As one Chinese company advances abroad, another retreats -- or at least halts.
Shandong Weigao Group Medical Polymer Co. agreed to acquire closely held Argon Medical Devices Inc., a U.S. maker of biopsy forceps, for $850 million. At the same time, developer Country Garden Holdings Co. has paused its international expansion in response to government restrictions.
The push-pull dynamic proves one point: Overseas acquisitions remain far from off-limits for Chinese companies, as long as they're in the areas that Beijing wants.
Argon is the latest in a string of healthcare deals by mainland purchasers. The company's surgical devices are popular in the U.S., the world's largest pharmaceuticals market -- exactly the type of assets Beijing would like to see in Chinese hands. Shandong Weigao, in a tie-up with an unidentified private equity firm, will fund almost half of the purchase -- $420 million -- with debt.
Earlier this year, Aier Eye Hospital Group Co. agreed to buy Clinica Baviera SA, a Spanish eye-clinic operator. Shanghai-based Fosun International Ltd., meanwhile, is currently bidding for U.S. specialty drugmaker Arbor Pharmaceuticals LLC -- despite the conglomerate having been singled out by the government for its debt-fueled offshore takeover spree.
Fosun is also moving ahead with a slimmed-down bid for Indian drugmaker Gland Pharma Ltd., after an earlier stake purchase was blocked by New Delhi.
Over at Country Garden, it's a different story.
Plans to expand in six Indian cities have been put on pause, Chief Strategy Officer Jeff Lin told Bloomberg News. The company, based in the southern city of Foshan, has already been forced to slow its international push as China's capital controls hurt mainland demand for a $100 billion city the company is helping to build on four artificial islands in southern Malaysia's Johor Bahru.
Real estate has been named as a target of China's crackdown on "irrational" offshore investments, along with assets such as sports clubs and cinemas. Overseas direct property investment from the nation could drop 84 percent to $1.7 billion this year, Morgan Stanley has predicted.
That's not to say overseas real estate is completely out of bounds. Tie in a One Belt, One Road angle and a developer can probably find ways of expanding into countries that China has identified to help create its modern-day silk route, which will connect central Asia, Europe and Africa. (India, having recently ended a border spat with China and snubbed its neighbor's international trade initiative, may be an exception.)
But buyers are likely to have a much easier time shopping for medical and technology investments. Access to debt will present fewer obstacles, and failed deals need not slow momentum. China-backed private equity firm Canyon Bridge Capital Partners, fresh from President Donald Trump's rejection of its takeover of Lattice Semiconductor Corp, inked a deal for Imagination Technologies Group Plc, a British designer of graphics chips, last week.
High valuations also mean such assets are easy to sell and may carry more profit potential. Fosun, for instance, has more than doubled its investment on Israeli medical devices maker Sisram Medical Ltd., which went public in Hong Kong last week.
China's serial acquirers aren't dead. They're just adapting their focus to Beijing's desires.
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