GOLDMAN SACHS: It feels like this Chinese deal spree 'is driven from the top'

Chinese companies have been buying up foreign businesses at an impressive rate in 2016, and everyone wants to know what’s going on.

Goldman Sachs bankers have joined the growing group of folks, including lawyers and worried government regulators, trying to make sense of the trend.

“It feels like this outbound M&A from China is driven from the top,” said Gregg Lemkau, Goldman’s cohead of global mergers and acquisitions, in a video posted on the bank’s website.

“It’s a desire to get capital outside of China and invest it around the globe.”

He said that 2016 is on pace to see five times as much outbound Chinese activity as last year. And many large-scale transactions involve Chinese buyers that hardly anyone has ever heard of.

Lemkau said people are starting to speculate about an upcoming devaluation of the renminbi. So getting higher-valued currency outside of China invested into dollar- or euro-denominated assets ahead of such a devaluation “seems to have been a priority.”

“China has well over $2 trillion of foreign reserves,” said Goldman’s head of cross-border M&A, James Del Favero, in a separate Q&A. “Eventually, some of that capital will be deployed into real assets abroad and M&A is one way to do that.”

Del Favero pointed to the desire to control natural resources as one potential motivator, but said there are two new drivers.

“As China moves to a consumption-based economy, companies are buying the global brands that will appeal to a growing middle class,” he said. “In addition, Chinese companies are acquiring more industrial assets to capture more of the “added value” of their production.”

He said Chinese companies want to gain “end-to-end control” over the manufacturing process, rather than partnering with foreign firms along the way.

John Kim, Goldman’s head of M&A in Asia ex-Japan, noted in the Q&A that the Chinese government has streamlined approval processes “to foster strategic outbound M&A activity.”

“Chinese buyers are also offering to pay break-up fees if the deal doesn’t get government approvals and are also obtaining financing commitments,” he said.

It seems the Chinese government wants to make the whole acquisition process as smooth as possible.

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