Business / View

China still on lookout for foreign prospects

By Mike Bastin (China Daily) Updated: 2015-02-03 07:58

The new year has barely begun but already the international business news is once again dominated by Chinese companies' overseas investment and expansion plans.

Just a few days ago came word that Chinese textiles group Ningbo Shantex Co Ltd may make a takeover bid for United Kingdom-based apparel chain Phase Eight. Shantex, which manufactures and exports textile accessories, is already in preliminary talks with Towerbrook, a private equity company that bought Phase Eight in 2011.

Phase Eight was founded in 1979 by Patsy Seddon in London to offer fashionable clothing to sophisticated young suburban mothers.

It designs its clothes in-house. The company has 108 stores and 196 concessions in the UK and 62 more internationally, including in Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Singapore, Australia and the United Arab Emirates.

Documents lodged with Companies House in London last year show Phase Eight posted an operating profit of 18.6 million pounds ($21.2 million) in the year to Feb 1, 2014, up marginally on the 2013 result.

If Shantex takes over Phase Eight, it would represent its first acquisition of a major overseas retail business, reflecting an increasing trend for Chinese companies from all industrial sectors to pursue offshore takeovers.

Just this month, Dalian Wanda Group Co Ltd, a property-based conglomerate, announced it would take a 20 percent stake in Spanish football team Athletico Madrid for $52 million.

Wanda also recently signed an agreement for a construction project in London that will cost $625.6 million.

Chinese companies announced 79 takeover deals in Europe in 2014.

The media have focused on the implications of such moves for foreign companies and markets, but little attention has been paid to the fusion of different business cultures and the benefits this will bring to Chinese industry.

The benefits of foreign investment have been well documented, especially the "multiplier effect" of foreign capital on economic growth in the earlier phases of China's opening-up.

But what we may see in coming years is a "reverse multiplier effect", where fast-rising Chinese overseas investment and expansion result in a large injection of international business cultures and styles. That can only expedite the much-needed business modernization process in China.

Such a "reverse multiplier effect" will help ensure a soft landing for the economy as well as a sustainable economic path.

The author is a visiting professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing and a senior lecturer on marketing at Southampton Solent University's School of Business. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.


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