In Trump Trade War, Chinese Consumers' Time Is Now

(Bloomberg Gadfly) -- Trade war? Then that should make Chinese consumer stocks a good buy.

To be specific -- domestically focused brands. Many are resilient because Chinese consumers remain their most important market. Some appliance makers are even more popular at home after buying foreign firms.

Take baijiu distillers Kweichow Moutai Co., a company more valuable than McDonald's Corp., and Wuliangye Yibin Co. Their sales are bound to hold up even as Beijing faces off against Washington.

In Trump Trade War, Chinese Consumers' Time Is Now

And fortunately for local companies, the nation's moneyed youth are less dismissive of the "Made in China" tag than their parents' generation.

According to Credit Suisse Group AG, premium no longer automatically equates to foreign. Categories where Chinese actually prefer homegrown include food and drinks; personal care; electronics and home appliances. More than 90 percent of respondents aged 18 to 29 said they prefer local appliances to foreign brands, the investment bank said in its eighth annual emerging consumer survey, released last week.

Part of that is because those brands have been acquisitive, and ascended the value chain in the process.

Midea Group Co. purchased Germany's Kuka AG, while Qingdao Haier Co., which makes air conditioners and refrigerators, bought General Electric Co.'s appliance unit. Local innovations have also added luster, such as Haier's "air-wash washing machine," which is popular because it removes odors as well as cleans.

China's love affair with smartphones also means tech firms should remain in investors' favor. Xiaomi Corp. is one example.

In Trump Trade War, Chinese Consumers' Time Is Now

There's also Meituan Dianping, the food delivery giant backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd. that's planning to list in Hong Kong. It's morphed from a simple dining app to one that can deliver everything from manicures to car washing services. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.-backed Ele.me commands a similarly strong position.

Sportswear and cars are two categories where international brands still reign, Credit Suisse's report found. While BYD Co., Chongqing Changan Automobile Co. and Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. have made inroads, younger consumers still gravitate toward overseas marques.

If anything risks China's huge domestic buying power, it's Xi Jinping, not Donald Trump. China's president has been instrumental in cracking down on the online lenders that spouted credit to all and sundry.

But with Beijing increasingly pushing for growth from within, that threat looks diminished. The Chinese consumers -- and the companies that serve them -- should have little problem weathering this trade war.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Nisha Gopalan is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist covering deals and banking. She previously worked for the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones as an editor and a reporter.

To contact the author of this story: Nisha Gopalan in Hong Kong at ngopalan3@bloomberg.net.

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