What the Market Capitalization (Market Cap) of Chinese Assets Does and (Especially) Doesn’t Tell Us


Time and time again, the market capitalization of a certain asset (from stocks to cryptocurrencies) is used as a (somewhat) misleading selling point by those interested in painting a bullish/optimistic narrative and the exact same principle is valid when it comes to Chinese assets. To put it differently, commentators interested in pushing a bullish narrative end up referring to a large market cap associated with their asset of choice as something which proves that the asset in question represents a rock-solid option.

Is this correct?

In some cases, yes but in most cases (empirically speaking)… well, no.

As confusing as all of this may seem, there is method (as well as experience) behind our madness when it comes to the previous statement and the key to understanding the market capitalization equation revolves around realizing that in the absence of proper liquidity, using market capitalization as a selling point becomes a bit of a joke.

Let us assume that two friends launch a China-oriented business and issue shares, with Person A owning 50% of the shares and Person B owning 50%. For the sake of our example, we will assume there are 100,000 shares (50,000 shares for each friend) and that each person convinces a family member to purchase a share at $500.

Does this mean $500 is now the market price?

Strangely enough, yes.

We have two transactions from willing sellers to willing buyers at $500 each and as such, technically speaking, the market price is indeed $500.

What about the market capitalization?

At this point in time, we have no choice but to calculate the market cap by multiplying $500 by the total number of shares, with the grand total being $50,000,000.

Formally speaking, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the statement that the market capitalization of the company we are referring to is $50,000,000. Can the two friends start contacting Chinese as well as Western newspapers so as to brag about how their company reached a $50,000,000 market cap virtually overnight?

Of course.

Realistically speaking, however, this information (even if technically/formally true) is misleading in light of the fact that there is no genuine demand for the shares in question at $500 each. More likely than not, the two friends could list them at $250 or $100 and still not even find one buyer. No liquidity, in other words.

Might they “fake it ‘till they make it” or, in other words, generate buzz by spreading misleading information and hoping that gullible investors will jump on the bandwagon and buy shares? Of course, spreading misleading market cap-related information is actually a very common practice for anything from illiquid shares to shady altcoins and unfortunately, some investors make the mistake of blindly buying in without doing their own research.

An informed investor/trader, however, is only a few clicks away from realizing that the entire $50,000,000 market capitalization narrative is nothing more than hot air and that trading volume is non-existent. Furthermore, any “let us hop on the bandwagon” activity by inexperienced investors is likely to be short-lived and as soon as the people in question try to liquidate their holdings, it will become blatantly obvious that the proverbial emperor has no clothes.

The bottom line is this: when it comes to many Chinese assets, you need to understand that we are still not that far away from the let’s call them Wild West days. Of course, if you are let’s say a US investor who buys shares in NASDAQ-listed Chinese companies, you will be multiple orders of magnitude safer from predatory practices than if you live in a less regulated jurisdiction and purchase “exotic” assets through brokers set up in obscure under-regulated islands.

The same way, however, you are far less likely to come across career-altering opportunities without getting your hands dirty by blazing trails. To put it differently, as convenient as the idea of simply building on the shoulders of giants and limiting yourself to highly-regulated assets may be, the likelihood of coming across low-hanging fruit this way is remarkably low and expectations with respect to potential returns needs to be adjusted accordingly.

It is a “pick your poison” situation at the end of the day and the ChinaFund.com team prides itself in being able to juggle with opportunities on all fronts. However, the murkier the waters may potentially be when it comes to one asset or another, the more important it is to know what you are doing and the market capitalization equation (with its pitfalls) represents just one example of manners in which careless investors/traders are parted from their capital.

“Chinese assets” is a very broad term and as such, ends up applying to anything from the previously mentioned NASDAQ-listed shares (in other words, shares issued by more than legitimate companies, listed by more than legitimate formal exchanges and sold by more than legitimate brokers) to various obscure assets. While some of these obscure assets can be diamonds in the rough, many aren’t and your risk management strategy needs to account for that.

As a binomial conclusion:

  1. If you are an inexperienced investor and/or trader, we would strongly recommend limiting yourself to proven assets at the very beginning and taking it one step at a time, one lesson at a time. Longevity should be your number one goal and it doesn’t exactly have the habit of coming about if you expect to hit it big right from your very first trades. In fact, the exact opposite tends to be true. If you are interested in the trail blazing dimension, then as self-serving as this statement may seem and actually is, working with experts such as those have on board here at ChinaFund.com is the way to go, with our team only being one email or message away and looking forward to showing you the ropes
  2. If you are an experienced investor who has been around the block for a while, then by all means, feel free to dip your toes in a wide range of assets, acquired through a wide range of brokers that are headquartered in a wide range of more or less murky jurisdictions. However, don’t make the mistake of assuming that experience makes you somehow immune to failure, because arrogance can end up being just as costly as inexperience (perhaps more) under the right circumstances