Investments by Chinese companies in Switzerland quadrupled last year to reach $4.8 billion (CHF4.8 billion), according to research from consultants Baker McKenzie. The report excludes the proposed $43 billion takeover of Syngenta by ChemChina, which still awaits final regulatory approval.
To put that mega-deal into perspective, Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) in the whole of Europe totalled $46 billion in 2016 (up 90% on 2015) and $48 billion (+189%) in North America, says Baker McKenzie.
Last year, China’s HNA Aviation Group snapped up Swiss air transport support companies Gategroup and ST Technics. The Chinese company had previously bought Swissport. Other significant deals in recent years include the takeover of iconic aluminium bottle maker Sigg by Haers Vacuum Containers.
Other Chinese companies have invested in Switzerland without taking over Swiss firms. Leading Chinese software company Neusoft has run its European headquarters from Appenzell since 2009. Speaking to swissinfo.ch at the World Economic Forum last month, Neusoft chairman Liu Jiren said to expect more Chinese FDI in the coming years as they sought to diversify into cutting-edge service sectors.
“The image of Switzerland in China is of a very stable country that is very transparent, friendly and tops all the rankings in ease of doing business. I expect more Chinese companies, which want to expand abroad, will choose Switzerland as their destination,” he said.
Chinese corporate investment in Europe and North America has exploded from $2.6 billion to $94 billion in the space of a decade, with more than half of that growth being recorded in the past three years, according to Baker McKenzie.
But the consultancy group predicts a slowdown in FDI growth from China this year as global regulators take a more critical look at takeovers and the Chinese authorities try to slow the amount of capital leaving the country. Its report states that 30 proposed deals, worth more than $74 billion, were scrapped in Europe and North America last year.
“Greater political and regulatory scrutiny makes for a more challenging outlook in the near-term. Political risk assessment and regulatory planning is increasingly important as part of an overall deal strategy,” said Thomas Gilles, head of Baker McKenzie’s EMEA-China Group.