MNCs in the News-2020 October

China

China’s Ministry of Commerce reported inward foreign direct investment (FDI) flows from January to September 2020, which totaled USD $107.2 billion, increased 5.2 percent over the prior period year-over-year (YOY). Analysts saw this as the positive consequence of China’s success in dealing with Covid-19, continued growth domestically, and various economic reforms. Chinese outward FDI (OFDI) over the same nine-month period fell by 0.6 percent YOY, though there was significant growth in Belt and Road Initiative countries, which took a larger share of Chinese OFDI (Zhong Nan, “FDI Surges by 5.2% in First Nine Months,” China Daily, October 17, 2020, www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202010/17/WS5f8a34e0a31024ad0ba7f40c.html)

In mid-October China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee approved an export control law, which will become effect on December 1. The law, which applies to domestic firms as well as foreign ones, involves a restricted list that, while narrower than the United States (US) equivalent, includes some new elements such as restrictions on the export of algorithms and drones and identifies potential penalties for law violators including fines, revocation of export licenses, and criminal charges. Chinese government agencies will need to produce lists of potentially restricted items (“China Lawmakers Pass Export Control Law Protecting Tech,” Bloomberg, October 17, 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-10-17/china-lawmakers-pass-...)

At a news conference, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated, “any agreement between China and the European Union on investment has to involve reciprocity, with European companies enjoying the same freedoms to invest in China as China’s do in Europe.” She noted “‘if the Chinese side gives no market access in certain areas, that will…mean that access to the European market will also be more restricted.’” Merkel also emphasized that barriers facing European companies wanting to invest in China were too high (Thomas Escritt, “Merkel: Barriers to Investing in China are Still too High, Need Reciprocity,” Reuters, October 2, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-summit-merkel-china/merkel-barrier...)

The Secretary General of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) of the State Council noted that Central State-owned Enterprises (SOEs) have been active BRI participants since 2013 and have contributed to China’s innovation activities as well as trade, FDI flows, infrastructure connectivity, power supply, and job creation. Overall, central SOEs have been involved in more than 4,700 projects in 138 BRI countries and regions. Going forward there will be efforts to promote trilateral cooperation involving SOEs, BRI participant countries, and other players such as Japan (Zhong Nan, “Central Companies Stoke BRI Cooperation,” China Daily, October 16, 2020, www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202010/16/WS5f88f18ba31024ad0ba7efe5.html)

In late October, Sweden’s telecommunications regulator, acting on recommendations from the country’s military and security services, banned Huawei and ZTE from its 5G mobile networks. It also “gave its telecommunications operators until 2025 to remove equipment made by the companies from their existing infrastructure for core functions.” Sweden’s military and security services have described China as a threat and a thief of the country’s intellectual property. While only Huawei and ZTE were named, Sweden said its requirements were not targeted at any one country (Richard Milne, “Sweden Bans Huawei and ZTE from 5G Telecoms Networks,” Financial Times, October 20, 2020)

Around the same time as Sweden banned the use of Huawei and ZTE gear, Italy blocked telecommunications group Fastweb, the Italian unit of Swisscom, from using Huawei equipment in its 5G core network. This is the first time Italy has blocked a deal with Huawei. Beyond this, Rome is looking more generally at if Huawei should be involved in its 5G core networks. In July, Telecom Italia did not invite Huawei to participate in a bid for core network gear (Giuseppe Fonte and Elvira Pollina, “Italy Vetoes 5G deal between Fastweb and China’s Huawei: Sources,” Reuters, October 23, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-huawei-italy-5g/italy-vetoes-5g-deal-...)

Japan

Japan reportedly will not participate in the US initiative—the Clean Network plan—to prevent Chinese companies from participating in telecommunication networks because it focuses on one specific nation. Japan said it will pursue its own measures to deal with any security issues that arise. Still, it will seek to “‘strengthen cooperation in the area of cybersecurity with the U.S.’” It also will strive to minimize supply chain risks surrounding its acquisition of information and communications equipment (“Japan will not Join U.S. Plan to Bar China from Telecoms Network: Yomiuri,” Reuters, October 15, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-usa-china/japan-not-joining-u-s...)

Japan’s NEC Corp. will work with the United Kingdom (UK) government to “support the development of [the latter’s] next-generation 5G wireless networks.” The British government announced this after Japan and the UK signed a free trade agreement, roughly four months after the UK announced it would not allow the use of telecommunications equipment from Huawei in its high-speed network because of national security worries. In tandem with its announcement, the UK also stated that the all installed Huawei equipment had to be removed by 2027 (“Japan’s NEC to Support Development of 5G networks in the U.K.,” The Japan Times, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/10/26/business/corporate-business...)

Japan’s Sumitomo Corp. will work with five other Japanese companies to develop a massive smart-city project in Hanoi, Vietnam. This project, which will represent the largest smart city created by a Japanese company in Southeast Asia, will cost around $4.29 billion. Consortium members Tepco Power Grid and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engineering will build infrastructure to create a stable electricity supply. NTT Communications and NEC will handle the field of internet and security technologies. For its part, Hakuhodo will develop an array of residential services (Yaku, Fumie, “Sumitomo taps Japanese Partners for Hanoi Smart City,” Nikkei Asia, October 23, 2020, https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Technology/Sumitomo-taps-Japanese-partn...)

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Thailand’s national power generator have agreed to develop a system that would allow electric vehicles (EV) to power homes. Both parties have agreed to cooperate and collaborate on the project’s development, testing, and data collection. Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid sporty utility vehicle has been selected for the project. If the project is successful, then EV batteries would provide an alternate power source for reducing electricity bills and powering homes during a blackout (“Mitsubishi Motors and Thai Government Firm to Develop EV-to-home Power Supply,” The Japan Times, October 16, 2020, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/10/16/business/mitsubishi-thai-go...)

South Korea

In early October, the Chairwoman of the Korean Fair Trade Commission (FTC) noted during a government audit that the FTC “will soon come up with an investigation plan to look into Google’s practices in running its mobile operating system.” Particularly drawing attention was Google’s requirement that all in-app purchases be made via its Play Store. The Chairwoman further revealed that the FTC was “investigating two cases related to allegations that Google abused the monopolistic status of its Android OS” (Nam Hyun-Woo, “FTC Tightens Reins on Google in-App Purchase Policy,” Korea Times, October 8, 2020, https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/tech/2020/10/133_297265.html)

Despite the fact that some of its overseas assets are operating at a profit, may become more valuable over time, and have value from a national security vantage point, the South Korean government is requiring the Korea Resources Corp. (KRC) to sell off assets “so its financial conditions can be improved” and because it wants to target other assets. At present, KRC has large overseas investments in copper mines in Panama and Mexico and a nickel mine in Madagascar (Jung Min-Hee, “Government Insisting on Disposal of KRC’s Overseas Assets,” Business Korea, October 14, 2020, http://www.businesskorea.co.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=53150)

Samsung Fire & Marine and Samsung Life, Korea’s largest property and life insurers, have provided nearly $14 billion in financing for coal projects and investments through mechanisms like project financing, bonds, and insurance underwriting. Such activities have drawn fire from foreign investors, environmental activists, and others. While companies have “previously promised not to participate in any further direct financing of coal projects or refinance existing investments,” they still may support coal projects through other routes like insurance underwriting (Edward White, “Investors Hit out at Samsung over $14bn in Coal Financing,” Financial Times, October 5, 2020)

Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction recently signed a $2.2 billion, four-year engineering, procurement, and construction contract with Vietnam’s VAPCO. The contract calls for it to build the 1200 MW Vung Ang 2 coal power plant in Ha Tinh Province. As part of the contract, it will supply instant boilers, environmental facilities, and balance of plant facilities. The Vung Ang 2 project is promoted by Korea Electric Power Corp. and Mitsubishi Corp. of Japan which each holds a 40 percent stake in the project (Min-hee, Jung, “Doosan Heavy to Build Coal-fired Power Plant in Vietnam,” Business Korea, October 21, 2020, http://www.businesskorea.co.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=53577)

*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.