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CICC Tops the 2012 All-China Research Team Roster

Last year’s top-ranked firm in the All-China Research Team, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, slips to second, replaced by China International Capital Corp.

From Locked ranking

China International Capital Corp. rises one rung to claim its first appearance atop the All-China Research Team, Institutional Investor’s annual ranking of the country’s leading equity analysts. CICC more than doubles its number of total team positions, from nine to 19, and its number of analysts at No. 1 in their respective sectors, from two to five. Last year’s top-ranked firm, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, slips to second place despite adding five positions, for a total of 17, and raising its first-place total from three to five. Four firms tie for third place, with nine positions each: Citi, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley and UBS. However, their equal footing this year belies diverse views of how these firms’ fortunes have changed over the past 12 months. Citi drops one notch, while Credit Suisse — this year’s biggest upward mover — rockets from No. 11 after tripling its team-position total. Morgan Stanley picks up only one position, but that is sufficient to bump the firm up one notch. The addition of five positions propels UBS all the way from ninth place. This ranking reflects the opinions of more than 2,000 analysts and money managers at some 700 buy-side institutions that manage roughly $799 billion in Chinese equity assets. “There is no major one-year change in terms of demand for equity research,” says Vincent Chan, head of China research for Credit Suisse. “Over the years the general trend is that investors demand more of the following: better corporate access, particularly to nonlisted companies, industry experts and policymakers; and independent analysis and opinion of the stocks and the market. Most important, investors value analysts who are willing to stick their necks out and take a different view from the market consensus.” Thomas Wong, head of Greater China research at BofA Merrill, adds that “the structural imbalances of the Chinese economy have increasingly become a concern for both the Chinese government and the international investor community. Against an external backdrop that remains extremely challenging, the debate over a soft or hard landing for China has dominated the investment thought process.” Understanding macroeconomic policies and the credit environment is “as important as fundamental company research to forecasting share price drivers,” he adds. Deutsche Bank’s Jun Ma, who has been No. 1 in Economics in each of the three years that II has published an All-China Research Team ranking and is No. 3 in Portfolio Strategy for a second straight year, is squarely on the soft-landing side of the debate. He acknowledges that China’s real gross domestic product growth is slowing, from 9.2 percent last year to an estimated 8.5 percent in 2012, but believes the nation is likely to see accelerated growth in the latter half of the year — especially after new leaders are selected at the Chinese Communist Party National Congress in the fall. “I expect the new leadership to be more determined to push forward market-oriented reforms, including interest rate liberalization, exchange rate flexibility, capital account liberalization, listing of more state-owned enterprises, as well as public finance reforms,” Ma says. “As for the capital market, I expect its openness — holdings of renminbi securities by nonresidents — to increase several folds in the coming years.”

In the meantime, “our advice is to stay defensive when constructing portfolios, and selectively buy in areas that may benefit from the government’s policies and reforms — for example, some of those in the service, technology, consumer and utilities sectors,” says BofA Merrill’s David Cui, who leads the lineup in Portfolio Strategy for a second consecutive year.

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