Business / Economy

Europe 'switches over to Beijing time' due to Chinese bidders

(Agencies) Updated: 2016-02-26 07:22

A rush of Chinese acquisitions in December, and the prospect of more to come in 2016, has upended calendars, travel schedules and business priorities.

The upshot: Europe is increasingly working on China's time.

Now that some big deals are finally clinched, bankers are getting away for holiday vacations they usually take in December.

But beyond the Christmas Day conference calls and delayed trips to the Alps is a new reality: China has become the hot spot for global M&As, and the Western bankers who do not adapt will lose out.

Chinese buyers have announced plans to spend more than $75 billion on foreign companies already in 2016-an almost 10-fold increase from this time last year-putting them on track to break records for the third year in a row, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

That includes China National Chemical Corp's $43 billion agreement to take over Swiss pesticide maker Syngenta AG, the largest purchase ever by a Chinese company.

One banker working on that deal spent Christmas Eve on a three-hour conference call.

In what he said was his worst Christmas ever, he had to scrap plans for a holiday on the slopes because he was buried in calls and meetings. The hard work paid off: the deal was announced on Feb 3, five days before Chinese Lunar New Year started.

US targets were not spared either.

An adviser working on Qingdao Haier Group's $5.4 billion acquisition of General Electric Co's home-appliances business worked through December in the freezing port city of Qingdao, Shandong province, to get the deal over the line before his Chinese clients took their New Year break. He finally went skiing with his family this month.

The people interviewed for this article spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the transactions.

Bankers for KKR & Co waited to send out marketing materials for the buyout firm's German silverware and coffee-machine maker WMF AG until this week, after the New Year holidays ended, so they could attract bidders in China, such as Haier, according to people close to the deal. A representative for Haier declined to comment.

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