The bid by China National Chemical, known as ChemChina, on Wednesday to pay $43 billion for Swiss pesticide maker Syngenta, would be the largest foreign takeover by a Chinese company, if approved.
But the Syngenta deal, is just one part of a record wave of foreign acquisitions in the first few weeks of 2016 as Chinese companies seek to make inroads in overseas markets amid China’s slowing economy.
Including the ChemChina deal, the combined value of China’s outbound mergers and acquisitions has reached about $68 billion so far this year, the strongest volume ever for this period and already more than half of 2015’s record annual tally, according to deal tracker Dealogic.
The biggest buyers are state-owned enterprises or companies run by China’s government, such as ChemChina. However, Chinese acquisitions of key western technologies are likely to face stiff scrutiny overseas, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The Committee on Foreign Investment, a US agency that screens corporate takeovers for security concerns recently nixed a deal by a Chinese investment fund to buy the lighting business of Royal Philips, which has manufacturing, research and development facilities in the US.
David Brown, transaction services leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers China and Hong Kong, told the WSJ that he predicts around 50% growth for outbound Chinese mergers and acquisitions every year, for the next several years.
A big reason for the large purchases is the falling yuan and the expectation that it will continue falling. Buyers want to buy now before a devalued currency makes the price of foreign assets even more costly.
After strengthening more than 30% over the past decade, the yuan has fallen 8% against the US dollar since the beginning of 2014 and analysts believe it could fall another 10% this year.
Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs), for one, are receiving strong backing for strategic foreign acquisitions from the central government.
“A lot of the [state-owned enterprises] are fairly cash-rich,” Ben Cavender, a Shanghai-based principal at China Market Research Group told WSJ. “One of the issues they’re running into is they’re out of room to grow in their home market.”
The government is likely to continue providing financial support for SOEs to buy foreign assets in areas such as technology, energy and infrastructure, Rocky Lee, a Beijing- and Hong Kong-based partner at law firm Cadwalader told WSJ.