Aug 6, 2020 - Economy

The corporate victims of U.S.-China tensions

Illustration of a briefcase worrying.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The travails of TikTok are the most visible example of how the rapidly deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and China can evaporate tens of billions of dollars of corporate value.

Why it matters: When corporations find themselves at the mercy of politicians flexing their geopolitical muscles, they generally end up ruing the encounter.

Driving the news: While President Trump has vowed to ban TikTok if it isn't sold to Microsoft, U.K. bank HSBC — which makes half of its money in Hong Kong — saw its second quarter earnings fall by 67%. The culprit? "Increased geopolitical risk." As the New York Times put it: "In Showdown Between China and the West, HSBC Gets Caught in the Middle."

  • By the numbers: HSBC was worth $157 billion in mid-February. It's now worth less than $90 billion. By contrast, America's largest bank, JPMorgan Chase — which is slightly smaller than HSBC in terms of total assets, but which is much less exposed to China — is worth about $300 billion.

The other side: Hong Kong's stock market remains a fantastic place to raise money. Alibaba Health easily raised $1.3 billion this week in a secondary share offering.

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