Thursday, February 18, 2016

The business press has seen a slew of merger deals lately that have been driven by Chinese companies. Most recently, Ingram Micro announced on Feb. 17 that it will be acquired by the Chinese conglomerate HNA Group for $6 billion; but consider some of these other deals where a Chinese company is doing the buying: 

·       ChemChina has agreed to acquire European chemical giant Syngenta for $44 billion;

·       Zoomlion Heavy Industry & Science has offered to buy Terex Corp. for $3.3 billion (setting up a potential battle with a Scandinavian suitor also eyeing Terex);

·       China Resources Microelectronics Ltd. and Hua Capital offered in December to buy Fairchild Semiconductor International (Fairchild rejected that offer amid fears it would not pass U.S. national security oversight);

·       Dalian Wanda acquired U.S. movie studio Legendary Entertainment (of “Jurassic World” and “The Dark Knight” fame) in January for $3.5 billion.

That’s a respectable bit of deal-making right there; others estimate that Chinese-driven M&A hit $61 billion in 2015, a 16 percent jump from 2014.

All that got us thinking—just how much money might Chinese companies have for more M&A deals, anyway? We looked at cash on hand reported by Chinese companies trading on U.S. stock exchanges, and found this:

Year Total Cash Firms Counted Average Cash Per Firm
2012 $15,244,765,728 157 $97,100,419
2013 $17,452,824,931 156 $111,877,083
2014 $20,828,290,562 135 $154,283,634

A few caveats here. First, plenty of the funds available in China for M&A deals isn’t held by publicly traded companies, and therefore is not included in these numbers. Second, we can only track firms that disclose their country of origin as China; if they neglect to declare that or declare the wrong country, those numbers would not be reflected in these figures either. Regardless, even this small sample size suggests that Chinese companies are piling up cash.

The question for Chinese business leaders (and for financial analysts worldwide) is what they should do with that money sitting in company coffers. As the country’s economy has slowed in recent months, political leaders in Beijing have telegraphed their wishes that “corporate China” keep growth numbers moving in the right direction. Increased M&A—particularly of overseas targets who might be in higher-growth markets than China sees at home—is one way to do that.

If that’s the goal, the deals announced lately suggest 2016 is off to a solid start, and the cash numbers suggest we’ll see many more deals yet.

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