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Italian experts eye growing opportunities in Sino-EU relations

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-07-09 14:27

MILAN - Plenty of investment opportunities lie ahead and only wait to be seized in the Sino-European relations, Italian experts told Xinhua following Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's recent visit to Europe.

"Europe and China are complementary. We have many projects and cutting-edge technology, China has the concreteness and economic capacity to turn ideas into real things," Max Ferrari, President of the Lombardy-China Association and spokesman of Lombardy's infrastructure company, said.

During his stay in Europe, Li co-chaired the 17th China-European Union (EU) Leaders' Meeting in Brussels. There he met with leaders of the European Council (EU) and Belgium, and then visited France and the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Ferrari was confident about deepening implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by the Chinese government in 2013 to boost transport infrastructure building, investment and trade facilitation, financial cooperation and cultural exchanges between Asia and Europe, and even Africa.

In his view, Li's visit marked a new turning point in bilateral relations. "Not only goods, but also people, knowledge, projects and a new idea of a Europe-Asia continent will travel along this new Silk Road," he stressed.

Due to its strategic geographic position, Italy can play a key role in the Belt and Road Initiative. Ferrari said China's investment into Europe could help build a corridor to link Genoa port to Milan and Venice in northern Italy, or through Switzerland north to Rotterdam in the Netherlands, going by Duisburg in Germany which is linked by rail to southwest China's Chongqing Municipality.

"Lombardy's infrastructure company is very interested to build a synergy with Chinese banks in this regard," Ferrari told Xinhua.

There is great expectation for bilateral opportunities also in the agro-food, mechanical, green economy, real estate, culture and tourism sectors, he added.

Andrea Crespi Bel'skij, CEO at EF Finance & Investments and Executive Vice President at Prime Acquisition Corp, said the international market situation is particularly favorable to merger and acquisition (M&A) activity or setting up of joint ventures to explore new markets and technologies.

Crespi Bel'skij told Xinhua he sees two main areas of cooperation. "Italy has always had a competitive technological advantage in road and rail infrastructure, especially with heavy traffic and limited space. A fast-growing economy can benefit from this ability," he said.

Secondly, Chinese investors can diversify investment. "Most of state-owned infrastructure activities in Italy will become public in the next months, representing a good opportunity to enter a mature sector but with strongly steady and predictable cash flows, " Crespi Bel'skij pointed out.

He underlined low interest rate in Europe eases acquisition of companies by international investors, while economic recovery in Europe makes M&A more profitable in the short term.

In his view, China's advantages in production capacity match with Europe's advanced technologies in a win-win situation. Cooperation in green energy, he added, is an important opportunity, particularly for financing plants in higher energy user countries in Eastern Europe and Turkey or in the inner part of China.

Other good sectors are healthcare and treatment of aged people.

"Europe has already faced population ageing, an issue China will deal with soon. Moreover, retirement houses are an important asset class Northern European investor have started looking at," Crespi Bel'skij noted.

Last but not least, he said, China has a large rising middle class which has few financial instruments to rely on for investment and savings, while Europe has a long tradition in this sector. "The creation of financial products distributed by Chinese banks and insurance companies is in my opinion an interesting opportunity for China," Crespi Bel'skij told Xinhua.

In his view, the most urgent need in Sino-European relations is the subscription of a bilateral pact and the creation of an appropriate legal framework to facilitate Chinese acquisitions in Europe.

As the Greek financial crisis is showing, Crespi Bel'skij noted, huge supranational financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) could be less efficient in dealing with non conventional issues in regional areas. "International bilateral agreements and cooperation are more cost-effective and can create benefits for local communities as well as for investor States," he concluded.

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