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survey shows fewer companies planning to hire

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Companies in all nine regions of China planned to increase hiring, according to the survey. But the level of hiring intentions declined in seven of those regions, notably in Beijing and Shanghai.

The report characterized the labor market in the capital city as “quiet” and said Shanghai “employers anticipate limited payroll gains.”

Shenzhen and Chengdu, both considered up-and-coming cities, also reported declines in the hiring outlook, the survey showed. The jobs outlook for the Central and West regions was unchanged, while the report said Guangzhou employers were the most optimistic on hiring.

Among six industries, the mining and construction sector was the only one with a positive improvement in the outlook, compared with a year ago, the survey said.

China’s national unemployment rate officially remains relatively low, near 5 percent or less. Last week, the government announced it plans to target the creation of 11 million urban jobs and keep the survey-based urban unemployment rate around 5.5 percent. Finance Minister Liu Kun also said Beijing plans to spend 53.9 billion yuan ($8 billion) on employment subsidies this year, an increase of 14.9 percent.

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China smartphone sales keep falling — that’s likely bad news for Apple

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Other indicators could point to iPhone weakness in China. The number of searches for iPhone on Chinese search engine Baidu dropped 48 percent in February, marking the fifth consecutive month of decline, according to Longbow Research. The firm argues that iPhone search trends on Baidu are indicative of demand in the China.

Analysts said that Apple was likely to have felt the pain of a slowing overall market, and low-cost rival Xiaomi could also suffer amid stiffer competition.

“Apple and Xiaomi continue to be the biggest losers whereas Huawei, Vivo and OPPO continue to grab more share away,” Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint Research, told CNBC.

“The China market has become a zero sum game with replacement rates becoming slower in the premium end of the market and most folks are not upgrading their expensive and durable smartphones. Most of the growth is coming from mid-tier of the market where Huawei’s Honor brand, Nova series, and Oppo’s A series is doing quite well and affecting Xiaomi,” he added.

Both Apple and Xiaomi were not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

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Fate of Malaysia Airlines to be decided ‘soon’, PM Mahathir says

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Malaysia Airlines Airbus A350-900 aircraft with registration 9M-MAD landing at London Heathrow International Airport LHR EGLL.

Nicolas Economou | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Malaysia Airlines Airbus A350-900 aircraft with registration 9M-MAD landing at London Heathrow International Airport LHR EGLL.

The Malaysian government is considering whether to shut, sell or refinance national carrier Malaysia Airlines (MAB), Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday.

The government was studying options for the national carrier, and a decision should be made “soon”, Mahathir said, when asked about analysts’ suggestions the airline be shut down or spun off.

“It is a very serious matter to shut down the airline,” Mahathir told a news conference at parliament.

“We will nevertheless be studying and investigating as to whether we should shut it down or we should sell it off or we should refinance it. All these things are open for the government to decide.”

The airline has been trying to transform its operations and return to profitability by 2019 as it recovers from two disasters in 2014, when flight MH370 disappeared in what remains a mystery and flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine.

Sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd, which took MAB private in 2014, said the government needed to decide on its investment in, and level of support for, the struggling airline.

The fund also said that it was waiting for MAB to present a review of its business strategy.

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Facebook wants to copy WeChat Pay with Facebook Coin payments

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Tencent did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by CNBC on Wednesday.

A Facebook representative did not respond to CNBC’s inquiries about whether it is trying to replicate WeChat, noting instead that the company did not “have anything further to share” about it’s broader payments effort.

“Like many other companies Facebook is exploring ways to leverage the power of blockchain technology. This new small team is exploring many different applications,” the Facebook spokesperson said.

In 2018, research firm eMarketer said it expected more than 45 percent of China’s population to have used mobile payments, compared with just over 20 percent in the United States. Chinese consumers largely skipped credit cards and have adopted WeChat pay and rival Alipay, which is owned by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial.

Not only does WeChat offer payments, but it also has other financial services like wealth management and micro-loans. Facebook’s payments push may not be as ambitious.

“The potential monetization for Facebook Coin may not be as diverse as WeChat Pay,” Choi Chun, senior analyst at China-based market research firm iResearch, told CNBC.

“A large chunk of WeChat Pay revenues are generated from commission dollars from online shopping within WeChat and wealth management services, which I don’t think Facebook would be able to tap into as the online shopping sector and wealth management sector are already mature in the U.S,” Chun added.

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