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Inbound mergers, acquisitions poised for growth

By Jing Shuiyu | China Daily | Updated: 2019-04-09 10:14
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A clerk counts yuan bank notes and US dollar bills at a branch of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China in Huaibei, East China's Anhui province. [Photo/IC]

Inbound mergers and acquisitions in China could potentially reach $1.5 trillion over a 10-year period from 2020 to 2029, a recent report said.

The estimated figure would more than triple the total amount between 2009 and 2018, according to the report released by global law firm Linklaters.

Charles Jacobs, Linklaters' global senior partner and chairman, said "internet-based" industries in China would hold the most opportunities for foreign investors, citing automotive, financial services, healthcare and education sectors as examples.

The continuing liberalization of inbound investment into China, the report said, can be seen in two major recent legal developments: the publication of a shorter negative list last year, and the new Foreign Investment Law which will take effect in January 2020.

The Foreign Investment Law stipulates that China will treat foreign and Chinese enterprises equally and better protect their intellectual property rights, while it bars forced technology transfers.

Jacobs said it is a "very good" move that the Chinese government has enacted the Foreign Investment Law. "If the rules can become clearer as to how inbound M&As work, China's M&A levels will go up even more," he said in a recent interview.

Jacobs predicted that smaller deals would happen at the moment, and companies may advance "big, transformational" deals after learning more about the new law.

The law firm's report came as foreign direct investment in China has been climbing. Data from the Ministry of Commerce showed foreign direct investment into the Chinese mainland expanded 5.5 percent year-on-year to reach 147.11 billion yuan ($21.69 billion) in the first two months of this year.

Sang Baichuan, a professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, said the growth of foreign investment into China is likely to remain stable, as the Foreign Investment Law will better protect the investors' interests and rights in the market.

China will continue to shorten the negative list in areas where foreign investment is restricted, according to the 2019 Government Work Report. "Such efforts would also help attract more global investors," Sang said.

Linklaters' report cited analyst commentary that inbound M&A into China hit a record high of $56 billion (23 percent higher than 2017) in 2018, with more than half of this relating to the financial and real estate sectors.

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