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Bentley’s Profits Soar After Cars Sink

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Despite the fact that several vehicles were lost at sea and trapped in China, Bentley made a profit during the first quarter of 2022.

Bentley, a prestigious British automobile maker, reported a 162 percent increase in first-quarter operating income over the same period last year, owing to growing vehicle costs offsetting the loss of some ships at sea and China pandemic-related delivery difficulties. The Volkswagen (VOWG) subsidiary said strong consumer demand for new models drove a 13 percent increase in vehicle sales to 10,207 cars during the January-March period. Chief executive Adrian Hallmark said in a statement. “Our strong performance in the first quarter is testament to the hard work of our colleagues around the world.”

Chinese sales were badly hit by pandemic factory closures, which hampered the ability to move vehicles across long distances by road. The effects were most keenly felt in China, which is Bentley’s largest market. Bentley’s sales in China plummeted by 65% in the first half of 2020 as a result of the pandemic. However, despite this devastating blow, the company’s profits soared by 25%. Following a record year in 2021, Bentley sales were expected to decline due to ongoing pandemic travel restrictions. Conversely this led to more disposable income for wealthy customers and boosted premium and luxury vehicle sales in important global markets like China and the United States. The pandemic has been a mixed blessing for the company. On the one hand, it has severely hampered sales in China, Bentley’s largest market. On the other hand, it has led to increased demand for luxury vehicles in other markets as wealthy customers look for ways to spend their extra disposable income.

Looking forward, Bentley is optimistic that sales will rebound as the pandemic eases and travel restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, the company is focusing on its new line of electric vehicles, which it hopes will appeal to a new generation of luxury car buyers. Vehicle sales fell 5% to 3,203 units in the first three months of the year, with revenue dropping 9% in the Americas and 29% in China. The company’s operating profit margin rose to 11.4% in the first quarter from 10.9% a year earlier, helped by cost-cutting measures. Bentley is owned by Volkswagen Group (VOWG), which has been hit hard by the pandemic with its sales falling across all its major brands. The German carmaker is banking on a shift to electric vehicles to revive its fortunes and has said it plans to invest about 33 billion euros ($40 billion) by 2025 in the development of new technologies.

Bentley’s sales had been declining since hitting a peak of 11,020 cars in 2018. The average revenue per vehicle rose 15% to 212,000 euros (nearly $223,257) from 184,000 euros a year earlier as customers chose for more personalized choices. According to Hallmark, clients have embraced the ability to customize seat leathers, stitching, seating layouts and a variety of other features. Dealers are doing limited editions, special packages for individual clients, and demand is growing,” he said. In terms of revenue, Bentley’s earnings increased by 41% to 813 million euros from 578 million a year earlier, while operating income rose to 170 million euros from 65 million. Profits were also bolstered by an organizational transformation that began in 2018, when the brand cut around 1,000 jobs.

The company is also working on an all-new electric vehicle, due to be released in 2025. Despite a challenging macroeconomic environment, we have delivered a strong performance” said Bentley Motors Chairman and CEO Adrian Hallmark. “We have continued to invest in our product offensive, which is now bearing fruit with the launch of new products such as the Bentayga Hybrid and Continental GT Convertible. Our focus on operational excellence is also paying dividends, with a substantial improvement in our cost base. We are confident that we can continue to make progress in the second half of the year and deliver another strong financial performance.” Bentley will continue its product offensive later this year with the launch of the new Flying Spur and the all-new Bentayga V8. The Flying Spur will be Bentley’s first ever four-door sports car, while the Bentayga V8 will offer customers a more performance-focused option in the SUV range. Both cars are due to be revealed later this year.

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Million-Dollar Mansions Lose Luxury Reputation As Purchasers Get Less Space: Shrinkflation

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Shrinkflation

The issue known as “shrinkflation,” which occurs when the price of something stays the same or increases even as the item gets smaller, affects more people than just grocery shoppers.

Homebuyers must also be concerned about “shrinkflation.” According to new research from real estate website Zillow, the trend is affecting properties, especially those in the $1 million price category, where the size of the homes that purchasers are getting for their money is reducing.

According to Skylar Olsen, chief economist at Zillow, it’s one way that inflation is having an impact on the housing market.

More from Personal Finance: Mortgage expenses could increase by $104,000 as a result of lower credit ratings.
These five cities have expensive rents. Cheaper places carry additional costs. For homes of any price range, money won’t go as far, she claimed. But given the expectations buyers frequently have of it, the $1 million mark is particularly eye-catching.

Million dollar homes aren’t as luxurious as they once were, according to Olsen.

In California, the notion that $1 million is only sufficient to purchase a standard home has been around for a while. Currently, Olsen said, more and more markets are feeling the same way.

According to Zillow, more than twice as many properties worth $1 million or more were sold this spring as there were two years earlier. Austin, Texas; Portland, Oregon; and Riverside, California saw the largest rises.

However, according to Zillow listings floor plan data, shrinkflation can be applied to $1 million homes keep getting smaller. Midway through 2020, the size of these dwellings peaked at 3,021 square feet; by early this year, it had decreased to 2,530.

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The size of a home at that price point has increased to 2,624 square feet, but it is still 397 square feet less than the peak in 2020.
There are fewer bathrooms in smaller million-dollar mansions.

According to Zillow’s data, the typical property selling for approximately $1 million has decreased since 2019 in almost all major metropolitan areas. According to the survey, $1 million homes nowadays are often older and have fewer bathrooms.

Homes at this price category saw the biggest size drops in Phoenix, where they decreased by about 1,116 square feet, and Nashville, Tennessee, where they fell by about 1,019 square feet.

Only two metropolitan regions had an increase in floor plan size for homes costing $1 million or more throughout that period. That includes St. Louis, which saw an increase of about 406 square feet, or roughly a room and a half, and Minneapolis, which had an increase of about 36 square feet, or about the size of a closet.
In Hartford, Connecticut, where the price per square foot is $205, potential house buyers willing to spend up to $1 million may get the most for their money.

Other mid-sized American towns including Indianapolis, with a price of $209 per square foot, Oklahoma City, with a price of $214, Kansas City, Missouri, with a price of $221, and Cincinnati, with a price of $222, came in second.

San Jose had the highest price per square foot out of all the big cities that Zillow was tracking, at roughly $715. As of July, the average single-family home in that city cost over $1.5 million.

How shrinkflation may be impacted by the market cooling

According to a new survey by Clever Real Estate, 72% of recent homebuyers regret their decisions because of the current heated real estate market. Buyer’s remorse was most frequently caused by overspending, according to 30% of respondents.

Nevertheless, there are indications that prices are declining as the market cools, with 1 in 5 sellers lowering their asking prices in August, according to Realtor.com. This could provide purchasers with additional opportunities to compare prices and acquire the greatest square footage for their money.

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Danetha Doe, economist at Clever Real Estate, advised in a recent research to “surround yourself with specialists who truly care about your goals and your dreams and who are informed of the local area.”

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Why The Yuan Is Being Strengthened By China’s Central Bank

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Yuan

According to experts, China’s central bank has made it clear that it wants to prevent the Chinese yuan from falling too much versus the dollar.

The People’s Bank of China declared on Monday that it will lower the minimum amount of foreign currency that banks must keep for the second time this year.

Theoretically, such actions would lessen the downward pressure on the yuan, which has fallen more than 8% against the US dollar this year, reaching two-year lows.

Chinese authorities frequently highlight the yuan’s position in relation to a currency basket, against which it has risen by 1% over the past three months.

Beijing’s most recent steps, however, demonstrate how crucial the yuan-dollar exchange rate still is, according to a study released on Monday by Ting Lu, the senior China economist at Nomura.

They presented two arguments:

“First, Chinese officials particularly worry about RMB’s bilateral exchange rate with USD because they believe RMB/USD somehow indicates relative economic and political strength in a year of the once-in-a-decade leadership upheaval and with rising US-China tensions.”

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Second, a significant decline in the RMB/USD exchange rate could harm domestic morale and hasten capital flight.

A new group of leaders will be chosen by China’s ruling Communist Party in October, thereby strengthening President Xi Jinping’s position of authority.

Over the past few years, tensions between the U.S. and China have risen, leading to tariffs and sanctions against Chinese IT firms.

As a result of the pandemic shock in 2020, China’s economic development has slowed during the past three years. Many experts have lowered their GDP projections to roughly 3% as a because of this year’s tighter COVID measures, which included a two-month closure of Shanghai.

The yuan has weakened as a result of the economic slowdown, which may help make Chinese products more affordable to customers in the United States and other nations.

The U.S. Federal Reserve aggressively tightened monetary policy this year, which led to a large increase in the value of the U.S. dollar.

The euro and the Japanese yen have also fallen to 20-year lows, which has helped the dollar as measured by the U.S. dollar index.
According to a report released on Monday by Goldman Sachs analyst Maggie Wei and colleagues, the PBOC “might have tolerance for further CNY depreciation against the USD, especially as the broad USD continues to strengthen. However, they might want to avoid continued and too fast one-way depreciation if possible.”

The researchers predicted that during the next three months, the yuan will weaken to 7 versus the dollar. By the end of the year, the foreign exchange specialists at Nomura expect a level of 7.2.

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Data from Wind Information show that between May 2020 and September 2019, the yuan last traded at 7.2 to the dollar.

According to Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics, “I don’t think it will go far beyond [7], certainly sort of beyond the 7.2 that we saw during the trade war,” in a recent interview.
He said, “I think that threshold is the key.” “I believe that if it rises above that point, expectations for the value of the currency run the risk of being unanchored, which is why they are unwilling to let it happen. You run the chance of seeing substantially higher financial outflows.

According to Wind Information, the PBOC fixed the midpoint of the yuan versus the dollar on Tuesday at 6.9096, which is the lowest value since August 25, 2020. The yuan is moderately controlled by China’s central bank, which bases its daily trading midpoint on current price levels.
Avoid placing a wager on a single issue.

The next reduction in the PBOC’s foreign currency reserve ratio, from 8% to 6%, is scheduled to go into effect on September 15th, according to a statement posted on the website of the central bank on Monday.

Liu Guoqiang, deputy governor of the PBOC, stated earlier in the day that individuals “should not bet on a certain point” and that the currency should move in two directions in the short term.

According to a translation of a Chinese version of Liu’s comments made during a press conference on economic policy, this is the case.

Liu continued to support Beijing’s long-term goals of increased yuan use abroad. The yuan will continue to gain prominence around the globe, he predicted.

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China Can’t Live Without Wall Street. Rare US Agreement Shows Why

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Chinese

A new U.S.-China pact aims to end one of the largest commercial disputes: how to audit Chinese companies on Wall Street.
Last Friday, authorities from both countries announced an agreement that would allow US officials to inspect these firms’ audit files, meeting a long-running demand stateside and bringing relief to businesses and investors.
Over 160 Chinese companies may have avoided instant expulsion from the world’s largest stock market.

Regulators are testing the new deal quickly. Unidentified sources told Reuters on Wednesday that Alibaba, Yum China, and other companies will be inspected next month. The companies didn’t immediately comment.

Officials warn that the pact is simply the first step on a difficult topic, so Chinese enterprises aren’t out of the woods until access is guaranteed and a bigger agreement is reached. Experts think it won’t solve other US-China business flashpoints quickly.

US officials can scrutinize accounting firms in mainland China and Hong Kong that audit Chinese corporations’ books.

According to the US Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, this is the most comprehensive US-China transaction ever. Gary Gensler, head of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, says US investigators will visit China and Hong Kong “by mid-September” (SEC).
“Reaching an agreement on these pilot inspections was the fundamental test of whether the two sides could clinch a bigger deal,” said Lauren Gloudeman, Eurasia Group’s China director.
Drew Bernstein, co-chairman of Marcum Asia CPAs, believes the first key hurdle has been passed.
“China believes allowing certain of its enterprises to access US financial markets is in China’s interests, and regulators have made major concessions to reach an agreement,” he said.

Alibaba (BABA), Baidu (BIDU), and JD.com all at risk (JD).
US regulations state that corporations who don’t completely open their books will be banned from trading in 2024. This deadline is flexible.
Recent months have seen increased strain. This year, the SEC added more Chinese companies to its list of potential expulsions, and US lawmakers have called for an ultimatum.
China traditionally resisted letting foreign regulators review its accounting businesses, citing security concerns. Some Chinese enterprises have left US markets due to hostility.
Five state-owned companies left the NYSE this month, citing poor turnover and exorbitant prices. China Life Insurance, PetroChina, Sinopec, China Aluminum Corporation, and Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical delisted voluntarily.

Alibaba, perhaps the best-known Chinese business among Western investors, aims to elevate its Hong Kong listing to main status by year’s end.
The company, whose shares have traded on the NYSE since 2014, wants two primary listings.
Hong Kong is a popular destination for firms worried about Wall Street.
The delisting risk of US-listed Chinese stocks cannot be totally mitigated in the immediate future, according to Bocom International, the investment banking arm of Bank of Communications.
Dual primary or secondary listings in Hong Kong are “desirable” for now, they wrote Monday.

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The situation has forced corporations to reassess their strategies and slowed share issuing.
Eight Chinese companies have gone public in the US so far this year, compared to 37 in the same period last year.
Their value has plummeted. Dealogic data reveals US IPOs have raised $332 million so far in 2022, down from $13 billion a year ago.
The market collapse has produced a dismal IPO market for all companies.
Some Chinese gamers fear a regulatory crackdown.
Didi, China’s largest ride-hailing company, is a cautionary tale. The company went public in New York last year but delisted after the domestic crackdown.
If the US Congress sees China sticking to the audit accord, Chinese shares could rise.
“Chinese management teams remain highly intrigued and motivated to list in the US,” Bernstein added.
If the IPO market rebounds next year, Chinese listings could increase in 2023.

Analysts doubt the new audit deal will clear corporations.
Goldman Sachs analysts see a 50% possibility of delisting Chinese equities.

The SEC chairman warned last week that corporations face ejection if US officials can’t access their files.
“We’ll see,” he said.
Confirmation of planned inspections “makes it very probable, 90% likely, that the two sides reach a broad inspections deal before the end of the year or soon after,” Eurasia experts stated.
“The top US regulator won’t fly to Hong Kong if it doubts China’s promise”
Xiaomeng Lu, Eurasia’s director of geo-technology, warned Beijing might yet delist additional SOEs “These companies control national security-sensitive data.
“Rather than annual inspections, China may select this route “Her team reported.

Will this improve US-China relations?
Despite advances, the two superpowers will likely disagree on other topics.
“Though the deal is a favorable signal broadly, it does not have significant feed-through to the broader bilateral relationship,” Gloudeman, Eurasia’s China director, said.

“Geopolitical flashpoints like Taiwan and China’s alliance with Russia make a reset unlikely. Taiwanese and American elections could worsen the bilateral relationship.”

Bernstein said the purchase shows the limits of decoupling when links break.
“The US-China relationship reminds me of conflict-ridden marriages that can’t afford to terminate,” he remarked.

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