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China Makes It Official, Formalizes Overseas Acquisitions Restrictions

So now it’s official: The brakes are on when it comes to Chinese investment in film, entertainment, sports and hotels.

In documents and statements issued Friday by the National Development and Reform Commission and by the State Council (document in Chinese), the Chinese government explained its crackdown on overseas mergers and acquisitions. In the past, it has characterized some deals in the entertainment sector as “irrational.”

Sometimes known as the state planning body, the NRDC listed three categories of overseas investment: those that are banned (sex and gambling industries, and core military technology); those that are restricted; and those that are to be encouraged. Property, film, entertainment, sports, hotels and obsolete equipment were named in the “restricted” category. That means any proposed deal will have to endure new levels of scrutiny.

Companies including Dalian Wanda and Fosun International have been involved in all of those categories. Wanda recently suffered further problems when the government ordered banks to cease lending to many of its foreign operations. The giant group, which was China’s biggest investor in Hollywood, responded by selling off $9 billion of leisure and hotel assets in China.

Falling into the “encouraged” category are those deals that support the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s massive overseas infrastructure and network building plan. The outreach scheme is frequently likened to a new Silk Road. Other investments that are encouraged are those that promote Chinese technical standards.

“Profound changes are taking place in international and domestic situations, and Chinese enterprises face not just relatively good opportunities but also various risks and challenges in overseas investments,” said the State Council, the Chinese government’s Cabinet.

The movement against overseas dealing began last year with the incremental introduction of capital outflow restrictions and greater deal scrutiny. While high-priced individual deals may have caught the eye of regulators, the process was likely sparked by macroeconomic concerns over debt and currency and attempts to rein in volatility and markets.

“Some companies focused on property rather than the real economy, which, instead of boosting the domestic economy, triggered capital outflows and shook financial security,” the State Council said.

Deal flow this year across many sectors has reduced considerably. But recent data point to overseas deals by private companies falling even more sharply while deals by state-owned enterprises are accelerating.

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