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China 2017 non-financial overseas investment falls 29.4% y-o-y

[BEIJING] China's non-financial outbound direct investment in 2017 fell 29.4 per cent year-on-year to US$120.08 billion, the commerce ministry said on Tuesday, as firms backed off from speculative overseas investment amid a government crackdown.

Outbound direct investment (ODI) in December alone rose 49 per cent on-year to US$12.53 billion, according to Reuters calculation on official data, extending gains from a 34.9 per cent annual growth in November.

The positive ODI growth in the past two months is largely thanks to increased Chinese investments in manufacturing and information sector, the ministry said, while no new Chinese investments were made in property, sports and entertainment industries.

"Irrational" overseas investment has been effectively contained, added the commerce ministry.

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Overseas investment by Chinese firms has fallen sharply since Beijing in late 2016 implemented strict controls on capital leaving the country.

Investment in countries involved in China's Belt and Road initiative, an extensive infrastructure plan meant to link Asia with the Middle East and Europe, totalled US$14.36 billion in 2017, the commerce ministry said.

Belt and Road deals accounted for 12 per cent of total investments in 2017, up 3.5 percentage points from a year earlier.

Analysts expect that after the tumble in ODI in 2017, China is likely to see an increase in overseas investment deals this year.

"The yuan's appreciation has provided some impetus for Chinese firms to do deals overseas", said Iris Pang, Great China economist at ING.

Around the second quarter, it can be expected that China is clearly having big capital inflows, "so that SAFE can approve more overseas deals," she said.

SAFE is the acronym for the State Administration of Foreign Exchange.

The Chinese currency yuan has risen about 1.2 per cent against the US dollar this year, after a roughly 6.8 per cent gain during 2017, reversing three straight years of depreciation.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) into China in December fell 9.2 per cent from a year earlier to 73.94 billion yuan (S$15.19 billion), the first decline in five months.

For 2017, FDI rose 7.9 per cent to 877.56 billion yuan.

China faces relatively big external pressure in attracting FDI this year due to the global investment environment's uncertainties, said the commerce ministry.


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