Chinese investment in Europe
Streaks of red
Capital and companies from China are sidling into Europe
Jun 30th 2011 | from the print edition
A RIDE in a London taxi from Canary Wharf, a financial district, to the Bank of England sounds like an inimitably British experience. It is also a Chinese one.
London’s black cabs are made by Manganese Bronze, which is part-owned by Geely, a Shanghai-based carmaker that also owns Volvo, a Swedish company. China Investment Corporation (CIC), a sovereign-wealth fund, has the third-largest stake in Songbird Estates, which controls Canary Wharf Group, the property firm behind the towers that dominate the city’s eastern skyline. CIC may soon become an investor in the Citigroup building, another landmark skyscraper, which is for sale.
伦敦的黑色出租车都是由Manganese Bronze生产的，一家位于上海的汽车制造商吉利部分拥有该公司，吉利同时也拥有一家瑞典公司沃尔沃。一家主权财富基金中投是Songbird Estates的第三大股东，Songbird Estates控制着Canary Wharf Group，那家位于可以俯瞰整个城东的高楼后面的房地产公司。中投不久可能成为花旗大厦的投资者，这是待售的另一处地标式的摩天大楼。
The Bank of England is not yet Chinese-owned but it is increasingly encircled by Chinese banks, which have bought or leased about 300,000 square feet (28,000 square metres) of office space since the financial crisis. Bank of China, which has been in London since 1929, has recently moved into plush new headquarters that overlook the central bank. Down the road, in King William Street, the builders are at work inside the future home of ICBC, another state-owned giant.
Such visible signs of Chinese encroachment will feed the worries of many Europeans. A poll conducted for the BBC World Service in March found rising concern about the eastward shift in economic power: a majority of Germans, Italians and French people view China’s rise negatively (see chart 1). Americans and Canadians feel similarly. These proportions have gone up since a similar survey in 2005.
Europe’s political elites have fewer qualms. A buyers’ strike in sovereign-debt markets has left several struggling euro-zone countries wondering whether China might be the answer to their prayers. On a red-carpeted tour of European capitals this week, Wen Jiabao, China’s prime minister, said that the country would continue to purchase euro-denominated government bonds. Delegations have shuttled back and forth between Beijing and Athens, Lisbon and Madrid to pledge eternal friendship and see whether the Chinese might be tempted to put some money their way
White knights wanted
It is not just governments that are desperate for Chinese capital. Saab, a struggling Swedish carmaker, is trying to sell stakes to two Chinese firms to secure its future. Victor Meijers, a Dutchman who is the only foreign global partner in DeHeng Law Offices, one of China’s big law firms, says that he gets several inquiries a month from struggling European firms looking for a Chinese white knight.
In truth, China is neither Europe’s saviour nor its destroyer. But Europe is likely to feel the force of China’s outward expansion earlier than America. Europe may be seen as a geopolitical irrelevance but the Chinese feel more welcome there than in America, where a Chinese oil firm was prevented from buying Unocal in 2005—an event that still colours perceptions. European firms arguably have a greater need for cash than American ones. And China’s huge holdings of Treasuries give it an incentive to diversify into other markets.
In analysing China’s economic forays into Europe, it helps to divide them into three categories (even if some of these distinctions are fuzzier in China than elsewhere). First, there are financial investments by the state, through bodies such as CIC and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), which looks after the country’s vast foreign reserves. Second, there is private investment by wealthy individuals and, gradually, private-equity firms. Third, there is the advance of corporate China.
Start with the official flows. The data on what China invests in are sketchy but two things at least are clear: China has a stated desire to diversify away from dollar assets and the euro zone is the natural alternative. Simon Derrick, a currency analyst at BNY Mellon, an American bank, reckons that around a quarter of China’s $3 trillion-plus of reserves are now in euro-denominated assets. Given the recent pace of accumulation—around $200 billion a quarter—that would suggest that $150 billion-200 billion of Chinese reserves have found their way to the euro zone since last summer. (Another few billion will have gone into sterling-denominated assets.)
Inflows on that scale would help to explain why the euro has continued to do better than many expected given the zone’s sovereign-debt crisis. But they may also signal weakness to come. China’s desire to slow the rate at which it builds reserves may slacken demand for euro-denominated assets. “That could mean radically different values for the euro,” says Mr Derrick.
How much official Chinese money has found its way into peripheral euro-zone countries is a matter of guesswork. Stephen Jen of SLJ Macro Partners, a hedge fund, thinks that the Chinese may have been buying as much sovereign debt from struggling states as the European Central Bank (ECB) has. Their motives may be partly political: Mr Jen tartly observes that the Europeans have had nothing to say on the value of the yuan recently. But there is commercial logic, too: Spanish bonds, say, promise a nice return if you think the debt crisis will go no further.
有多少中国官方货币已经进入欧元区边缘国家是个谜。对冲基金SLJ Macro Partners的Stephen Jen认为中国已经从那些经营不善的国家购买了和欧洲中央银行所购买一样多的主权债务。他们的动机可能部分是政治方面的：Mr Jen敏锐得注意到欧洲人最近没对人民币的价值作什么评论了。但这里面也有商业的逻辑：如果你认为债务危机不会继续恶化，西班牙债券将会有一个很好的回报。
There is a limit to the largesse. Exuberant Spanish announcements that the Chinese were about to pump money into the country’s troubled savings banks were quickly slapped down. Hopes for a flood of Chinese capital into Greece have not yet materialised. The most prominent deal is a concession for COSCO Pacific, a state-owned shipping and ports giant, to run a terminal at the port of Piraeus and perhaps to build another. But far from being an opportunistic asset grab, it was arranged in 2007 at boom-time prices. In government-bond markets, China’s support for wobblier states may well dwindle as 2013 gets nearer: then a new euro-zone sovereign-debt fund will be able to promote the claims of European governments on some countries above those of other creditors.
Although China’s foreign-exchange reserves have largely gone into government and quasi-government debt, not all of them have. An analysis by The Economist of SAFE’s holdings of FTSE 100 companies shows that it holds stakes worth around £11.6 billion ($18.6 billion), sprinkled across two-thirds of the index. That translates to a little under 1% of the total value of the index, with energy, non-cyclical consumer stocks and basic materials to the fore (see chart 2). The Chinese are far less visible in other European markets, although they may be buying shares via third parties.
CIC transit gloria
Officials want to diversify further into real assets, including companies. CIC will reportedly be handed another $100 billion-200 billion of reserves to invest, for example, and some of that money will find its way to Europe. But the pace is likely to be measured. Investments by the state can be politically sensitive. Many of CIC’s bets are made via third-party managers. Where it does hold direct stakes, it has so far shown little inclination to interfere in the running of companies.
CIC’s approach to property investment, for instance, has been to ally itself with experienced partners, through Canary Wharf Group, on long-term projects in the continent’s most developed market. Via the group the Chinese also have an interest in an office development in London known as the Walkie-Talkie, which will not open until 2014 and will then need time to be let. Other sovereign-wealth funds might talk about a three-to-five-year play, says a property consultant, but “CIC wouldn’t tell you [their timetable] and if they did, the answer would be that they’ll hold it for ever.”
中投对房地产的投资方法就是和有经验的合伙人结成联盟，例如，通过Canary Wharf Group投资在欧洲大陆最发达市场的一些长期项目上。借助这些集团，中国人也有收益在伦敦的官方发展项目上，像Walkie-Talkie，它将在2014年开放，到时也需要时间租出去。一个房地产咨询师说，其他的主权财富基金可能讨论一个三到五年的游戏，但中投不会告诉你他们的时间表，如果他们确实那么做了，那答案将会是他们将永远持有。
For its partners CIC’s attractions are obvious. As well as that big pot of money, it may bring in the Chinese occupiers of tomorrow. Property consultants already report rising numbers of inquiries from Chinese companies about office space. Insiders think CIC will eventually invest in accommodation for students, which may be filled by Chinese youngsters attending British universities.
If the flow of state capital to Europe is relatively advanced, the arrival of private mainland capital is a younger phenomenon. A recent survey by Bain & Company, a consultancy, and China Merchants Bank estimated that the investible wealth of Chinese individuals was 62 trillion yuan ($9.6 trillion) and that the number of people with investible assets worth more than 10m yuan would come close to 600,000 this year. They are increasingly ready to put some of their money abroad. According to Johnson Chng of Bain, rich Chinese have doubled the proportion of their portfolios invested abroad from 10% in 2009 to 20% this year.
如果流入欧洲的国家资金是相对超前，内地私人资金的到来则是一个新的现象。咨询公司Bain & Company &Company和中国商业银行的一个调查估计中国个人可投资的财富是62万亿元（9.6万亿美元），今年拥有可投资资产价值超过1千万元的人数将接近60万。他们渐渐准备好放一些钱在国外了。根据Bain & Company的Johnson Chng，富裕的中国人已经把投资组合中国外投资的比例从09年的10%增加两倍到今年的20%。
Most of that goes to Hong Kong and Singapore, but some of it finds its way to Europe. Exchange controls exist but with so much liquidity sloshing around China at the moment, approval has become easier to get. Property, the asset of choice for Chinese investors, is again the focus and London is again the prime target in Europe, thanks to the weakness of sterling, a friendly tax regime and, often, plans to give children a British education.
The mainland Chinese are the fastest-growing group among foreign buyers of the dearest new property in central London, says James Thomas of Jones Lang LaSalle, a property consultancy. Roadshows to promote developments in London that would previously have stopped at Hong Kong and Singapore are now taking in the mainland, with Chinese banks and Western law firms joining in to offer prospective buyers tips on financing and tax.
Some are after commercial investments. Siqi Zhang, who runs the London arm of Celestial Globe, a small property consultancy aimed at mainland buyers, reports lots of interest in restaurants, hotels and bars that can throw off cash as part of an investment portfolio
一些人在追求商业投资，Siqi Zhang 负责一家以大陆买家为目标客户的小型房地产公司Celestial Globe的伦敦分部，他声称很多人对投资饭店、酒店和酒吧感兴趣，他们作为投资组合中一部分可以轻松产出现金。
The flow of private capital is not just driven by individual wealth, however. Perhaps the most sensitive area of China’s march is in the corporate arena, as Chinese firms and their financiers look abroad.
The importance of developed Western economies in this process should not be exaggerated. China has largely concentrated to date on Asian, African and Latin American investments that secure energy supplies and natural resources. Europe is a market where Chinese goods end up, not where they are put together. That said, the biggest Chinese deal announced in Europe this year has been the $2.2 billion purchase by China National Chemical Corporation of Elkem, a Norwegian manufacturer of polysilicon, which is a key component of solar panels. And Iceland, handily close to the oil-rich Arctic, is said to be surprisingly popular with visitors from China. But the data on China’s outbound foreign direct investment show that Europe accounts for a mere 3.5% of the country’s stock of such assets (see chart 3). Single deals can still make a big difference to the numbers.
Follow the money, if you can
hen again, the data do not tell the whole story. Money from the mainland and from Hong Kong is often intermingled. It does not cost a lot to open representative offices, which can then quickly be expanded. The numbers can also hide the extent of Chinese influence. Geely owns only 20% of Manganese Bronze, but it has the larger stake in a joint venture between the two that produces the taxi for international markets, it is the British firm’s chief creditor and it is the linchpin of Manganese’s strategic plans.
又一次，数据没能讲清楚事件的来龙去脉。来自大陆和来自香港的钱常常混合在一起。不用什么大成本就可以开设办事处，而后可以快速的扩展。那些数字隐藏了中国的影响程度。吉利仅拥有Manganese Bronze 20%的股权，但是它在为国际市场生产出租车两家成立的合资公司中却占有更大的股份，它是英国公司主要的债权人，而且是Manganese战略计划的关键。
Walid Sarkis of Bain Capital, a private-equity firm, says that the tilting of economic power eastward is in any case naturally turning European firms into Chinese and Asian ones. Revenues and growth increasingly depend on these parts of the world. Managers of portfolio companies are thinking about moving headquarters east and listing in places like Hong Kong. “The process of rebasing is happening really fast,” says Mr Sarkis.
私人直接投资公司贝恩资本的Walid Sarkis说在任何情况下，经济力量向东倾斜自然而然地会将欧洲公司变成了中国和亚洲的公司。收入和增长越来越依靠世界的这些部分。证券公司的管理者正在考虑将公司总部东移和在类似香港的地方上市。Mr Sarkis说“总部迁移正在相当快速的发生”。
The trend of growing outbound Chinese investment is unmistakable. Christian Milelli of the University of Paris West, who has helped compile a database of Chinese investment flows to Europe, says that deals have continued unabated despite the financial crisis, whereas those of Indian companies have contracted.
长中国对外投资增长的趋势是显而易见的。Paris West大学的Christian Milelli曾经帮助编制一个有关中国投资流向欧洲的数据库，她说尽管金融危机存在，交易还在没受影响继续进行，而许多印度公司已经紧缩。
Behind the scenes, there is an awful lot of activity. Investment bankers routinely propose deals to Chinese firms (if only to scare other bidders into life); five years ago they would not have. “There is a huge amount of looking going on by Chinese companies,” says Simon Wilde of Macquarie Capital’s European power and utilities practice. It is not all about acquisitions: talks are apparently under way for Chinese firms to run big power and infrastructure projects in eastern Europe.
Much of this prospecting can be hard to spot since it is often conducted through individual fixers with knowledge of the West and good connections in China. Mr Wen’s visit this week was in full view of the cameras but when deals are made, there is often little fanfare. “It’s different to the Americans, where the chief executive will fly in to take a picture with the local bishop,” says an Irish executive.
Investments happen for all sorts of reasons. Chinese banks want to offer services to Chinese companies as they expand internationally, for instance, and to European firms seeking a bank to work with in China. They also have lots to learn in a place like London about foreign-exchange trading and derivatives, especially as the yuan internationalises.
Expansion is frequently driven by the needs of the highly competitive Chinese market as much as the lure of the European one. “CIC and SAFE make financial investments based on returns on capital,” says Z.Z. Qiu, who is chairman of Barclays Capital for greater China. “Corporate deals are more strategic and about synergies.”
Technology and brands are the things that can make the biggest difference back home. Take Geely’s deals in Europe. The Volvo purchase gives it a premium brand to compete with Western carmakers in China at the same time as it aims its own brands at the mass market. Its tie-up with Manganese Bronze has yielded few hard financial benefits, says John Russell, Manganese’s boss, but lots of broader advantages such as access to engineering know-how and a brand with plenty of heritage.
技术和品牌能使企业在中国国内获利很大。以吉利在欧洲的交易为例，在把自己的品牌定位于大众市场的同时，对沃尔沃的收购使吉利公司有一个顶级的品牌在中国与其他西方的汽车商竞争。Manganese的老板John Russel说吉利同Manganese Bronze的联姻并不能产生什么实质的经济利益，但是有很多更加广泛的好处，比如说获得机械方面知识和一个有很多优秀传统的品牌。
It is a similar story with the purchase by Zoomlion, a Chinese manufacturer of construction equipment, of CIFA, an Italian rival, in 2008. “CIFA’s core European markets dived during the recession,” says Josh Lerner of Harvard Business School, who has written a case study on the deal. But CIFA has given Zoomlion access to better manufacturing technology and a premium brand to sell in China.
Germany has become a natural hunting-ground for industrial companies looking to move up the engineering value chain. Carmaking is again a focus. So is clean tech: Goldwind, a Chinese wind-turbine manufacturer, bought a German designer called Vensys in 2008 so it could develop bigger turbines for its domestic market. Not every European firm can assume it has technological allure, however. “I couldn’t sell BT [a British telecoms firm] to China,” says James Wang, a Chinese violinist-turned-dealmaker in London whose firm, Eli Capital, guided Geely’s transactions in Europe. “It’s too old-fashioned.”
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Deals can help to open up the Chinese market. In June 2010 Fosun, a Chinese conglomerate with pretensions to become a global investment giant, bought 7.1% (later raised to 9.3%) of Club Med, a French leisure company hoping to serve Chinese holidaymakers. Club Med’s first Chinese resort followed in December. In May Fosun also bought 9.5% of Folli Follie, a Greek retailer whose brands include Links of London and which thinks the deal will accelerate its expansion in China. CIFA’s partnership with Zoomlion has given it access to the Chinese firm’s distribution networks in Africa and the Middle East.
交易有助于打开中国市场。2010年6月份，中国复星集团，怀着成为全球投资巨头的抱负，购买了希望服务中国度假者的法国休闲公司Club Med （地中海俱乐部）7.1%的股份（后来增加到9.3%），12月份Club Med的第一家中国度假村随之在中国出现。5月份复星还收购了Folli Follie9.5%的股份，Folli Follie是希腊的一家零售公司，拥有Links of London的品牌，而且它认为这个交易有助于加速其在中国的扩张。CIFA同中联的联姻也使它得以进入中联在非洲和中东的分销网。
Transactions like these are opportunities not just for the companies involved but also for private equity. Fosun is acting, in effect, as a private-equity firm, and has set up investment ventures with both Carlyle and Prudential Financial. The Zoomlion-CIFA deal was 40% financed by a consortium of funds led by Hony Capital, a Chinese firm, and including Goldman Sachs. Mr Lerner reckons that within five to ten years Chinese private-equity firms will have joined the industry’s global elite.
诸如此类的交易不仅是相关公司的机遇，而且也是私人直接投资公司的机遇。事实上，复星现在充当的是一家私人直接投资公司，它同Carlyle和Prudential Financial建立风险投资公司。中联和CIFA交易40%都是由中国企业弘毅投资为主并包括（高盛）的财团所融资。Mr Lerner认为在5到10年内，中国的私人直接投资公司将进入该行业的全球精英行列中。
As well as providing financial firepower and a network for sourcing deals, private-equity firms can shroud the identity of publicity-shy investors. They are also well equipped to structure the fiddlier bits of deals and to guide the integration of partners from different cultures. Getting that sort of thing right is undoubtedly hard for Chinese firms with limited experience of international deals—witness the bafflement of one firm at foreigners’ habit of taking time off for holidays. Europeans, of course, have plenty of experience of cross-cultural deals. According to one Briton, the Chinese are no worse than the neighbours. “The French are way more difficult than the Chinese,” he says.