While Chinese companies are in the regulatory spotlight for attempting big purchases of coveted technology and industries overseas, the past week brought a string of deals that flew under the radar because they were smaller.
Attention is focused on whether U.S. regulators will block megadeals like ChemChina's $43 billion move on Syngenta, a Swiss seed and pesticide company with American research facilities, and Zoomlion's $3.3 billion bid for Terex, a crane manufacturer with U.S. government contracts. In the meantime, Chinese acquirers have been busy signing deals in the $1 billion-or-so space.
So far this year, Chinese companies have announced $66.75 billion of overseas acquisitions, more than half of the $90.82 billion for the whole of 2015. Even after stripping out the big deals, there's a lot of meat.
Beijing Enterprises, a state-backed conglomerate, announced Thursday that it's buying a German firm that converts waste to electricity. Another Chinese-listed firm is planning the $920 million acquisition of a Michigan-based airbag maker that's benefited from Takata's travails. And there's a $610 million deal for a California-based maker of circuit boards.
All three are being done at hefty premiums, befitting the cash-rich position of Chinese buyers.
In the latest of several German-focused purchases, Beijing Enterprises agreed to buy EEW Energy From Waste from EQT Partners, a Swedish private-equity firm, for an equity price of 1.44 billion euros ($1.61 billion.) Less than four weeks earlier, ChemChina clinched the acquisition of KraussMaffei Group, a machinery maker.
Suzhou Dongshan Precision Manufacturing, a sheet-metal components manufacturer listed in Shenzhen, is paying a 41 percent premium for Nasdaq-listed Multi-Fineline Electronix. The Californian circuit-board maker, known as M-Flex, counts Apple as its biggest customer, responsible for 76 percent of its revenue, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Meanwhile, Ningbo Joyson Electronic is buying the U.S. airbag maker Key Safety Systems from owners including a Hong Kong-based private equity firm, FountainVest, for around $1.5 billion in enterprise value. (FountainVest paid $800 million in enterprise value a year and a half ago.) Key Safety, whose equity value is $920 million, is developing driverless-car technology as well as expanding sales of airbags.
Ningbo Joyson is China's largest private-sector automotive components manufacturer by revenue, according to a Citigroup banker who advised FountainVest on the sale. China, the world's biggest auto market, is stepping up acquisitions of parts makers in the effort to create a domestic industry. Last year, ChemChina -- again -- paid $7.1 billion for Pirelli, an Italian tiremaker.
These deals have yet to close. Their size may help them avoid the kind of political heat that can heighten the risk of regulatory scrutiny in the U.S. -- seen, for example, when the $2.8 billion sale of Philips's Lumileds lighting-components business to a Chinese-backed private equity consortium was blocked. Expect more such activity: in China's quest for technology, small looks beautiful.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.
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