FirstFT: Sequoia China founder Neil Shen acquired Singapore residency

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Good morning — we start today with a scoop out of Singapore.

Neil Shen, China’s most prominent tech investor, acquired permanent residency in the city-state and later opened an office there for his $56bn venture capital firm as tensions rose between Washington and Beijing.

The billionaire founder of Sequoia China, renowned for early investments in Alibaba, ByteDance and Shein, was granted the status before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Shen’s firm, which rebranded last year as HongShan, subsequently expanded into Singapore, opening an office in the financial hub as it split from US-based Sequoia last June.

HongShan has also encouraged some of its China-based portfolio companies with global ambitions to set up entities in Singapore since the pandemic — and some, like Beijing-based Moonshot AI, have already been established.

Shen became an early mover in a trend that became replicated many times over by wealthy Chinese with ties to the country’s tech sector. Many shifted to low-tax, stable Singapore amid strict pandemic lockdowns in the mainland as well as President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on tech companies.

“Neil’s decision . . . made it a lot easier for others to follow after that,” one of the people said, adding the move was “spoken about” in Chinese business circles even though it has not become publicly known until now. Here’s more on the Chinese business figures who have established a presence in Singapore.

And here’s what I’m keeping tabs on today:

  • Economic data: India publishes third-quarter GDP figures, while China releases official manufacturing and non-manufacturing purchasing managers’ index data.

  • South Korea doctor strikes: Today is the government-set deadline for striking trainee doctors to end a mass walkout or face suspension and prosecution.

  • Pakistan: Parliament convenes for the first time since disputed elections earlier this month, with the country facing dire economic circumstances.

Join us in Hong Kong on March 11 for a breakfast event (8.15 — 9.45am) with Miles Johnson, FT’s investigative reporter and host of hit podcast Hot Money: New Narcos, and the FT’s Asia editor Robin Harding. Places are limited — email [email protected] to reserve a space.

Five more top stories

1. Exclusive: Vladimir Putin’s forces have rehearsed using tactical nuclear weapons at an early stage of conflict with a major world power, according to leaked Russian military files that include training scenarios for an invasion by China. The classified papers, seen by the FT, describe a threshold for using tactical nuclear weapons that is lower than Russia has ever publicly admitted.

2. Disney has struck an $8.5bn dollar deal to merge its India business with Reliance Industries. The move will reduce the US entertainment group’s financial exposure to what has been a lossmaking venture in one of the world’s most populated countries. Here’s what to know about the new joint venture.

3. A Hong Kong-based creditor has filed a winding-up petition against struggling developer Country Garden, adding to a wave of legal action that threatens to increase liquidations across China’s property sector. The petition from a company called Ever Credit cited non-payment of a HK$1.6bn (US$204mn) loan facility plus accrued interest, Country Garden disclosed yesterday in an exchange filing.

4. Mitch McConnell, the longest-serving Senate leader in US history, will step down from his post as the Republican minority leader in November. The 82-year-old senator from Kentucky said he would remain in Congress to serve out the rest of his term, which ends in early 2027. McConnell has played a pivotal role in Washington for decades but his grip on Republican lawmakers has loosened amid the rise of Donald Trump.

  • Trump’s legal troubles: A New York judge has denied Donald Trump’s request to temporarily stop the state’s attorney-general from collecting on a $450mn judgment against the former US president as he appeals against the civil fraud ruling.

5. Germany and Italy have torpedoed an EU law imposing liability on companies for alleged human rights abuses in their supply chain, such as in China’s Xinjiang region. German chemical maker BASF and carmaker Volkswagen have come under intense criticism from human rights activists and investors for their plants in Xinjiang, where the Chinese government has been accused of using forced labour of local Uyghurs. Here’s why the legislation failed.

Visual story

Image of computer chip
© FT

After coming up against the limits of physics, scientists are rethinking chip architecture like never before. With parts of transistors reaching atomic levels of scale, engineers are having to come up with increasingly innovative ways of ensuring progress, such as vertical, tower-like construction and rethinking the way chips are packaged. Our visual storytelling team goes inside the miracle of modern chip manufacturing.

We’re also reading . . . 

  • Winter of the wonk: Society has given up on policy and gone back to politics, writes Robin Harding.

  • The revival of Japan’s labour unions: Nippon Steel’s planned purchase of US Steel is a test case for Japanese managers as the country’s unions become less docile.

  • America’s booming year from hell: Economic growth is failing to heal a nation torn over identity disputes instead of addressing its long-term challenges, writes Edward Luce.

Follow the latest twists and turns of the 2024 presidential campaign in the FT’s new US Election Countdown newsletter. Sign up here.

Chart of the day

Apple’s decision on Tuesday to abandon a years-long effort to develop an electric vehicle has been seen as a vote against the state of the EV industry as a whole. EV sales growth is slowing worldwide as mass market consumers remain put off by their higher prices and perceived compromises with charging.

Take a break from the news

For chefs, a Michelin star “provides some sense of relief that every relationship pushed aside, hour of sleep lost and weary trip to A&E was worth it”, writes Lauren Joseph. But it’s not all rosy. The chef from London’s Dorian tells of life in the kitchen since the restaurant won its first Michelin star.

cartoon illustration of a chef dancing with the Michelin man
© Harriet Noble

Additional contributions from George Russell and Gordon Smith

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