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As Chinese Stocks Struggle, Owning Boring Ones Has Paid Dividends

Stocks with high dividend yields are a bright spot in China’s sluggish market

2024 年 6 月 27 日上午 7:00 美东时间

Oil company Cnooc has been one of the standouts in the Chinese market recently. Photo: Raul Ariano/Bloomberg News
中国石油公司中海油近期一直是中国市场的亮点之一。照片:Raul Ariano/Bloomberg 新闻

It has been hard to make money in Chinese stocks. Unlike the U.S. market, even the country’s tech giants have disappointed investors in the past few years. But investors focusing on something more boring—dividends from some of China’s least-loved companies—did far better.

Cash returns to shareholders from listed Chinese companies over the past three years amounted to more than two trillion yuan, the equivalent of $275 billion, according to Goldman Sachs. Most of that came through dividends, though they also have stepped up stock buybacks. The total return on an MSCI gauge tracking Chinese stocks with high dividend yields has outperformed the broader MSCI China index by around 28 percentage points over the past three years. 
在过去三年里,根据高盛集团的数据,中国上市公司向股东返还的现金超过了两万亿元人民币,相当于 2750 亿美元。其中大部分来自股息,不过他们也加大了股票回购力度。追踪中国高股息收益率股票的 MSCI 指数总回报在过去三年中超过了更广泛的 MSCI 中国指数约 28 个百分点。

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State-owned enterprises with some stock-market presence have been especially rewarding. By contrast, an imploding housing bubble and regulatory crackdown have sunk shares of many private-sector Chinese companies. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index, which tracks Hong Kong-listed Chinese stocks such as tech behemoths Tencent and Alibaba 9988 -1.78%decrease; red down pointing triangle, has lost around 40% of its value in the past three years. 
具有一定股市存在的国有企业尤其令人满意。相比之下,一个正在崩溃的房地产泡沫和监管打击已经使许多私营部门中国公司的股价下跌。恒生中国企业指数,跟踪香港上市的中国股票,如科技巨头腾讯和阿里巴巴 9988-1.78%,在过去三年中已经损失了大约 40%的价值。

A separate index tracking state-owned enterprises with listings in Hong Kong, on the other hand, has risen 2% over the same period. Even this year, which has seen Chinese equity markets rebound, the SOE gauge has done better than the broader market. Some standouts: Oil company Cnooc has tripled in value since the end of 2021, while carrier China Mobile 941 0.60%increase; green up pointing triangle has surged by 59%.
另一方面,追踪在香港上市的国有企业的独立指数在同一时期上涨了 2%。即使在今年这个看到中国股市反弹的年份,国有企业指数的表现也优于整体市场。一些亮点:自 2021 年底以来,石油公司中海油的价值翻了三倍,而运营商中国移动 9410.60%的股价上涨了 59%。

These state companies are usually in what are considered old economy sectors such as banking and energy. While they don’t offer exciting growth opportunities, what they have instead is stable cash flows and lower regulatory risk. The Hong Kong-listed SOEs have a dividend yield of 5.7% versus 3.8% for all of the Chinese stocks listed there.
这些国有企业通常属于被视为传统经济部门的行业,如银行和能源。虽然它们并不提供令人兴奋的增长机会,但它们拥有稳定的现金流和较低的监管风险。在香港上市的国有企业的股息率为 5.7%,而所有在那里上市的中国股票的股息率为 3.8%。

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Significantly, dividend payout ratios—the share of profits returned to shareholders in that way—are still lower for Chinese SOEs than for private companies, according to analysts at Bernstein Research. 

The broker also noted that their payout level is already close to the highest ever, but it could keep rising. Chinese policymakers are eager to boost the valuations of SOEs and increasing shareholders’ returns is one possible way to do so. It could also help to foster a stock ownership culture in a country where real estate has been the preferred store of wealth.

And Goldman points out that boosting dividends could also provide fiscal relief to the government, especially at a time when land sales revenue has plummeted. The bank estimated that every one-percentage-point increase in the payout ratio of the listed SOEs could increase fiscal revenue by 23 billion yuan.
高盛指出,提高股息也可以为政府提供财政救济,特别是在土地销售收入暴跌的时候。该银行估计,上市国有企业派息比率每提高 1 个百分点,就能增加 230 亿元财政收入。

Chinese equities are among the cheapest in the world, and perhaps for good reason with its once-hot economy sagging. Brave investors might want to bet on them narrowing a gap that still puts them at less than half of the earnings multiple and less than a third of the price-to-book value of U.S. stocks. 

Or they could focus on dividends. Profit is an opinion—cash is a fact.

Write to Jacky Wong at jacky.wong@wsj.com
写信给黄健康,邮箱地址为 jacky.wong@wsj.com

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