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China Focus: Chinese private firms tap into overseas markets

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BEIJING, April 26 (Xinhua) -- More Chinese private companies are pinning their hopes on overseas markets as they search for profits.

Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical (Group) Co., Ltd., a private drug maker, is involved in a bidding war for American healthcare company Chindex and has raised its offer, Fosun announced on its website this week.

In February, Fosun and private equity firm TPG made an offer for Chindex, which runs the United Family Healthcare chain in China, the country's first foreign-invested hospital.

Liang Xinjun, CEO of Fosun, said in a country with a growing and aging population, the healthcare industry is expected to boom. Considering overburdened public hospitals and increased competition, the acquisition would help the company increase access to the market,

"Now it might be the best time for Chinese enterprises to seek mergers and acquisitions (M&A) overseas," Liang said.

Chinese private enterprises have been involved in a wave of overseas M&A in real estate, food and other areas in recent years.

Property developer Dalian Wanda Group acquired America-based cinema operator AMC in 2012. Last year, China's largest meat processing enterprise Shuanghui International announced the acquisition of Smithfield, the largest Chinese takeover of a U.S. company.

After developing in China for nearly 20 years, Greenland Holding Group is now seeking real estate projects in European and American cities.

The company's chairman Zhang Yuliang said it will increase foreign investment by more than 10 billion U.S. dollars this year.

China has become the world's third largest foreign investor. Since reform and opening up in the late 1970s, Chinese accumulated overseas investment topped 600 billion U.S. dollars by the end of 2013. Investment was worth 104.5 billion U.S. dollars alone last year, statistics showed.

Other figures revealed that foreign investment of non-public enterprises in Shanghai had reached 7.83 billion U.S. dollars over the past five years, accounting for 54.2 percent of total overseas investment.

China's economic restructuring and industrial upgrading have provided opportunities for private enterprises to go global, said Zhang Lizhou, general manager of the investment banking department of China Minsheng Banking Corp., Ltd..

"In the past, real estate, energy, manufacturing firms all made money in China, but now it is very hard. Overcapacity has haunted various industries like steel, photovoltaic and shipbuilding. Private enterprises have to go overseas for more opportunities," he said.

Booming overseas investment by Chinese private firms can be attributed to more freedom, the yuan's appreciation and comparatively low prices of foreign assets, according to a survey jointly published by U.S. think tank Asia Society and consulting firm Rhodium Group.

A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said new trends are emerging as the proportion of Chinese private firms seeking M&A overseas has gradually increased.

It said unlike Chinese state-owned enterprises which invest in industries like energy, electricity and resources, private firms choose diversified areas including consumer goods, services and high technology.

Gao Zhen, a managing partner at Mandarin Capital Partners, said, "Previous waves of Chinese overseas investment mainly focused on resources, but now more private firms are preferring business opportunities that could help them in industrial upgrading," he said.

Enterprises have matured during the process. Technology and strategic cooperation now seem more attractive than mere share holdings.

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