【英语财经】中国考虑放开对外商控股钢铁企业的限制 China Considers Opening Up Its Steel Industry to Foreign Control

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2014-5-23 18:28

小艾摘要: Chinese officials are exploring a proposal to lift a nine-year-old ban on foreign control of its steel companies, according to people in the industry. But investors eager for a slice of the world's la ...
China Considers Opening Up Its Steel Industry to Foreign Control
Chinese officials are exploring a proposal to lift a nine-year-old ban on foreign control of its steel companies, according to people in the industry. But investors eager for a slice of the world's largest steel sector, be warned: Talks on the issue aren't likely to produce a consensus anytime soon, says one industry official.

'The idea is being explored, but the outcome may not be what people are hoping for,' said Chi Jingdong, deputy secretary-general for the China Iron and Steel Association.

In July 2005, the Chinese government moved to prohibit foreign investors from taking controlling stakes in domestic steel companies. The law effectively blocked Mittal Steel Co., which would a year later become the world's largest steelmaker, from its plan to acquire a controlling stake in Shenzhen-listed Hunan Valin Iron & Steel Co. that would be equal to the one held by the mid-sized Chinese mill's parent, Valin Group. Beijing viewed steel as a strategic sector, supplying some of its most crucial industries, and was reluctant to allow outside control -- though it still allowed minority stakes under certain conditions.

Since then, proposals to lift the ban -- largely coming from Chinese steelmakers hopeful for injections of foreign capital and know-how -- have surfaced every few years. This year, the momentum seems to be on the side of those in favor of deregulation. The National Development and Reform Commission said Thursday foreign investors are welcome to participate in infrastructure projects opened to private investment, including railways, gas pipelines, telecommunications and clean energy. These are sectors that in the past were viewed as strategic, and therefore closed to foreign participation.

A Commerce Ministry official in October had also hinted that China's similarly closed automotive sector could open its door further to a greater foreign role. Recent statements by the China Iron and Steel Association, a state-backed body that represents steelmakers, have also said Chinese mills are 'actively pursuing' a policy of 'going out' as well as 'inviting in,' ( in Chinese) meaning outbound acquisitions and inbound investments, saying that these mills would like more cooperation with foreign investors. But officials didn't elaborate on exactly how far mills would go to 'invite' foreign interest.

A sudden about-turn on the policy doesn't seem likely. Mr. Chi said there's still a sense of 'dilemma' over the proposal. In any case, China's economic slowdown has taken a toll on the steel-consuming construction sector amid government pressure to cut the steel industry due to environmental pollution -- none of which are making Chinese steel firms the most desirable targets for acquisition.

'The opening up of the steel sector -- that's a certainty,' Mr. Chi said. 'But how open it's going to be, that's still unclear.'

Reuters江苏连云港一家钢铁厂中的工人。
业内人士称,中国官员正在研究一项提案,拟取消实施了九年的外资禁止控股中国钢铁企业的相关规定。但是一位行业官员提醒,急于在这个全球最大钢铁市场分一杯羹的投资者要注意:讨论不一定能很快得出他们想要的结果。

中国钢铁工业协会副秘书长迟京东表示,正在研究放开外商投资钢铁业的限制,但结果不一定符合人们的期望。

2005年7月,中国政府出台规定,禁止外国投资者持有中国钢铁企业的控股权。这一规定阻止了一年之后成为全球最大钢铁企业的Mittal Steel Co.收购深圳上市的中型钢铁企业湖南华菱钢铁股份有限公司(Hunan Valin Steel Co., 简称:华菱钢铁)的控股权。根据原本的计划,Mittal Steel将与华菱钢铁的母公司湖南华菱钢铁集团有限责任公司(Hunan Valin Group)各持有华菱钢铁50%的股权。在中国政府眼里,钢铁是战略性行业,一些最重要的关键行业需要用到钢铁产品,因此不愿意让外资控制国内钢铁企业,不过在某些情况下外资持有少数股权是被允许的。

此后,每隔几年就会有人提议取消外资控股国内钢企的禁令。这些提议大多来自中资钢企,它们期待外资的注入,并希望引进专业技术。今年,支持放松管制的阵营似乎占据上风。中国国家发展和改革委员会(简称:发改委)周四表示,海外投资者可以参与一批已向私人资本开放的基础设施建设项目,涵盖铁路、天然气管道、电信和清洁能源的基础设施。这些行业过去一直被视为战略性产业,因此中国政府拒绝对外资开放。

去年10月份,中国商务部的一位官员暗示,中国可能会进一步放开汽车制造业的外资准入限制。中国钢铁工业协会(China Iron and Steel Association)最近也发布公告称,中国钢企正积极奉行“走出去,请进来”政策,钢企愿意加强与外资的合作。但官员们没有说明具体将允许外资参股多少。

政策方向彻底转变的可能性不大。迟京东说,面对这一提议,仍有些进退两难。无论如何,中国经济增长放缓已经对消耗大量钢材的建筑业构成拖累,同时,考虑到环境污染,政府正对钢铁行业施加减产压力。这些因素都使中国钢企变成不那么理想的收购目标。

迟京东说,对外开放钢铁行业势在必行,但开放到什么程度,目前还不明确。

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