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China's Fosun aims to invest 20b yuan in technology over 3 years
[HONG KONG] Acquisitive Chinese conglomerate Fosun International, which owns Club Med and a stake in Cirque du Soleil within its broad portfolio, aims to invest at least 20 billion yuan (S$4.2 billion) in technology in the next three years.
Fosun's technology investments, which will focus on biotech, fintech and artificial intelligence technologies, are expected to reach at least 100 billion yuan in the next 10 years, its executives said at an earnings briefing in Hong Kong.
"For every company, if you are not led by the technology, you (probably) won't have a future," its billionaire chairman, Guo Guangchang, said on Wednesday, a day after Fosun reported a 28.2 per cent jump in its annual profit to a record high, its fastest growth in four years.
Fosun is one of China's most acquisitive conglomerates and has in the past months snapped up two European fashion labels and taken control of a Brazilian broker in deals worth a combined US$245 million. It also holds stakes in an assortment of lifestyle companies, including AHAVA, an Israeli skincare brand.
On Wednesday, Mr Guo told investors and reporters that Fosun was looking to increase its investments in India, Africa and Portuguese-speaking countries going forward, as it diversifies its focus beyond developed markets in the West.
"When we invest in Europe and the US, we set eyes on the future direction. But when we move to (invest in) India and Africa, we actually know better where they should head to."
The group, like a handful of Chinese conglomerates, is also turning its sights to the domestic market amid a crackdown by Beijing on flashy and non-essential overseas acquisitions by its private conglomerates.
In December, Fosun and its units acquired a 17.99 per cent stake in Tsingtao Brewery Co from Japan's Asahi Group Holdings. In the same month, it sold off a Sydney office tower for A$142.5 million (S$143 million) as part of its efforts to par back its foreign real estate portfolio.
The group has also moved to strengthen its balance sheet, reduce net debt, and balance its acquisitions with asset sales.
Its net gearing ratio, which used to be a long-time concern among investors and analysts, fell to 49.7 per cent from 60.3 per cent at end-2017.
In January, Moody's Investors Service upgraded Fosun's corporate family rating to Ba2, still speculative, citing the firm's "improved business profile" and expectations that the company would maintain current leverage ratios.