China Denies Funding Acquisitions Abroad

By Liu Peng
Published: 2009-02-27

A Chinese senior official on Friday denied charges that China was funding domestic mining firms to seek acquisitions abroad.

The recent spate of Chinese mining firms buying foreign resources arose from the companies' independent business decisions, and the government did not channel any funding support, said Chen Bin, director of Industrial Coordination Department under the National Development and Reform Commission.

He noted that the companies' decisions were aimed at ensuring sufficient mineral supplies to fuel domestic industrial growth.

Chen's remark - delivered during a news conference to highlight China's industrial revival plan - came at a time when Chinese state-owned companies were accelerating acquisitions of foreign mineral resources.

The latest being one by Hunan Valin Steel Company, a provincial government-owned steel producer. It inked a deal with Fortescue Metals Group (FMG), Australia's third-largest iron ore exporter, to gain a 16.48% stake in the latter, worth 558 million Australian dollars.

The acquisition was announced on FMG's website on Febraury 25. The deal would make Valin the second largest shareholder of FMG's.

And a week before that, China Minmetals Corporation, another Chinese state-owned miner, offered 82.5 cents-per-share, an all-cash offer, for cash-strapped OZ Minerals, the third-largest diversified resources firm in Australia.

The deal was still under negotiations, according to a notice published on Oz Minerals website on February 23.

Prior to that, on February 12, Chinalco launched the largest overseas investment ever made by a Chinese firm.

Chinalco, China's state-owned and largest aluminum producer, announced an injection of 19.5 billion US dollars into the Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto Group, the world's third largest mining company, which was burdened with 39 billion US dollars in debt.

The deal would allow Chinalco to gain two non-executive seats on the Rio Tinto Board. But the deal still needed approvals from Rio Tinto's shareholders, the Australian foreign investment authority and regulators in the US, Britain and China.

While pending a final decision from regulators, the deal had already invoked suspicion among Rio Tinto's disgruntled investors in Britain, accoring to foreign media report. Some investors claimed the Chinese bail-out would disadvantage shareholders, and some questioned if Rio Tinto was getting a fair premium out of the deal.