US Presidential Election 2012

Chinese investment in US grows despite rhetoric

While the presidential campaigns rail against mainland and HK money, the value of buyouts this year is nearly double last year's figures

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 October, 2012, 2:53am

Despite calls for curbs on Chinese firms in the United States as the presidential election campaign heats up, mainland and Hong Kong investments in the US have nearly doubled this year and are expected to remain strong next year.

The value of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) by Hong Kong and Chinese companies in the US soared by 93.7 per cent to US$6.96 billion in the first nine months of this year, according to Mergermarket, an international publisher of deals data.

By dollar value, the US was the third destination for Hong Kong and Chinese M&A, with Canada on top and Britain second, Mergermarket said.

The value of mainland and Hong Kong deals in the US next year could be between US$5 billion and US$8 billion, said Mao Tong, a lawyer at US law firm Squire Sanders.

The firm was doing legal work on a potential merger between a mainland firm and a US company in the chemical sector which, if successful, would create the world's biggest producer in its niche, Mao said, adding: "We see more deals like this in the pipeline."

Some potential investments in the US were on hold due to the election but would be signed next year, Mao said.

"The anti-China mood is more noticeable during the US elections," he said. "We now see more rhetoric from the US Congress, though we think it is more hot air. Investments in the US are largely a local matter where there is no federal government involvement."

President Barack Obama said recently more trade cases had been brought against Beijing during his term than in the previous two terms; while his rival Mitt Romney alleged Obama had failed to confront "unfair trade practices", CNN reported.

Telecommunications firms Huawei Technologies and ZTE face expulsion from the US after a Congress investigation found they posed a threat to US national security.

Last month Obama also banned Ralls Corp, a mainland-owned company based in the US, from owning wind farms in the state of Oregon, citing national security concerns.

But compared with previous elections, US attitudes were less inflamed, said Edmund Sim, a partner at US law firm Appleton Luff. "There is no talk about Tibet, Taiwan, South China Sea, and the East China Sea. The focus is on economic policy and this is a sign of greater maturity in the US-China relationship."

Sim said Chinese investment remained welcome, particularly if it created jobs.

Speaking in Hong Kong, US assistant secretary for economic and business affairs Jose Fernandez said Chinese investments in the US were mostly welcome, with a small minority blocked.

He cited the example of Dalian Wanda Group acquiring AMC Entertainment Holdings, the second largest US cinema operator, for US$2.6 billion earlier this year.

Since the credit ratings of many local US governments were deteriorating and they were finding it more expensive to raise financing, Chinese companies could help, Mao said.