Business / Companies

SOE reform to open door to foreign capital

By LAN LAN (China Daily) Updated: 2015-07-29 14:10

SOE reform to open door to foreign capital

Chinese and foreign consumers buy fruit at an Easyjoy convenient store in Beijing. Owned by Sinopec Group, Easyjoy stores are part of the State-owned enterprise's mixed-ownership reform. [Photo/China Daily]

Mixed ownership will provide an opportunity for overseas enterprises to enter key industries blocked to private investors

China has been pressing ahead with plans to expand mixed ownership of State-owned enterprises to boost economic efficiency. This is expected to produce unprecedented opportunities for foreign companies.

Last year, the government identified two SOEs to implement a pilot ownership reform: China National Building Material Group and China National Pharmaceutical Group Corp.

In the long run, roughly 50 percent of China's SOEs could be opened for mixed ownership, according to Zhou Fangsheng, deputy director of the China Enterprise Reform and Development Society, a body under the State Council's State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.

Mixed ownership would mean that large SOEs, which have traditionally held monopolies in many strategic industries, could form joint ventures using non-State capital.

Zhou said sources of non-State capital include domestic private investors, foreign investors, and SOE employees. He added that SOEs at both central and local levels offer opportunities for foreign investors.

The commission covers 113 non-financial central SOEs and 98,554 local government-owned companies. Central enterprises controlled about 53 percent of all SOE assets by the end of last year, totalling 91 trillion yuan ($14.63 trillion), according to the Ministry of Finance.

Mixed ownership would provide an opportunity for foreign enterprises to enter some industries blocked to private investors, Zhou said.

"It's possible that foreign capital could become the largest shareholder of an SOE through the mixed-ownership reform, but don't expect it to become a majority shareholder," he said. "Allowing State capital, non-State capital and employees to each hold one-third of the shares is a suitable proportion for the next step in mixed-ownership reform."

Some monopolized industries such as the electricity sector and railways, or companies closely related to security such as producers of military goods, are not suitable for mixed-ownership reform, he said. The planned reform, which was still being finalized, was likely to identify the industries that would qualify. "The degree of openness for domestic private capital will be higher than foreign capital," Zhou added.

The Third Plenum of the Communist Party of China's 18th Central Committee in November 2013 set the agenda for a new round of SOE reform, and the concept of mixed ownership was strongly endorsed.

In March, Premier Li Keqiang also listed the promotion of mixed ownership as one of the seven tasks to accelerate SOE reform in his annual Government Work Report.

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