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City firms on foreign deal binge

THE value of overseas investment by Shanghai firms more than tripled in the first half of the year from a year ago to US$715 million, surpassing the amount for all of 2008, the Shanghai Commission of Commerce said yesterday.

And more is on the way. The commission said it expects outbound investment to exceed US$1 billion this year, compared with US$708 million last year.

"Despite the global financial crisis and worsening economic conditions, Shanghai's overseas investment achieved significant growth in the first six months," the commission said in a statement.

"Investors have exhibited rising enthusiasm after China lowered the threshold for overseas investment and streamlined its approval procedures," it said.

The Ministry of Commerce announced in March that China would make it easier for companies to invest overseas, deepening a strategy that encourages companies to achieve global reach.

Under a new rule effective on May 1, the approval process is simplified, allowing local-government control rather than requiring central government approval.

Li Maoyu, an analyst at Changjiang Securities Co, said conditions encouraging "bottom fishing" also helped boost overseas investment to record heights.

"It could be a major stimulant. The global financial crisis has produced many bargains, with deal prices much lower than their real value. Chinese investors are grabbing opportunities," Li said.

In the first half, Shanghai reported 95 overseas investments, up 25.5 percent from the same period of last year. About one-third of the transactions involved values exceeding US$10 million.

Among the deals, Shanghai-based Pengxin Group Co Ltd spent US$290 million to invest in copper mines in Africa, Shanghai Jinming Investment Group took over Singapore ceramic tiles maker ASA Ceramic Co Ltd, and Shanghai Gongzi Machinery Co Ltd bought the US-based S/R Industrial Ltd for US$1.4 million, a sharp discount to the original price of US$10 million.

"Given a stabilizing global economy and China's relatively loose fiscal and monetary policy, outbound investment will continue its expansion in the second half," Li said.

At the national level, China's outbound investment was also robust. In the first quarter, China established 445 companies in overseas markets, up 6.8 percent from a year earlier, Vice Commerce Minister Chen Jian said in a briefing in Beijing on Thursday.

Chen did not reveal details on the investment value but did say that the "going out" strategy has been implemented in a stable way.


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