The mainland's overseas direct investment shot up to a record US$12.26 billion last year, reaching double digits for the first time, the Ministry of Commerce announced yesterday in a report posted on its website. The figure, which excludes investments in the financial sector, climbed 123 per cent over a year earlier. Of this, US$3.8 billion was from capital stocks, US$3.2 billion from reinvested profits and the remaining US$5.26 billion was invested through other channels. At the end of last year, the mainland's aggregated direct overseas investment had reached US$57.2 billion, accounting for 0.59 per cent of the world's total overseas investments. About 81.8 per cent came from centrally administered firms. Mergers and acquisitions accounted for half of the country's overseas direct investment last year. And 43 per cent of the investment was made through lending to overseas businesses. The National Bureau of Statistics and Commerce Ministry report said that 34.7 per cent of investment went to manufacturing sectors, 17.5 per cent to wholesale and retail, 17.5 per cent to rental businesses and 7.6 per cent to construction. The year saw Latin America replace Asia as the No1 destination for mainland investments. The report also said that limited-liability companies had overtaken state-owned enterprises to become the mainland's largest overseas investors. These firms accounted for 32 per cent of the mainland's total last year, compared to 29 per cent for state-owned enterprises. Investment was almost double predictions made by the ministry earlier in the year, possibly indicating that firms were responding to Beijing's calls to internationalise. Speaking at a business forum in Zhengzhou , Henan province last Saturday, Vice-Minister of Commerce Liao Xiaoqi encouraged companies to 'go out' and strengthen themselves by competing in international markets.