Companies in both China and Japan are on a collision course as they both aggressively shop for and compete to buy foreign assets as a way to sidestep their slowing economies.
In 2016, Chinese companies have spent $65 billion on deals, a record for so early in the year, led by ChemChina’s $43 billion purchase of Switzerland’s GMO-seed maker Syngenta.
Meanwhile, Japanese firms, which have an estimated $3 trillion in cash, according to Sanford C. Bernstein, have $3.5 billion on the table, including Asahi Group Holdings’ bid for the Peroni and Grolsch beer brands.
A big difference between the two sets of buyers is that Chinese firms are not always focused on earning the biggest profit. These companies are normally state-linked, and work to achieve Beijing’s industrial policy objectives. Thus, you see a lot more Chinese companies focusing on energy and food resources. However, more Chinese companies are trying to move away from low-end manufacturing and aiming at more advanced technology and high-value manufacturing segments such as high-speed railways. As this trend continues they will come into more conflict with Japan.
Japanese companies, on the other hand, are focused on profits. Many are private companies looking to expand their geographical footprint and offset deflation, flat growth and a shrinking population at home.
“As the pace of economic growth slows, more Chinese companies are set to look outside. That could lead to Chinese and Japanese companies competing for similar assets,” Keith Pogson, EY senior partner for Financial Services, Asia-Pacific told Reuters.
On Tuesday, Reuters reported that Canada’s Bank of Nova Scotia approached a unit of Bank of China and Japanese lenders, among others, to gauge interest in its 49% stake in Thai lender Thanachart, valued at $1.7 billion.
Last year Asian M&A touched a record $1.5 trillion, with Chinese and Japanese companies announcing $113 billion and $90 billion worth of deals, respectively.