Source: Global Times Published: 2017-1-13
Chinese enterprises with global ambitions scrambled to purchase overseas businesses and assets last year, as momentum in the domestic real economy continued to be sluggish.
Latest figures in a report issued Thursday by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) show that overseas mergers and acquisitions (M&A) by Chinese enterprises surged by 246 percent in 2016.
The year of 2016 saw record levels of activity for China mergers and acquisitions, in terms of both the number of transactions and value. The growth in the number of transactions was largely driven by financial buyer activity and a jump in outbound M&A, said the report.
In value terms, China`s outbound M&A grew by an astounding 246 percent - nearly 3.5 times the number of 2015. There were 51 outbound transactions valued at over $1 billion - more than double the previous record.
The trend highlights a transformation in the country`s development model from export-driven to investment-driven, Dong Dengxin, director of the Finance and Securities Institute at Wuhan University of Science and Technology, told the Global Times.
One of the reasons behind the surging numbers of outbound M&A deals is the absence of domestic projects with a great potential for growth, experts said.
"China`s real economy was plagued by overcapacity in almost every sector in 2016, showing signs of an investment opportunity crunch. Yet on the other side, there is an oversupply of domestic capital," Dong said.
In 2016, China`s overheating property market might have been a good investment option, but it also raised concerns over asset bubbles, Dong noted.
According to the PwC report, in terms of deal value by industry sectors in the domestic market, M&A in real estate grew strongly to reach new highs. This helped offset declines in technology and financial services, which both came off strong peaks in 2015.
Considering the markup in labor and resource costs, "China is losing its advantage in traditional manufacturing even to advanced economies, which not only boast a mature infrastructure base but also sometimes offer cheap raw materials," Dong said.
The desire for technology, mature markets as well as world-recognized brands has also weighed heavily on domestic companies` strategy of acquiring foreign firms, Li Junjie, deputy director of the Institute of International Acquisition and Investment at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times.
The PwC report concluded that China`s overseas M&A in 2017 will track 2016 closely, with perhaps a small decline. Experts, however, forecast that the outbound M&A cases will experience a "drastic decline" in 2017, as the Chinese government has tightened controls over capital outflows and speculative overseas purchases.
Expanding foreign trade
The trade volume between China and countries along the route involved in the One Belt and One Road initiative reached $848.9 billion in the first 11 months of 2016, comprised of $523.4 billion in exports and $325.5 billion in imports. This accounts for 25.7 percent of China`s total foreign trade in that period.
China`s direct investment in Belt and Road countries reached $13.4 billion during the first 11 months of last year, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said Thursday.
The accumulative investment in countries along the route by Chinese enterprises has been more than $18 billion, creating more than $1 billion in tax revenues and more than 160,000 jobs for those countries, said NDRC spokesperson Zhao Chenxin at a news briefing on Thursday.
In turn, the countries along the Belt and Road established 2,472 companies in China, up 27.3 percent year-on-year.
The Belt and Road initiative featuring trade and infrastructure can steer the sluggish economy out of crisis and boost the real economy, considering that global trade grew on average twice as fast as world economic growth in the 1990s, while the trade growth at present can barely keep pace with economic growth, said Wang Yiwei, senior fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at the Renmin University of China.