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Monday, 12 October 2015 10:45

The Chinese dragon eat Spanish companies

First Chinese who came to Spain, thirty or forty years ago, opened Asian restaurants. Then, cities were filled with Chinese bazaars. With the outbreak of the crisis, they bought many bars and restaurants. And textile garment, born chains of low cost Asian fashion, as Mulaya or Okeysi, who do not stop to open stores.

The first steps followed the model of family subsistence, the typical behavior of capitalism diaspora. In recent months, however, a significant change is perceived trend: the Chinese investor appetite points now and magnify and medium enterprises, large corporate operations. They come to stay and gain know-how, technology and the ability to sell products made in Spain with high quality in China.

On average, China moves a volume of about 55.000 billion buying out companies, according to consulting firm Mergermarket. Although they disbursed and 50,000 million in the first half of 2015. After investing years ago in countries like Germany, France, Italy or Portugal rescued, as well as in the United States or Brazil, Chinese corporations have now put the focus on Spain. After buying companies of a certain size, the Asian giant continues canvassing acquisitions in strategic sectors, such as tourism, food and logistics. They seek stakes in listed and family with leading technology companies in its sector.

The Chinese group HNA controls 29.5% of NH Hoteles since mid 2014. After going soaking up the operation of the hotel sector of upper-middle range, it is possible that in the coming days to announce the acquisition of 48.4% Globalia group, owner of the airline Air Europa, whose packet belongs to minority shareholders. Although their star acquisition, in July this year was the purchase of the handling company, Swissport, the French fund PAI by 2,537 million. This company formerly belonged to Ferrovial. In fact, the HNA group already controls ten companies quoted outside China.

Recently, the Chinese state company Bright Foods took control of the Catalan group Miquel Alimentació 110 million. And very few days ago, the leading Chinese wine Changyu Pioneer Wine Group has acquired 75% of household Marqués de Atrio, one of the five major wineries in the appellation of La Rioja for 26.25 million. Osborne came in a year ago the Chinese giant Fosun, with 20% of capital. Also, Chinese investors bought the hotel Golf in Manresa, which still managed by the Hilton chain. Although one of the latest Chinese investment has had more eco is the landing tycoon Wang Jianlin. Through its partnership Wanda Spain acquired the building in the capital by 256 million. On his trip to Spain to formalize the acquisition contacted the president of Atletico Madrid, Enrique Cerezo, and ended up buying 20% ​​stake in the club for more than 40 million. All these examples are a sample of the great investor appetite for Chinese Spain. And there will be more.

Jorge Adell, responsible for corporate operations lawyers Baker & McKenzie partner, "the investment banking and financial boutiques intensely seeking Chinese investors." GBS, which is a partner Juan Antonio Samaranch, is one of the most active firms. In fact, through the Samaranch Foundation is contacting entrepreneurs of both countries. In his view, China seeks to "access to raw materials (mining, energy, agriculture), industrial partners to modernize technology and geographic diversification."

Not all operations are successful. The first offer by airport of Ciudad Real came from the hand of a Chinese group, Tzaneen International, which offered 10,000 euros. The Eurovegas project also blew up. And in some projects they have already disinvested, such as food group Campofrio, a company in which the Chinese group WH remained nearly three years, with 37% of capital.

Usually, Chinese entrepreneurs seek to take control, but sometimes do not care with significant holdings in listed companies. Require several seats on the board of the acquired firm executives to place their confidence, but one of his maxims is to keep the management team, which is who really knows the business and knows innards carry the day.

Before taking control, advisors explain that in the negotiation and audit process two phenomena occur: or operation closes very rapidly form or extended in the time indefinitely. One of the keys in these processes is the figure of the translator. "The language is terrible. Sometimes they speak English, but they feel much more comfortable trading in their mother tongue," argues Adell.

In the opinion of Fernando Baldellou, financial advisory partner at Deloitte, "doing business with Chinese entrepreneurs not involve major difficulties, for example, in Brazil, they are great professionals."

According to Rafael Roldan, partner transactions EY, "Spain find it interesting because GDP is growing faster than in other countries in the euro zone. We also seek to learn technology and know-how when it comes to manufacture certain products to gain share market". Hence, he adds, "are interested in infrastructure and logistics areas". "We also seek-continuous-enter the food industry to market processed food, fresh produce convenience or even be manufactured from Spain white label foods".

According to Juan Antonio Samaranch, "they are seeking to invest surplus and profitability." Spanish companies, in the opinion of Samaranch, "have to have on your radar cueing Chinese partner, since they can multiply their value when accessing your goods to the huge Asian market."

Acquired the company, it's time to pay for the transaction. Typically, Chinese conglomerates finance operations with its indigenous banks. China's largest bank, ICBC has already opened branches in Madrid and Barcelona. While the second bank by capitalization, the China Construction Bank, has been established on the Diagonal in Barcelona.

Cultural difference, which is great, is not a difficulty in these negotiations. Although the stories of the meetings are remarkable: from meetings that hours are extended until executives sleep for a while by the time change. O requests made via mail regardless of the time difference. There has also been the case time to sign a contract has been postponed a few months until mogul turn set on its agenda the official trip to Spain with his entourage to close the operation, after previous negotiations of his advisers.

Baldellou, who just arrived from Shanghai, said a Chinese businessman commented him that "everyone wants our capital." Hence, Chinese firms have diversified geographically focus. This expert does not rule out even they can enter into new strategic sectors such as "Spanish banks".

Digital Newspaper La Vanguardia