While foreign investors are losing their taste for China, Chinese businesses are getting hungrier for overseas assets.
Foreign direct investment in China s economy came in at $59.1 billion in the first half of 2012, down 3% year-to-year. That reflects slower economic growth, which makes China a less attractive place to invest. A remissionin yuan appreciation, falling property prices, and dismalmainland equitymarkets have taken the shine off the China bet, too.
The story on China s outboundinvestment is the reverse. Overseas direct investment in the first half came in at $35.4 billion, up 48% year-to-year. That reflects a combination of abundant cash on the books of Chinese firms, and bargains to be had as foreign asset prices remain depressed.
It also reflects moves by Beijing to encourage Chinese firms to spend more of their foreign earnings on productiveassets, rather than hand the cash over to the central bank to park in ultralow-yieldinggovernment bonds. China s holdings of U.S. Treasurysfell $6.4 billion in the year to April, the latest month for which data is available.
There are no surprises on the top sectors for surging outbound investment. Oil and gas and mining top the list for China s outbound mergers and acquisitions, according to numbers from Dealogic. That reflects a voraciousappetite for energy and metals, where $9.4 billion in deals accounted for 45% of China s outbound M A in the first half.
But there are also signs that China s list of targets is starting to expand. Superior AviationBeijing s $1.8 billion bid for Hawker Beechcraft shows China s ambitions in aerospace, an area where it has previously relied on imports from the U.S. and Europe. China also spent $1.2 billion on outbound food-and-beverage deals—including Bright Food Group s acquisition of British cereal firm Weetabix—reflecting an appetite for foreign brands and safer food.
The deep-pocketedChinese buyer has already put a floor under prices for energy and metal assets around the world. As China s outbound investment rises and the range of targets broadens, it s time to factorpossible Chinese buyers into valuations in other sectors, too.