In October 2003, one of the World’s wealthiest men flew home in his Gulfstream


As he disembarked, he was arrested at gunpoint, sent to a remote prison beyond reach of journalists, charged with tax evasion, & spent the next 10 yrs in a Siberian gulag

He is Mikhail Khodorkovsky (MK), the CEO of Yukos, one of the world’s largest oil companies at the time

But unfortunately for MK & Yukos, this wasn’t a televised Olympic Judo contest where a neck lock ends with a double tap

This was an: out of sight, zero-rules, cage fight against an angry Russian Bear

With only one winner

the Bear

who levied $30bn of tax charges against Yukos,

disembowelled their key assets at rigged auctions

and left MK & his foreign shareholders with “nada”

There was never any tax evasion

because when it was all over, a Russian court dropped the case against PWC who’d prepared the accounts & tax returns

But this was no place for rational argument,

Bears don’t do rational

What went wrong?

Well, only months earlier, MK had invited Exxon to acquire a stake in Yukos

Which spooked the Bear

because Bears don’t want strategic profitable assets in the hands of foreigners

especially not led by the likes of MK, who had drifted from oil into liberal politics

Bears don’t like drift

Roll forward 17 yrs & Jack Ma prepares to list Ant Financial

One of the World’s wealthiest men, about to secure foreign investment in a very profitable business

Who also happened to have liberal views about education & finance

Which made the Chinese Government “uncomfortable”

The listing was shelved & Jack disappeared from sight

Sound familiar?

Only this time, it was a Dragon in the cage, not a Bear

In May the CEO of the world’s largest online delivery business, Meituan, shared a 1100-year-old, 28 Chinese character, poem about “the misguided attempts of China’s first emperor to quash dissent”

But Dragons are sensitive creatures & don’t like critical poems (unless they’re critical of foreign governments)

The company lost $16bn in value overnight

In June, Didi was warned not to list, but they defied the Dragon

And Dragons don’t like defiance

The stock has fallen 45%

This month, the Dragon forced Tencent Music to end their exclusive licensing deals with labels that were securing profitable subscribers

Because Dragons like music

The share is down 68% since March

And last week Chinese online education companies have been accused of “exploiting” education

and Dragons don’t like exploitation

You see, Bears only really care about themselves

Whereas Dragons also seem to care about their people

And want to give them: cheap payments, cheap music, cheap education & cheap taxis

Making it worrying for investors

Because Dragons won’t tolerate highly profitable monopolies that “exploit” their population

So, what’s next, cheap games?

Well, only the Dragon knows what the Dragon will do

But like Bears, what Dragons won’t do;

Is worry about foreign shareholders