Chinese supply chain impacts from tariffs and coronavirus
A lot has been written in media on the current impact of the coronavirus on both the Chinese citizens and the Chinese economy. Although most of what I read is concerned with the short-term and not on the potential longer-term implications. To that extent, I wanted to relay a small snippet of information that came out of a company meeting I recently attended.
The company is Audinate (ASX:AD8), which is a technology company that develops Dante, a technology that Audinate wants to develop into the standard to transfer audio/video data streams over normal IP based networks (ethernet, wi-fi etc.) instead of the traditional dedicated cables which is the historical norm. Audinate is a company that is new to me and we at Montgomery do not own shares, nor do we have a strong investment view but that is not what this post is about.
What I found very interesting from the meeting is as a result of the US-China trade war and the tariffs imposed, Audinate has moved 20-25 per cent of their production from China to Malaysia as their products were captured by the US imposed tariffs, and manufacturing in Malaysia means that they can bypass these tariffs for their US bound products. This was according to Audinate’s management, a very easy and smooth change as they were able to use the same contract manufacturer in Malaysia as they used in China. It did not have any significant impact on the cost of production either.
Now, Audinate is very small in context of the total value chain of audio/visual products but interestingly, they mentioned that in December they conducted a survey and in-depth discussions with all their top 20 customers. The result of this is very interesting as Audinate’s experience was basically replicated in that their top 20 customers (on average) had also moved about 20 per cent of their production to other countries outside China in response to the US – China trade war.
The customers also told Audinate that this is not a temporary move but that they have permanently restructured their supply chains do diversify the risk. The major customers of Audinate includes the likes of Yamaha, Sony, Sennheiser and Shure so we are talking names that are relatively household and substantial organisations so collectively, this is definitely more meaningful.
All of this took place well before coronavirus emerged and China shut down for Chinese New Year. It is very possible that companies are taking the coronavirus outbreak as a trigger to further evaluate their supply chain configurations. If contract manufacturers are able to respond in other parts of the world, it does not bode well for the prospects of a quick recovery in Chinese manufacturing.
If the volume has moved abroad, there might, after all, not be that much to recover into once the pent-up demand from the prolonged shutdown is cleared. I will continue to keep my eyes and ears open for more indications that we might see a permanent dislocation of manufacturing out of China which would have very negative implications for the potential growth rates of the Chinese economy. China is as we all know Australia’s largest export market accounting for about one third of all Australian exports.