Increased caution in US, EU also a factor: experts
The drop in outbound mergers and acquisitions (M&As) by Chinese firms in 2017 was due partly to tightened regulations in China but also to an unfriendly attitude from overseas toward Chinese investors, and Chinese firms are likely to become more rational in 2018, experts told the Global Times on Sunday.
Outbound M&A transactions by Chinese companies decreased in terms of total value by 35 percent year-on-year to $141.92 billion in 2017, domestic news website 21jingji.com reported on Saturday, citing the latest data compiled by Reuters.
"The overall decrease in outbound M&A deals was mainly due to tightened foreign exchange controls in China, in addition to restrictions in certain industries such as real estate, the sports industry, and media and entertainment," Li Junjie, deputy director of the International M&A Research Institute of the Renmin University of China and a law partner with Beijing Zhonglun Law Firm, told the Global Times on Sunday.
The result was that China's overseas M&A investment value in the media and entertainment industry slumped from $20.41 billion in 2016 to $3.41 billion in 2017.
The data also indicated a change of destination for overseas M&A deals, with transactions in the US and Europe falling, while deals in the Asia-Pacific region increased, especially in countries along the route of the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative.
"The increasingly cautious attitude among firms in the U.S. and European countries toward M&A activities by Chinese companies is an important reason for the decreasing deals in those regions," said Dong Dengxin, director of the Finance and Securities Institute at Wuhan University of Science and Technology.
Dong also said China has been tightening its policy on overseas activities by domestic firms, especially with regard to illegal capital flows into the US and Europe, while preferential government policies in countries along the route of the B&R have driven up M&A activities there.
At the end of 2017, the National Development and Reform Commission announced a policy aimed at curbing risks from overseas M&A activities by Chinese firms. The policy will become effective from March 1 in 2018.
In recent years, some Chinese companies conducted M&A activities overseas for the purpose of illegally transferring assets overseas or for money laundering, Dong noted.
"It is hard to predict the future, but what I can say is that the abnormal increase of domestic companies' M&A activities in foreign countries has come to an end. Firms will be more reasonable when considering overseas deals in 2018, under the guidance of the government's policy," Dong said.