Chinese outbound investments reached a record level in the first half of the year, with companies becoming increasingly active outside the resources sector, as well as in acquiring targets in mature markets, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey. Outbound merger and acquisition activity rose 50 per cent in the first six months compared to the same period last year with 99 deals recorded, PwC said. The overall value of the deals was US$23.1 billion, with seven exceeding US$1 billion, the largest of which was Sinopec's US$4.7 billion acquisition of a 9 per cent stake in Syncrude from ConocoPhillips. David Brown, PwC's Greater China private equity group leader, said he expected outbound deal activity to continue to be robust as the level remains very low by global standards. 'There is a lot of catching up to be done,' said Brown, adding companies would improve in outward acquisitions as they build up expertise and momentum. M&A in the resources sector still made up the majority of deal activity, but PwC said there was an increasing shift to industries such as high technology and manufacturing with mainland companies looking to acquire intellectual property overseas to develop at home. The concentration of activity in resources means Australia is still the main target, but China has also been active in mature markets with 19 deals in the United States, 10 in Japan and nine in the European Union. Inbound and domestic M&A activity increased 26 per cent in the period, returning to pre-crisis levels. The largest transaction was China Mobile's acquisition of a 20 per cent stake in Shanghai Pudong Development Bank for US$5.8 billion. Financial acquisitions, including private equity and venture capital, were flat compared to last year. Brown said with record fundraising domestically in the first half and 'new funds appearing every day' there was a huge amount of money 'chasing deals' and activity was expected to pick up in the second half.