Tips for building a global business from billion-dollar start-up Klook

“I still remember there were a number of investors who, once they found out we were from a finance background, lost interest,” he said. “They thought people from finance were all about putting up a good pitch-book, being a very good salesperson, but in fact they may not be very well-versed in running a business. So we had a lot of doors closed for us.”

It’s therefore important to ensure you strike the right tone by first building rapport with prospective investors, proving your credibility and showing what’s in it for them.

Since launching four years ago, Klook has gone on to secure $300 million in funding from the likes of Sequoia China, Matrix Partners, and Goldman Sachs.

“Some people now talk to us and say that Klook has been able to raise a lot of successful fundraising rounds because we came from finance,” said Gnock Fah. “Actually, a lot of people don’t know that that was actually a hindrance.”

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China reports November fixed asset investment, industrial production

Giant Panda statues at the China International Import Expo (CIIE) — held from  Nov. 5 to Nov. 10, 2018  at the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai, China. 

Fu Tian | China News Service | Visual China Group via Getty Images

Giant Panda statues at the China International Import Expo (CIIE) — held from Nov. 5 to Nov. 10, 2018  at the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai, China. 

China on Friday reported industrial output and retail sales growth for the month of November that missed expectations, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed.

Industrial output in November grew 5.4 percent from a year ago, lower than the 5.9 percent analysts in a Reuters poll predicted. That figure was 5.9 percent in October.

Retail sales rose 8.1 percent in November, lower than the 8.8 percent the analysts expected. November retail sales growth was down from 8.6 percent in October.

Fixed asset investment rose 5.9 percent from January to November, slightly higher than the 5.8 percent the economists had forecast. FAI rose 5.7 percent from January to October.

Economic data from China is being closely watched amid a bitter trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies, with U.S. President Donald Trump taking issue with his country’s massive trade deficit against China.

Despite escalating trade tensions with the U.S., Chinese data show the economy has largely held up so far.

Many economists say the phenomenon is mostly due to exporters benefiting from increased orders before the tariffs hit, but the figures are likely to show stress in the months ahead if differences between the two economic superpowers are not resolved.

At the G-20 summit in Argentina recently, U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to not raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports from 10 percent to 25 percent in January as he had previously threatened, according to a statement from the White House. But, if the two countries fail to reach a deal at the end of 90 days, the threatened tariffs will be implemented, the statement said.

—CNBC’s Yen Nee Lee and Reuters contributed to this report.

Cramer: The Fed would be ‘nuts to keep tightening’ after next hike

The economy is showing signs of weakness that should make the Federal Reserve think twice about raising interest rates after December’s widely anticipated hike, CNBC’s Jim Cramer warned on Thursday.

“There’s enough conflicting evidence that the economy is slowing, perhaps even dramatically, that I think the Fed should wait and see before taking any additional action,” he said on “Mad Money.”

While U.S. employment is the strongest it’s been in decades, Cramer has also seen distinct signs of economic deflation, or when the average prices of goods and services fall. Generally speaking, the Federal Reserve’s task is to keep a lid on inflation, or the rise of said prices.

In recent months, Cramer noticed costs for various goods sliding in lockstep with recent declines in oil prices. Both home prices and home sales have also declined, often a “prelude” to a downward spiral of lower and lower prices, he said.

Still, with “incredibly low jobless claims,” rising employee wages and seemingly strong holiday retail sales, “it’s easy to see” why the Fed would greenlight one more interest rate hike, Cramer said.

“I’ll let the Fed give us the expected quarter-point hike next week, [but] it’s not ideal,” he said. “However, after that, they would be nuts to keep tightening, and even one more rate hike … could be the rate hike too far.”

Stocks traded in a tight range on Thursday as investors parsed the most recent updates from U.S.-China trade talks, including a Reuters report that cited President Donald Trump as saying that state-owned Chinese companies had resumed buying U.S. soybeans in an apparent show of good faith.

The Fed, an independent entity that presides over monetary policy, will host a Federal Open Market Committee meeting next week at which the central bank’s leaders are expected to raise interest rates by a quarter point.

In recent weeks, Cramer has railed against the Fed’s ranking members, including Trump-appointed Chairman Jerome Powell, for not doing their “homework” and forcing their own hand in terms of the December hike.

Tencent Music would be a buy if it wasn’t for US-China trade

Even high-quality stocks can become victims of circumstance, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Thursday, as he reviewed the prospects for newly public Chinese music streaming service Tencent Music Entertainment.

A subsidiary of Tencent Holdings, a Chinese conglomerate made up of various technology and internet-related companies, Tencent Music went public in the United States on Wednesday in a highly anticipated initial public offering. It marked the biggest U.S.-based IPO by a Chinese company since Alibaba’s debut in 2014.

But even though the company raised more than $1 billion in its IPO, is showing “incredible” revenue growth and has an inexpensive stock, confusion around U.S.-China trade relations makes buying shares fairly risky, Cramer said.

“In a vacuum, Tencent Music Entertainment would be a screaming buy here. But in context? I’m going to give you my blessing if you want to speculate in the stock, just don’t put it in your retirement portfolio,” he warned on “Mad Money.”

As the ninth-largest IPO of the year, Tencent Music still has a lot of things going for it, Cramer acknowledged. Essentially the “Chinese Spotify,” the company has 880 million monthly average users with room to grow its paid subscribers, which currently make up only 4 percent of its total user base.

This year, Tencent Music — in which Spotify actually has a 9 percent stake — saw 84 percent organic revenue growth and “stunning” margin expansion, Cramer said. Better yet, the company has a “pristine” balance sheet and has been profitable since 2016, which are notably positive characteristics for a newly public player, the “Mad Money” host noted.

Cramer also liked that Tencent Music deals in micropayments, an offering that sets it apart from its Western peers. With micropayments, which are huge in China, people can tip their favorite artists, bloggers and online personalities through websites or apps.

“Tencent Music is a major part of the micropayment ecosystem because they let you give virtual gifts,” Cramer said. “If you want to tip your favorite blogger with a song, you do it through Tencent Music. In the latest quarter we have numbers for, 9.5 million users spent money on virtual gifts, and these purchases accounted for more than 70 percent of Tencent Music’s revenue.”

But despite all the positives, there are two major issues weighing on Tencent Music’s stock. First is that Tencent Holdings, its parent company, wields nearly all the voting power, meaning shareholders are “just along for the ride,” Cramer said.

Second is the ongoing trade dispute between the United States and China, which still accounts for most of Tencent Music’s business and could become a pain point for investors if trade talks go south, said the “Mad Money” host.

“The political risk is too great, even as the company has nothing to do with the tariffs,” he said. “But if you think the trade talks will produce a workable agreement, then this may actually be the Chinese stock that you want to buy.”

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Stocks making the biggest moves after hours: Costco, Starbucks and more

A woman shops at a Costco Wholesale Corp. store in East Peoria, Illinois.

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A woman shops at a Costco Wholesale Corp. store in East Peoria, Illinois.

Check out the companies making headlines after the bell:

Costco shares fell 3 percent after the market close after reporting disappointing quarterly earnings and revenue. The company reported $34.31 billion in revenue, falling short of the $34.79 billion estimated by analysts polled by Refinitiv. The company posted adjusted earnings of $1.61 per share, just shy of the $1.62 expected by analysts.

Starbucks shares fell more than 3 percent after hours after announcing a new delivery service. The coffee chain will partner with food delivery service Uber Eats at 2,000 of its stores in the U.S. beginning in 2019. The company tested this in Miami in September.

Alliant Energy slipped 2 percent after-hours as the company announced a slate of executive changes, including a new president and chief operating officer and two new senior vice presidents. John Larsen will be the new president and COO after former president Douglas Kopp retires in 2019.

Senate votes to stop US support for Yemen war

Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, speaks to members of the media following a briefing on the murder of U.S-based columnist Jamal Khashoggi with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. 

Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, speaks to members of the media following a briefing on the murder of U.S-based columnist Jamal Khashoggi with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. 

Senators have voted to recommend that the U.S. stop supporting the Saudi-led war in Yemen, directly challenging both Saudi Arabia and President Donald Trump in the wake of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s slaying.

The bipartisan vote Thursday comes two months after the Saudi journalist’s killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and after Trump has equivocated over who is to blame. U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman must have at least known of the plot, but Trump has repeatedly praised the kingdom.

Frustration with the crown prince and the White House prompted several Republicans to support the Yemen resolution, a rebuke to the longtime ally. Others already had concerns about the brutality of the Yemen war.

It’s unlikely the House will consider the resolution.

Starbucks partners with Uber Eats to deliver to customers

Starbucks is the latest restaurant company to get into delivery.

The coffee giant said Thursday it would partner with Uber Eats to bring its lattes to customers’ doors.

“In locations where drive-thru isn’t feasible we are testing platforms like delivery,” Roz Brewer, chief operating officer, said, during the company’s investor meeting in New York.

Starbucks already has a delivery program in China, which caters to 2,000 stores across 30 cities. Through Uber Eats, the company expects to bring Starbucks Delivery to about a quarter of its U.S.-based, company-owned stores by the end of the second quarter.

Starbucks has been struggling to get diners to frequent its cafes at a higher rate. Although sales have been positive, foot traffic continues to stagnate. Part of the issue is the more than 14,000 U.S. locations that the brand operates. Having so many locations can cannibalize sales and lead to fewer transactions at individual stores.

The company has also faced issues connecting with its diners, who have recently balked at some of Starbucks’ limited time offerings.

Delivery is yet another lever that Starbucks can pull in order to lure diners to spend more money at its cafes. Digital and mobile orders tend to bring in a higher check for restaurants and delivery orders tend to be predominantly be placed through these channels. Adding another layer of convenience for customers to order from Starbucks could help right the ship.

Other quick-service chains like McDonald’s and Yum Brands, which owns Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, have also jumped into the delivery game, partnering with Uber Eats and Grubhub, respectively.

The pilot program began in Miami, CEO Kevin Johnson told CNBC ahead the meeting. Starbucks saw the transaction volume was there and that people wanted the service, he said.

However, Johnson said, not all drinks will be available for delivery as they may not travel well. He cited a cappuccino with a lot of foam as an example of a drink that might be suitable for delivery.

“We were very thoughtful about this,” Johnson said.

Johnson said his focus is on “doing what Starbucks does best, and creating big strategic partnerships that complement what we do best from Alibaba to Nestle with the Global Coffee Alliance and now Uber Eats.”

The investor meeting is Johnson’s first since he became CEO.

Cohen’s campaign finance charges were meant ‘to embarrass me’ 

President Donald Trump on Thursday again asserted that he bears no responsibility for the campaign finance violations committed by his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

“They put that on to embarrass me. They put those two charges on to embarrass me. They’re not criminal charges. What happened is either Cohen or the prosecutors, in order to embarrass me, said: Listen, ‘I’m making this deal for reduced time and everything else. Do me a favor and put these two charges on,'” Trump claimed in an interview with Fox News.

Trump made the comments one day after Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for crimes that included tax evasion, lying to Congress, and setting up illegal hush-money payments to women who claimed they had had affairs with Trump. The president’s remarks expanded on an accusation he had made earlier in the day.

Cohen has acknowledged that the hush-money payments were made in order to protect Trump from damaging allegations during the 2016 presidential election. Given that their purpose was to aid Trump’s candidacy, the payments constituted contributions to Trump’s presidential campaign. By not declaring them, Cohen violated campaign finance laws.

Cohen’s transformation from loyal foot soldier for Trump into witness for the prosecution and asset to the special counsel’s investigation has been one of the most dramatic story lines of the entire Mueller probe.

During his sentencing on Wednesday, Cohen told the judge that during his decade of working as Trump’s attorney, he felt a sense of “duty to cover up [Trump’s] dirty deeds.”

The president, meanwhile, has publicly railed against his former consigliere ever since Cohen agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. On Thursday, Trump tweeted a defense of himself that appeared to have been carefully scripted, perhaps with the help of one of the president’s current lawyers.

“I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called “advice of counsel,” and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid. Despite that many campaign finance lawyers have strongly stated that I did nothing wrong with respect to campaign finance laws, if they even apply, because this was not campaign finance,” Trump tweeted.

“Cohen was guilty on many charges unrelated to me, but he plead to two campaign charges which were not criminal and of which he probably was not guilty even on a civil basis. Those charges were just agreed to by him in order to embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence, which he did-including the fact that his family was temporarily let off the hook. As a lawyer, Michael has great liability to me!”

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Tesla may feel ‘vindicated’ in regards to Elon Musk $420 tweet

Telsa may be feeling better about CEO Elon Musk’s now-infamous August tweet on considering taking the electric car maker private, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Thursday.

“We’re now seeing price targets that are above” $420 per share, the “Mad Money” host said, referring to the stock price quoted in Musk’s take-private tweet. “Maybe, they’re being vindicated,” he added on “Squawk on the Street.”

On Aug. 6, the day before the tweet, Tesla shares closed at nearly $342, a far cry from $420.

Tesla shares Thursday were more than 1 percent higher, around $370 a share, after Baird analyst Ben Kallo reiterated his outperform rating on the stock and hiked his price target to $465 from $411. Kallo said shares of electric car maker could jump sharply in the next year as the company starts making money more consistently.

Tesla garnered lots of negative attention, including from Cramer, after the Aug. 7 tweet stunned the financial community and Washington regulators. Musk abandoned the take-private idea on Aug. 24.

Following a bizarre Aug. 16 interview with The New York Times, Musk’s actions were under scrutiny again three weeks later after he appeared to smoke marijuana and drink whiskey during comedian Joe Rogan’s podcast.

At the end of September, the Securities and Exchange Commission settled with Musk over charges stemming from his tweet. As part of the deal, Musk agreed to step down from his chairman role for three years.

At the time, Cramer said Musk’s “stunts” were ill-advised, and recommend the board take Musk on medical leave.

Homebuilders are not getting a bump from lower mortgage rates

Mortgage applications to purchase a newly built home dropped 11 percent in November, compared to a year ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Given the drop, MBA economists predict that sales of newly built homes in November fell 5 percent annually. Those numbers will be reported at the end of December by the U.S. Census.

This drop is surprising, given the sharp drop in mortgage rates in November, and therefore underscores the fundamental weakness in the housing market today. The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage started at 5.05 percent in the first week of November and fell throughout the month, ending at 4.86 percent by November 30th, according to Mortgage News Daily.

“Despite a still-strong job market and recent declines in mortgage rates, affordability challenges continue to hold back sales activity, as wage growth still lags behind home-price growth,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting. “Additionally, recent stock market volatility and some economic uncertainty likely also contributed to the pullback in home sales in November.”

Stocks of the nation’s homebuilders have been the positive outlier in a weaker market lately. That is because of the drop in mortgage interest rates. They are, however, still down sharply year-to-date.

The nation’s largest homebuilders have been reporting weakness in buyer demand, and most are pointing squarely at affordability issues. While mortgage rates did drop back slightly in November, they are still higher than they were one year ago, and the expectation is that they will rise again going into 2019.

Homebuilder sentiment fell dramatically in November to the lowest level in more than two years, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

“For the past several years, shortages of labor and lots along with rising regulatory costs have led to a slow recovery in single-family construction,” said NAHB chief economist Robert Dietz in a release. “While home price growth accommodated increasing construction costs during this period, rising mortgage interest rates in recent months coupled with the cumulative run-up in pricing has caused housing demand to stall.”

Home price gains have cooled dramatically in the last six months, and there is growing concern among consumers that buying now would not be the best investment. In some markets, there is a fear that home prices will actually fall in the coming year, so buyers today would lose money.

“Lower house price expectations, tight inventory and a slowing economy will all act as a constraint on housing activity,” according to a report from Capital Economics.