BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s overseas investment rose only marginally in 2018 as the yuan weakened and regulators cracked down on deals that were suspected to be skirting controls on moving money out of the country.
China’s non-financial outbound direct investment (ODI) in 2018 rose 0.3 percent from a year earlier to $120.5 billion, the Ministry of Commerce said on Wednesday.
In a statement on its website, the ministry said there were no new overseas investment projects in real estate, entertainment and sports sectors last year. It also said “irrational” outbound investment has been effectively curbed.
A key exception was investment in countries involved in China’s Belt and Road initiative, an extensive infrastructure plan meant to link Asia with the Middle East and Europe. That totaled $15.64 billion in 2018, up 8.9 percent from a year earlier.
Belt and Road deals accounted for 13 percent of total investments in 2018, up 1 percentage point from a year earlier.
The yuan fell more than 5 percent against the dollar last year — its fourth annual loss in five — as U.S. tariffs added pressure on the slowing Chinese economy, reviving worries about capital outflows.
The ministry said China will strengthen policy guidance and prevent risks in outbound investment in 2019, without giving details.
Investment by Chinese firms was once a significant driver of global asset prices from property to mergers and acquisitions. But it has fallen sharply since Beijing tightened capital controls in 2016, prompting a sell-off in assets by acquisitive Chinese conglomerates from HNA to Wanda.
In 2017, China posted its first decline in outbound investment since it began publishing the data in 2003.
Reporting by Yawen Chen and Kevin Yao; Editing by Richard Borsuk & Kim Coghill