Outbound ventures

Updated: 2014-02-21 08:29

By Andrew Moody (China Daily Europe)

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Outbound ventures

China, long a favored destination for inward investment, may soon see the position reversed

Carmaker Dongfeng Motor Company is the latest Chinese company to drive up the world's second-largest economy's outbound investment.

It announced on Feb 19 it is paying 800 million euros for a stake in loss-making French car giant PSA Peugeot Citreon.

Further investments on this scale might mean the Chinese government exceeds its Five-Year Plan (2011-15) target to equalize outbound direct invest and foreign direct investment into China.

Ministry of Commerce figures from January showed that China's ODI increased by 16.8 percent to $90.2 billion (65.6 billion euros) last year.

This put it only $27.42 billion behind FDI, which rose just 5.25 percent to $117.59 billion in 2013.

Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said last month ODI could outstrip FDI into China even as early as this year but certainly within two years.

Some commentators have likened China, already the world's third-largest investor, to Japan in the late 1980s, whose companies then went on an asset-buying spree.

The Dongfeng investment follows another high-profile deal last month when computer giant Lenovo announced it was buying Google's Motorola handset division last week for $2.91 billion, although the US company in return will be taking a 5.94 percent stake in the Chinese private company. In Europe, Bright Food Group paid $1.2 billion for a 60 percent stake in UK cereal maker Weetabix last year hoping to make its products popular in the China market.

China Investment Corporation, the country's sovereign wealth fund, has also been involved in the action. It took a 10 percent stake in Heathrow Airport Holdings, which owns Heathrow and Stansted as well as regional UK airports, in 2012. This was the same year it took an 8.8 percent stake in Thames Water Utilities, which supplies London's water.

Recent deals suggest there is a fundamental change in the nature of ODI.

Throughout the last decade much of it was focused on acquiring resources businesses in Africa as well as in Latin America and Australia.

And while such deals have continued such as with China National Offshore Oil Corporation's $1.4 billion for a 33 percent stake in oil exploration interests off the shore of Lake Albert in Uganda last year, they have become fewer.

China's resources ODI investments increased just 7.7 percent in the first nine months of last year to $23.7 billion, compared to $22 billion in the same period of 2012, according to A Capital, the China-based investment fund.

ODI investment in industry and services - many of the targets located in Europe and the United States -increased by 46 percent from $12.6 billion in the first three quarters of 2012 to $17.9 billion in the equivalent period of 2013.

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