Privatisation programme to boost investments, says envoy Mainland and Hong Kong port operators have shown an interest in acquiring assets in France and a deal could be signed in coming months, according to a French official. Philippe Favre, French ambassador for international investment and chairman and chief executive of Invest in France Agency, expected logistics to become a dynamic sector for foreign investment in France after its privatisation began next year. 'I have met port operators in China and Hong Kong and logistics companies, and they showed interest,' said Mr Favre, who visited Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong over the past two weeks to promote investment in his country. Mainland and Hong Kong port operators have been expanding abroad to tap rising global trade, especially demand for commodities on the mainland and low-cost Chinese goods in developed markets. Earlier this year, Cosco Pacific outbid Hutchison Whampoa for the operation of Piraeus port, Greece's biggest seaport. The port will be Cosco Pacific's second operation in Europe after Antwerp. Mr Favre said Greater China now ranked between the sixth and eighth biggest foreign investor in France and was larger than Japan. Chemicals, textiles, homeware, electronics, air and freight transport are the industries in which Chinese companies invested the most in the country. 'We see more and more Chinese investors now, which is almost impossible four years ago before we opened the Shanghai representative office,' he said. Although still relatively small compared with other major economies, China has been steadily raising its global investment, a trend that would greatly benefit France, according to Invest in France Agency's 2007 annual report. Political opposition has been an obstacle for mainland companies seeking overseas acquisitions. Offshore oil giant CNOOC pulled out its bid for Unocal in 2005 and earlier this year Huawei Technology scrapped a joint bid with Bain Capital for 3Com amid an outcry over security and other issues in the United States. Mr Favre said there was no political backlash against Chinese acquisitions in France. The country was more worried about job losses to offshore plants, he said, adding that labour issues would be a key challenge for mainland firms. Chinese companies invested a total of Euro174 million (HK$2.15 billion) and generated 1,459 jobs in France last year. Mainland telecommunication equipment makers ZTE and Huawei, airliners Air China, China Eastern and China Southern, logistics firms Cosco and China Shipping have had their footprints in France. In 2006, the China National BlueStar (Group) Corp became the largest Chinese investor in Europe after it acquired Paris-based specialty chemicals producer Rhodia Group, following its acquisition of animal nutrition and livestock feed producer Adisseo earlier that year. The privatisation of ports in France was approved in June and will take effect from the next year. At present, they were 'badly run' by public agencies, Mr Favre said. 'Backlash [from the public towards the privatisation] is over and labour unions are losing their power,' Mr Favre said. 'There are no legal obstacles for [future port operators], they don't have to hire from union, nor local people.'