Euro debt crisis 'creates opportunities'
Updated: 2012-02-09 07:55
By Ding Qingfen and Li Jiabao (China Daily)
BEIJING - More cash-rich Chinese manufacturers will surge into debt-stricken European nations as the spreading economic and financial crisis creates buying opportunities, said officials from the Ministry of Commerce.
"Chinese companies see attractive opportunities to buy assets in Europe because of the debt problems that have led to an economic slowdown and high unemployment," said Sun Yongfu, head of the ministry's department of European affairs.
Sun spoke on Wednesday at the 2012 Diplomats Economic Forum, which had the theme "the global economic situation and Chinese enterprises' globalization".
Companies "from the manufacturing sector that enjoy industrial competitiveness" will lead the coming acquisition wave, Sun said.
Figures from the ministry show that in 2011, China's investment in the European Union surged 94.1 percent to $4.28 billion, compared with 1.8 percent growth in the nation's total outbound direct investment (ODI).
Sun said he was very optimistic about growth in 2012. "We have seen a good start. Probably it (growth) will be strong," Sun said.
Europe could be a driving force for China's ODI growth this year, he added.
The most recent major deal in Europe was initiated by the Chinese construction equipment maker Sany Heavy Industry Co Ltd, which announced it would pay 324 million euros ($426 million) to buy 90 percent of Putzmeister, Germany's largest concrete pump maker.
With the nation having become a leading world manufacturer, many Chinese industries - including machinery and vehicles - have achieved global competitiveness, and it is an opportune time for them to venture into Europe, where many companies are starved for money, Sun said.
During the past year, as the European debt crisis escalated, there have been many high-level calls from the continent, including France and Germany, welcoming Chinese investment.
During a visit to China last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "Germany is a country that is open to all. We warmly welcome investment from China."
Premier Wen Jiabao said during Merkel's visit that China would consider how to get "more deeply involved" in resolving Europe's debt crisis.
"European nations now welcome Chinese investment and they are usually relaxed about transferring technology to Chinese companies. The general picture is comparatively favorable," Sun said.
The EU is China's largest trading partner and largest export market. The region is also a major source of high-technology transfers to Chinese companies.
Mei Xinyu, a senior researcher at the Ministry of Commerce's Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said: "We could see the debt crisis as (providing favorable) buying opportunities."
"European nations used to impose restrictions on Chinese investors, but they changed their stance and began to reach out during the past two years," he said.
Wealth funds have joined the wave of investment. China Investment Corp, the country's main sovereign wealth fund, said late last year that it planned to invest in obsolete infrastructure in the United Kingdom through partnerships.
The China-EU Summit is scheduled to be held next week, and high-level officials will discuss many topics, including how to strengthen bilateral investment.
During his meeting with Merkel last week, Wen said China expected all sorts of its companies could invest more in Germany. But Wen emphasized this didn't mean that China wanted to "buy Europe".
"The global economic gloom will push up Chinese investment abroad through mergers and acquisitions," said Sun.
By the end of 2011, China's cumulative ODI had reached $322 billion, and 70 percent of that sum had gone to the Asia-Pacific region.
China surpassed the United Kingdom and Japan as the fifth-largest investing nation worldwide in 2010.
"The growth momentum is robust, but China's ODI is still at a fledgling stage," said Sun.
"Chinese companies don't lack money, but they are eager to enhance their brands, improve their technology and expand their sales networks."