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Nisha Gopalan

China M&A Bankers Face Another Grim Year

Growing protectionism and Beijing’s campaign to control debt will keep a lid on overseas purchases in 2020.

Blockbuster deals like Syngenta are a thing of the past.

Blockbuster deals like Syngenta are a thing of the past.

Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

You’d expect the world’s second-largest economy to have a bigger presence on the world stage. But in mergers and acquisitions, China’s presence has been shrinking for years, and 2020 is unlikely to be any better.

In 2016, the country was the world’s largest acquirer of overseas assets after the U.S. It tumbled to eighth place this year, trailing Japan and even Singapore, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. While the phase-one trade deal between Washington and Beijing may ease some tensions, frosty relations between China and many developed countries appear set to persist. Add tightened credit to this protectionist mix, and China’s acquisitions have little chance of regaining the heights of 2016, when state-owned China National Chemical Corp. agreed to pay a record $43 billion to buy Swiss agrochemical maker Syngenta AG.