Outbound investment by Chinese companies picked up slightly in the first quarter, though overall momentum remains tepid amid economic headwinds and uncertainties arising from the ongoing US-China trade war. Chinese firms and institutional investors have closed 65 outbound deals worth 168.8 billion yuan (US$25.12 billion) for the three months ending in March, reflecting a gain of 4.8 per cent from the same period a year ago, according to the Hurun China Cross-Border Merger & Acquisition Report released Wednesday. For the whole of last year outbound investment totalled 738 billion yuan from 323 deals, reflecting a drop of 23 per cent from 2017, according to Hurun, which compiled the figures based on data from Mergermarket. Lin Feng, founder and CEO of outbound investment service DealGlobe, said the uptick was the result of a weak comparison base last year. “We should not read too much into single quarter data as the first quarter usually is not a busy deal making season,” he said. Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of the Hurun Report, said the data showed China’s investment outflows were returning to more normal levels. “After a great leap forward in 2016, China’s outbound investment has calmed to a rational level in the past two years,” he said. Asian business leaders see China as dominant regional force: surveys Total deal value in China, including inbound investment, fell nearly 50 per cent in the first quarter, according to Mergermarket. The downturn had an impact on deal value in Asia, where China accounts for a 46.6 per cent share when Japan is excluded. “This is in great part the result of contraction in Chinese outbound deals amid tighter domestic regulation and an increasing US clampdown on China-outbound acquisitions,” said Riccardo Ghia, research editor for Asia-Pacific at Mergermarket. “Prospects appear even more sobering after the European Parliament approved legislation recently to screen foreign takeovers, a move seen as largely aimed at Chinese acquirers.” Meanwhile, China remains active in mergers and acquisitions relating to natural resources and technology companies. Among major deals in the past three months, Shanghai RAAS Blood Products invested nearly US$2 billion for a 45 per cent stake in US-based provider of transfusional diagnostics and immunology services Grifols Diagnostic Solutions. In the second biggest deal during the quarter, live-streaming company YY Inc bought Singapore’s Bigo Technology for US$1.45 billion, while China Molybdenum raised its stake in Congo-based copper-cobalt mining company Tenke Fungurume Mining to 80 per cent for US$1.14 billion.