chinese Macau’s biggest resorts. Shares have added nearly a third in 2019 to date, largely on the hope that a resolution to the trade war between China and the United States will gin up more business for the Macau resort. Those hopes are in serious jeopardy now. Wynn stock traded down 4.7% to $140.50. The 52-week range is $90.06 to $202.48.

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