China has gone from being the world’s factory to one of the most coveted investors. Taking advantage of the expansion phase of its companies, Catalonia is attempting to capture at least a small amount of its global investments, which in Europe exceeds 7,500 million euros, according to ESADE. The acquisition of Miquel Alimentació by the public company Bright Food to make it an international distribution platform was the last bite of a country whose companies have also injected capital into the industrial sector (Huayi, Blue Star and CCIC), consumer goods (Lenovo), and real estate.
The foreign sector has been a boon to survive and emerge from the recession. Only in the first half of this year, foreign capital increased fivefold and reached 1,959 million euros, according to the Ministry of Economy. The leading investors continue to be Germany (305 million) and the UK (177 million), in addition to Luxembourg and the Netherlands, which traditionally appear in the top places due to channelling capital for their tax advantages. China is still far removed from these volumes, but its arrival in Catalonia is already a fact.
The latest major Chinese acquisition in Catalonia was the Miquel Alimentació, based in Vilamalla, which has a turnover of around 900 million euros and employs 2,500 workers. The operation carried out by the food giant Bright Food – which the newspaper China Maily valued at 110 million euros – represents a change of ownership of a 90-year-old family business. The strategy of the Chinese company is to make Miquel Alimentació a platform not only for distribution in Spain, but also for importing and exporting to and from China.
In the past four years, Catalan exports have increased 66.8% since 2010 to 101.1 million euros, with a 2.5% share of the total. Through July this year, sales to this country exceeded that figure, to 110.9 million, representing an increase of 20.4%over the same period last year. However, Catalonia buys still more: in July imports were worth 689 million euros, 24.9% more than a year ago. The market share of China is 9.8%, higher than in France or Italy.
Joan Dedéu, president of China Consultants, explains that “one of the strategic points of China lies in the globalisation of investment. I’ve spent years warning that China is no longer just the world’s factory, but rather a first order consumer market and international investor”. One of the largest capital injections in Catalonia was Hutchinson in the BEST terminal (Barcelona Europe South Terminal). The group invested 150 million last year to expand these facilities.
Source: el País