Engineering equipment by Sany Heavy Industry Co Ltd on display in Beijing. CFP
The government will send an investment and procurement delegation to Europe during the first half of this year, an official with the Ministry of Commerce said. The move follows a similar mission to four European Union nations in February.
"We are actively preparing for a second purchasing and investment delegation to Europe," said Wu Xilin, an official in charge of the ministry's outward investment department. The exact date has not been decided yet, but the team will leave before June, Wu said at a press briefing yesterday.
The government supports overseas investment by Chinese enterprises. "China's outward investment carries a lot of significance amid the financial crisis," Wu said. "It is good for the stability of our foreign trade and industry structure."
The countries that the delegation would visit have still not been decided, Wu said. But "France is not ruled out", he said in response to a question about whether the team would visit France, as it was not included in the previous trip.
Experts agreed that this was right time for Chinese firms to eye global investment opportunities as overseas assets are getting cheaper due the economic downturn.
"There are more opportunities for overseas mergers and acquisitions, and the investment cost is getting lower," Wu said. In addition, the less impacted emerging markets would invest more on infrastructure construction, and there were more opportunities for contract projects in these countries, Wu pointed out.
He, however, warned that overseas investments could be risky.
"The strength of Chinese enterprises, overall, is quite weak at this stage. They still lack the capital, market channel, and management necessary for international operation," he said.
"Many of the advanced sectors in developed countries are facing cash flow problems now," said Xing Houyuan, a senior researcher on outbound investment with the commerce ministry. "This is good news for Chinese firms that are keen to improve their own technologies," she said.
In addition, many firms from developed countries have either cut or cancelled their investments in developing countries, and Chinese firms could utilize this opportunity and fill the gap, said Xing.
To profit from such opportunities, the government has organized several such trips overseas. The commerce ministry sent a delegation to Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Britain in February. The trade mission, led by commerce minister Chen Deming, signed deals worth more than $13 billion.
A business team is currently in the United States, where it has signed trade and investment contracts worth $10.6 billion, according to a report in the Xinhua news agency.
China's overseas investment has been increasing rapidly in recent years. In 2008, the country's outbound investment in the non-financial sector soared by 63.5 percent to $40.65 billion. The contract value of projects in other countries and regions went up by 39.4 percent to $56.6 billion.
During the first quarter of this year, China set up 445 enterprises overseas, up 6.8 percent year-on-year.
The Ministry of Commerce earlier this month released guidelines for overseas investment and cooperation with 20 countries. The country-by-country guidelines provide basic information on setting up an overseas enterprise.
Liang Guining, a researcher with the ministry who specializes in investing in Africa, said many developing countries are not transparent in decision making and do not have proper laws and regulations to protect foreign investors.