Mergers and acquisitions involving Chinese companies have surged in the first half of the year over the same period in 2009, led by growth in Chinese acquisitions abroad, according to a report issued Monday by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Such outbound M&A grew by 50 percent in the first six months of 2010, PwC reported, with 99 deals announced. Seven of these were worth more than $1 billion.
As in recent years, the main focus of Chinese outbound investment was in the natural resources area. China's state-owned enterprises have been on a multiyear buying spree of oilfields and metal deposits aimed at feeding the country's continuing economic development. China's biggest acquisition abroad in the first six months was the $4.7 billion acquisition by China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., more commonly known as Sinopec, of ConocoPhillips' 9 percent stake in Syncrude, an oil-sands project in Canada.
PwC says other industries are starting to attract Chinese attention, including technology, manufacturing and services. But Peter Huang, an M&Apartner in the Beijing office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, says Chinese SOEs are being no less strategic in those areas.
"They are mainly looking for technology and intellectual property rights to take their manufacturing processes to the next level," says Huang.
But Western companies know what's going on, he says. They either demand exorbitant prices for IP or refuse to sell, perhaps fearful of regulatory hurdles. Huang noted the recent travails of Chinese networking company Huawei Technologies Co., whose bids for two U.S. companies were reportedly rejected despite being higher because the seller feared the deal would not win U.S. government approval.
But Huang said that Chinese companies' focus on strategic assets, either resources or IP, was unlikely to change anytime soon.
Chinese domestic M&A also shot up 26 percent in the first half of the year. Foreign firms generally do not participate on purely domestic deals in China, but Huang said Chinese industries were still very fragmented and the activity level no doubt reflected a reasonable amount of consolidation.This article first appeared on The Am Law Daily blog on AmericanLawyer.com.