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Chinese investors eyeing Europe

Updated: 2013-04-15 07:56
By Wu Yiyao in Shanghai (China Daily)
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There are solid reasons to invest in Belgium because it allows 100 percent foreign ownership and no limitations are required on repatriation of capital and benefits, Wolfs said.

China has become Belgium's second largest trading partner outside the EU, with a bilateral transaction volume of $29 billion in 2011, up by 31.5 percent.

The top five imported goods from China are electrical equipment, machinery, steel, organic chemicals, textiles and clothes.

"China has been strongly increasing its outbound foreign direct investment to Belgium. Chinese and Belgian sovereign funds work together to help Chinese companies invest in Europe," said Huang Weihua, senior manager for China practice at KPMG's Brussels office.

According to Huang, Chinese companies that established a foothold in Belgium are from a wide range of sectors including automotive, logistics, banking, telecoms and services.

Recent years have witnessed a clear, rising interest from Chinese companies in cross-border mergers and acquisitions, in addition to green-field investment, Huang said.

Chinese investors eyeing Europe

For instance, Sinochem Group acquired 35 percent of the equity in Belgium-based agro-industrial firm SIAT NV in 2012 and Huawei Technologies acquired a 100 percent stake in the telecom equipment provider M4S NV in 2010, making it a fully owned subsidiary.

Belgium has extended a series of policy incentives to attract foreign companies, Huang said. According to local laws, an EU holding company in Belgium can benefit from an exemption enabling the withholding of tax on dividends paid to its affiliated companies in the EU and in jurisdictions with which it has tax treaties.

Companies also do not have to pay taxes on the payment of interest and royalties, 95 percent of the dividend received and enjoy total exemption from capital gains on shares.

According to the EU's Institute of International and European Affairs, the effective corporate tax rate in Belgium is around 4.8 percent, much lower than most EU countries. For example, the rate in the United Kindom is 23.2 percent and in Germany it is 22.9 percent.

Funds marketing

For European companies and institutions, marketing is essential in Asia, said Ching Yng Choi, head of the Asia Representative Office with the Association of the Luxembourg Fund Industry.

There are no uniform standards for strategy and it is not easy to expand distribution channels when knowledge about the market is limited. It is vital to establish connections to distribute products, said Choi.

In Asia, individual investors tend to choose cash deposits instead of investing in funds. Even if they invest, most want to try their luck in the stock market instead of choosing long-term investment products.

These days investors are interested in other options, said Choi. Specialized investment funds are enjoying a great performance despite being subjected to regulations that limit investment and private ventures are also popular.

European countries are making great efforts to market the Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities to buyers in China, one of several countries with a great potential to buy. UCITS are a set of European Union directives that aim to allow collective investment schemes to operate freely throughout the EU on the basis of a single authorization from one member state. Critics say that in practice many EU member nations have imposed additional regulatory requirements that have obstructed their free operation to protect local asset managers.

As the European economy struggles to recover, the net sales of UCITS in 2012 reached 201 billion euros while inflows across Europe returned to positive territory on the back of strong demand, according to statistics compiled by the European Fund and Asset Management Association.

Long-term UCITS also returned to positive territory, registering net inflows of 239 billion euros compared with outflows of 64 billion euros ($82 billion) in 2011.

By the end of the year, total investment fund assets accounted for 62 percent of the EU's GDP, while total investment trust assets increased 12.4 percent to 8,944 billion euros.

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