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Global Expansion Continues
Cover Stories Series 2013> Global Expansion Continues
UPDATED: September 16, 2013 NO. 38 SEPTEMBER 19, 2013
Going Global? Not So Easy
Great opportunities and simmering risks co-exist amid an overseas foray by Chinese companies
By Zhou Xiaoyan

CHASING OPPORTUNITIES: Domestic and foreign visitors attend the 17th China International Fair for Investment and Trade in Xiamen, southeast China's Fujian Province, on September 8. The three-day annual event is the country's largest investment fair (ZHANG AIJUN)

As the world tries to recover from the financial crisis, China has once again astonished everyone with its exorbitant and frequent overseas buying.

Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd., China's largest meat producer, offered to buy U.S. pork giant Smithfield Foods Inc. The deal was given the go-ahead from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. If completed, the deal worth $7.1 billion will be the largest acquisition of an American firm by a Chinese company.

Numerous Chinese firms made a name globally by acquiring their more renowned foreign peers. Chinese IT firm Lenovo acquired IBM's PC division in 2005, bringing more brand recognition to Lenovo and an increased market share both at home and abroad. In 2010, Geely, a Chinese automaker based in east China's Zhejiang Province, bought a 100-percent share of the Sweden-based Volvo. Volvo's sales volume is expected to hit 800,000 units by 2015. This year, China National Offshore Oil Corp. Ltd. (CNOOC) acquired Canadian oil and gas company Nexen for $15.1 billion. CNOOC's oil and gas output is expected to increase by 20 percent and its proven reserves may grow by 30 percent after the Nexen purchase.

As more Chinese companies clamor to go global, the country has vaulted to become the world's third largest overseas investor in 2012, a significant jump from the sixth spot in 2011.

Nevertheless, Chinese Vice Premier Ma Kai said outward investment by Chinese companies is still in a nascent stage. Ma's remarks came in his keynote speech at the 17th China International Fair for Investment and Trade (CIFIT), which opened on September 8. The CIFIT has been held in Xiamen, a coastal city in southeast China's Fujian Province, annually since 1997.

"Chinese companies lack competitive experience when going global," said Ma.

Ma's viewpoint was echoed by experts and industry insiders who attended the CIFIT. The Chinese Government, they say, needs to make overseas investment easier and better understood to companies that wish to seek markets outside of China.

Branching out

Even though global foreign direct investment (FDI) contracted 17 percent in 2012, China still became the world's third largest investor, after the United States and Japan, according to a report jointly released by the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), the National Bureau of Statistics and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange at the 17th CIFIT. China's outward FDI rose 17.6 percent year on year in 2012 to a record high of $87.8 billion, while global FDI slid 17 percent last year amid uncertainties confronting the world economy, according to the 2012 Statistical Bulletin of China's Outward Foreign Direct Investment.

The trend hasn't stopped this year. In the first seven months of 2013, China's outward FDI in the non-financial sector totaled $50.55 billion, up 19.7 percent year on year. Chinese investors made direct investments in 3,275 foreign companies in 156 countries, according to the MOFCOM.

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