China foreign direct investment overseas soars 147%

BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese investment overseas in January and February soared 147 per cent year-on-year to US$18.39 billion (S$146.7 billion), official data showed on Tuesday - more than foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country itself.

Incoming FDI, which excludes financial sectors, stood at US$17.48 billion over the period, the commerce ministry said, down 1.35 per cent year-on-year.

Beijing is keen to promote overseas investment in part of its efforts to reform China's growth model and acquire significant foreign assets in sectors such as energy, mining and high-tech industries, analysts said.

"It should be a trend in the long run - it is highly likely that overseas direct investment will exceed foreign direct investment in the next few years," Mr Ren Xianfang, a Beijing-based analyst with research firm IHS Global Insight, told AFP.

"It is a national strategy to transfer China to a big investor from a big exporter."

Chinese direct investment overseas surged almost 30 per cent last year from 2011 as firms in the world's second-largest economy increasingly look to expand abroad.

The biggest rise in Chinese investment in a major market over January and February was in Australia, where it surged 282 per cent, the ministry said.

It was followed by Hong Kong, up 156 per cent, and the United States with a 146 per cent increase, while in south-east Asia. it went up 114 per cent and in the European Union, 81.9 per cent.

However in Japan, with whom Beijing has been involved in a territorial row, investment was down 31 per cent.

Overseas FDI to Russia also slipped 46 per cent.

At the same time, China's manufacturing competitiveness faces rising costs, while investor confidence is battered by weakness in the global economy.

Nonetheless incoming FDI in rose 6.3 per cent to US$8.21 billion in February, the first year-on-year increase in nine months, the commerce ministry said.

EU investment into China increased "quite rapidly" in the first two months of the year, the ministry said in a statement, rising 34.01 per cent to US$1.214 billion.

But FDI fell from the US and Asia, with Japanese investment down 6.7 per cent over the period to US$1.269 billion.

China's economy grew at its slowest pace in 13 years in 2012, expanding 7.8 per cent from the year before.

But it has been showing renewed vigour, with GDP growth accelerating in the final three months of 2012 to 7.9 per cent, snapping seven straight quarters of weakening expansion.

Month-to-month comparisons at the start of the year in China can be heavily affected by seasonal factors as China's annual Chinese New Year holiday can fall in either January or February.

China takes a week off during the break, the country's biggest, as hundreds of millions of people travel back to their hometowns for celebrations.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.