China says 'irrational' outbound investment curbed, figures show sharp drop

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's outbound non-financial investment (ODI) slumped 41.8 per cent in January-August from a year earlier, as authorities kept a tight grip on outflows for what they call "irrational" overseas projects.

The grip is part of efforts to curb speculative capital outflows that had pressured the yuan currency.

For August, ODI declined 24.8 per cent from a year earlier to US$11.52 billion (S$15.56 billion), Reuters calculated from official data. The Ministry of Commerce, which on Thursday (Sept 14) released data on the first eight months of the year, did not give a figure for August alone.

"Irrational" overseas investment has been effectively curbed, the ministry said. China's state council said in August that China will limit overseas investment in property, hotels, entertainment, sports clubs and film industries.

Dalian Wanda Group said last month that it had scrapped plans to buy Nine Elms Square in London, the latest setback for the Chinese conglomerate, and one connected with Beijing's tight controls on overseas investment.

At least two of HNA Group's overseas deals have hit a hurdle as the Chinese conglomerate struggles to take money out of China amid a crackdown by Beijing on capital outflows to fund acquisitions it sees as risky, according to four people familiar with the process.

For January-July, ODI had fallen 44.3 per cent from a year earlier to US$57.2 billion.

ODI that went into 52 countries involved in China's "Belt and Road" initiative totalled US$8.55 billion in the January-August period, accounting for 12.4 percent of the total, the ministry said.

Capital outflows have eased in recent months in the face of tighter regulations and the US dollar's retreat. The yuan has surged in recent months, including a 2.1 per cent gain in August, its best month since 1994.

In January-August, foreign direct investment (FDI) into China fell 0.2 per cent from a year earlier to 547.94 billion yuan (S$113.1 billion), the ministry added.

FDI in China's high-tech manufacturing sector rose 15 per cent in the first eight months from a year earlier, while investment in high-tech services sector grew 21.4 per cent, the ministry said.

For August alone, FDI rose 9.1 percent to 62.52 billion yuan. The ministry reported a 1.2 per cent decline for January-July.

China has pledged to further open up its economy to foreign investors, including allowing investment into previously restricted industries.

The commerce ministry said in August that China has clear advantages in attracting FDI over the medium and long-term.

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