MNCs in the News-2017-10-13

China

Not all American businesses want Washington to move aggressively against China to defend their intellectual property rights (IPR) even though some argue Chinese IPR theft has cost the United States (US) billions of dollars and millions of jobs. Against the backdrop of a Section 301 investigation that could lead to tariffs against China for failing to limit IPR theft, some argue Washington should not move unilaterally, that there were some signs of progress in China, and that Washington should pursue negotiations rather than sanctions (“Some U.S. Businesses Urge Caution in China Intellectual Property Trade Push,” Reuters, October 11, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trade-china/some-u-s-businesses-ur...)

China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) has approved (US) HP Inc.’s acquisition of (Korea) Samsung’s printer business for USD $1.05 billion, which HP is undertaking to strengthen its position in Korea and Asia and bolster its situation in a weakening global printer market. Since the deal would give HP more than a 50 percent share of the global laser printer market MOFCOM approved the deal subject to certain conditions that have not been made public, though some speculate HP has been required to divest certain assets (Yang Ge, “China Approves HP’s Purchase of Samsung Printer Business,” Caixin, October 9, 2017, http://www.caixinglobal.com/2017-10-09/101153852.html)

There were expectations the first phase (a 250 km, USD $5.2 billion segment) of the planned Sino-Thai high-speed railway would start in November. However, it now looks likely the project will not begin before 2018. The reason is that Thai environmental authorities have not given approval and still have to complete an environmental impact study. Pursuant to the deal Thailand will own and finance the first phase while China will design, build, and provide supplies for it (Sarah Zheng, “US$5.2 Billion First Phase of China-Thailand Railway Project Facing Further Delays, Reports Say,” South China Morning Post, October 7, 2017, http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2114359/us52-bi...)

Losses and labor headaches have driven China’s Sinopec, a state-owned enterprise (SOE), to offer its stake in Argentine oil assets located in the southern province of Santa Cruz to about a dozen prospective buyers. Some expect the assets will go for between USD $750 million to $1 billion. Since Sinopec paid USD $2.45 billion for the oil stake in 2010 as part of its efforts to diversify its energy sources, it would incur a major investment loss (Julie Zhu and Guillermo Parra-Bernal, “Buyers Eye Sinopec’s Argentina Oil Assets in Sale Worth Up $1 billion: Sources,” Reuters, October 9, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-sinopec-corp-m-a-argentina/buyers-eye-...)

Japan

Japan's Denso Corp. recently announced plans to build a USD $1 billion electric vehicle (EV) and safety systems production plant in the US state of Tennessee. The plant, which will create around 1,000 jobs, is designed to meet the changing demands of governments, such as China’s, which is forcing a shift to EVs. Denso also seeks to stay ahead of its auto rivals such as Ford, GM, and Tesla which are all focusing on EV technologies to satisfy changes in consumer taste (Nick Carey, “Denso to invest $1 billion in Tennessee plant, create 1,000 jobs,” Reuters, October 6, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-denso-investment/denso-to-inves...)

Japan's Toyota Motor Corporation reaffirmed its intent to build its latest Auris car model at its manufacturing plant in Britain, providing the British government avoids a hard Brexit deal with the European Union (EU). Toyota’s British plant, which is set to receive an additional USD $314 million for upgrades, would avoid mass layoffs or closure in line with British Finance Minister Philip Hammond’s goal of a long transitional period for businesses to adjust to a post-Brexit EU relationship (Costas Pitas, “Toyota plans to build new Auris in UK on assumption of Brexit transition deal,” Japan Today, October 8, 2017, https://japantoday.com/category/business/exclusive-toyota-plans-to-build...)

South Korea

Despite souring business relations with China following South Korea’s decision to host US anti-missile systems, the main cause of Korea’s distress actually is China’s restrictions on foreign currency transfers. Although South Korean businesses such as Lotte Group and Hyundai Motor Co. indeed have suffered as a result of discriminatory government practices, capital controls on “irrational” overseas investments have caused Chinese investment in South Korean businesses to drop 63 percent compared to the same period last year, dampening the South Korean economy (Kyungji Cho and Jiyeun Lee, “China’s Direct Investment in South Korea Plunges on Restrictions,” Bloomberg, October 12, 2017, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-12/china-s-direct-invest...)

South Korean retailers Lotte Group, Shinsegae, and GS Retail have begun moving out of the Chinese market and into Southeast Asia as business and political tensions between South Korea and China show no signs of abating. For example, Lotte plans to spend USD $1.74 billion to develop two shopping malls in Vietnam. Shinsegae is preparing a USD $200 million investment project in Vietnam in addition to expanding into Laos, Indonesia, and Cambodia. And GS Retail formed a partnership with Vietnam’s SonKim Group for expansion purposes (Jhoo Dong-chan, “Retailers shifting to ASEAN from China,” The Korea Times, October 9, 2017, http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/tech/2017/10/694_237402.html)

Indonesia

Indonesia is moving ahead with major infrastructure projects. However, it is in serious need of investment from foreign firms as SOE and government funding is not enough to meet the country’s growing demand for transportation and logistics services. To date, the government has opened 20 ports and 10 airports to private investment and is removing restrictive investment rules while undertaking various activities to attract investment. Already, private firms have begun ownership operations alongside SOEs in several Indonesian cities (Hendartyo Hanggi and Riani Sanusi, “Investors Needed to Develop 30 Ports, Airports,” Tempo, October 11, 2017, https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2017/10/11/056912186,uk.html/Investors-Nee...)

In the wake of Indonesian government deregulatory measures for foreign direct investment in infrastructure related projects, three memoranda of understanding were signed between Belgian and Indonesian firms. Indonesia’s PT Pelabuhan Indonesia, PT Valdo Investama, and PT Humpuss Intermoda Transportasi will partner with Belgium's PT Van Oord Dredging International Asia Pacific, Siat Group, and Exmar NV on port management, biotechnology, and liquefied natural gas projects. The Belgian companies find the deregulation measures and Indonesia’s growing position in Southeast Asia, have made the country more attractive for investment (“Indonesia, Belgium sign three MoUs to develop infrastructure,” Antara News, October 12, 2017, http://www.antaranews.com/en/news/113038/indonesia-belgium-sign-three-mo...)

Thailand

Japan’s Sumitomo Forestry Co Ltd. is partnering with Thailand’s Grande Asset Hotels and Property Plc and Property Perfect Plc to invest more than USD $900 million by the end of 2018 to construct and manage real estate projects in Thailand. The Thai government is rapidly developing the country’s infrastructure to make Thailand an integral part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), leading the Japanese-Thai joint venture (JV) to forecast increased demand for residential and office facilities as businesses enter the country (Somluck Srimalee, “Japan's Sumitomo enters Thai real estate market with JV,” The Nation, October 12, 2017, http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/Corporate/30329077)

Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly approved a new Eastern Economic Corridor stimulus bill which is expected to attracted foreign investment into developing Thailand's long struggling East. Governmental agencies in Japan have expressed concerns about the transparency of project details which make Japanese firms, Thailand’s largest source of investment, hesitant about committing to projects despite the Thai Government’s pledged support and funding. In response, Thai officials are working to solve energy and water supply concerns as well as detail how public-private partnerships will be conducted (Lamonphet Apisitniran and Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat, “Who wants in on the EEC?” Bangkok Post, October 9, 2017, https://www.bangkokpost.com/news/politics/1339203/who-wants-in-on-the-eec)

Malaysia

Malaysia’s Deputy Chief Minster, Datuk Awang Ali Hassan has confirmed that a Chinese business is planning to build a USD $3 billion steel production plant in the Malaysian state of Sarawak. The Chinese facility will be supported by the Malaysian Land and Survey Department’s initiatives to develop the region as a new industrial zone with the necessary supporting infrastructure. The successful luring of the plant paves the way for future shipping industry growth, a key government development goal (Andy Chua, “China firm to invest RM 12.65bil in Bintulu,” The Star Online, October 12, 2017, http://www.thestar.com.my/metro/metro-news/2017/10/12/china-firm-to-inve...)

Vietnam

Vietnam’s Ministry of Planning and Investment announced that in the first three quarters of this year the country had attracted FDI worth USD $25 billion. These positive results obtained despite the region’s uncertainty because of Vietnam’s political stability and strong growth. South Korea’s Samsung Group, which has already invested USD $17 billion in Vietnam, announced its intention to further invest in telecommunications, energy, and transportation infrastructure ahead of the 2017 Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum which Vietnam will host later this year (“Foreign investment in Vietnam may reach $28 billion by end of 2017,” Vietnamnet, October 12, 2017, http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/business/188241/foreign-investment-in-v...)

Chinese, South Korean, Japanese, and Singaporean investors are turning to Vietnam for expansion opportunities as domestic markets shrink. Foreign firms, especially South Korean firms forced out of the Chinese market or facing domestic threats from North Korea, have renewed expansion plans in Vietnam in order to diversify their investments. Foreign firms are also excited about the Vietnamese government’s decision to divest ownership in firms like Sabeco, Habeco, PVPower, PVOil, BIDV, and Vinamilk, which opens key industries to investors or creates room for competitors (“Is there a new South Korean investment wave in the stock market?” Vietnamnet, October 9, 2017, http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/business/187642/is-there-a-new-south-ko...)

*The information compiled in the MNCs in the News digest is gathered from sources believed to be reliable, but the Wong MNC Center does not guarantee their accuracy. The content of the MNCs in the News digest does not necessarily represent the view of the Wong MNC Center, its Board of Directors, or its Advisory Board, but is intended for the non-commercial use of readers in order to foster debate and discussion and to facilitate and stimulate research.