Chinese Billionaires Say They’re Seeking Acquisitions Overseas

Chinese billionaires Zong Qinghou, Pony Ma and Liu Yonghao said they’re looking for acquisition and investment opportunities overseas as more of the nation’s companies seek assets to bolster earnings.

Hangzhou Wahaha Group Co. Chairman Zong said he’s looking for biotechnology companies and those that make energy-saving electric motors. Tencent Holdings Ltd. Chairman Ma said he’s looking at startup companies and has invested in venture capital funds to help find them. New Hope Group Co. Chairman Liu said he plans agriculture-related investments in Southeast Asia, Egypt and South Africa. All three spoke today at the annual meeting of China’s parliament, where they’re delegates.

“What I prefer to do is to bring these companies into China, so that it’s a good outcome for us and them,” Zong told reporters. “If you go overseas and invest and increase the competition in that overseas market, they aren’t very welcoming.” Zong is China’s richest man, with a net worth of $16.9 billion as of March 5, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Chinese companies have sought technologies that bolster their ability to win market share internationally and at home, where General Motors Co., Yum! Brands Inc. and other foreign competitors have increased investments to tap the world’s second-biggest economy. The Chinese government has encouraged these acquisitions by offering financing from state-owned lenders such as China Development Bank Ltd.

“We are still looking for opportunities,” Ma said at the National People’s Congress. “We looked at several in the U.S. - small startup companies, those in the early stages of operations.” Shenzhen-based Tencent, China’s largest Internet company by market value, has spent “several hundred million yuan” on overseas investment in the past two years, he said. Ma had a net worth of $7.2 billion as of March 5.

Investment Banks

Zong said that Wahaha, which sells beverages and snack foods in China, has been in talks with several investment banks. He declined to identify them.

Chinese companies announced more than $54 billion in overseas acquisitions last year, compared with about $1 billion in 2002, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Cnooc Ltd. last month completed a $15.1 billion takeover of Nexen Inc., China’s largest overseas acquisition. China Petrochemical Corp., know as Sinopec Group, also signed an agreement last month to buy a $1.02 billion stake in U.S. shale energy assets from Chesapeake Energy Corp.

China National Petroleum Corp., the nation’s largest energy company, is also currently studying investment opportunities in the U.S., Chairman Jiang Jiemin said at the parliamentary meetings in Beijing today. Those would be its first investments in the country.

— With assistance by Benjamin Haas, and Liza Lin

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