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China overtakes US, Japan in Belt and Road M&As

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China overtook the United States and Japan to become the biggest player in acquisitions in Belt and Road economies in 2016, and the trend will continue, according to a report by Thomson Reuters and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on Wednesday.

The report said that the value of Chinese mergers and acquisitions in Belt and Road economies more than quadrupled to $9.9 billion in 2016 from $2.3 billion in 2014.

The energy, power and raw material sectors were the most popular targets among Chinese buyers, while US companies aimed for deals in the finance sector, and the Japanese preferred the industrial and raw material sectors.

Kazakhstan, Russia, Israel, Singapore and Egypt were the top M&A destinations for Chinese companies. The total value of M&As in Kazakhstan by Chinese companies from 2000 to 2016 totaled $9.3 billion, accounting for 20.9 percent of the total value during the period.

"Since the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, the scale of mergers and acquisitions in the Belt and Road economies by Chinese companies has increased significantly and will continue to grow rapidly in the future," said Zhang Ming, a senior fellow of the CASS and a principal author of the report.

Zhang added that the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in early May indicated that cooperation between China and other Belt and Road economies would be further strengthened. But Chinese enterprises looking to invest in B&R economies should be aware of certain risks and challenges.

The report said compared with US deals, the value of a single M&A transaction by a Chinese company is usually bigger.

Guo Libo, research head of ChinaVenture Group, said Chinese companies' mergers and acquisitions in Belt and Road economies will continue to be active this year with government support.

"But attracting private capital and local capital to Belt and Road investments remains to be an issue," Guo added.

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