China's open borders and push to stoke economy may revive dealmaking, advisers say

China's reopened borders and a renewed focus on boosting the economy have brightened the deals outlook.

China's reopened borders and a renewed focus on boosting the economy have brightened the deals outlook, with bankers starting to field interest for mergers, acquisitions and fundraising involving the world's second-largest economy.

The prospect of a revival in deals comes as Chinese policymakers try to restore private-sector confidence and growth.

Although consumer, retail and travel-related firms are expected to bounce back after an almost three-year lockdown, advisers say sectors linked to strengthening China's economic prospects will be at the center of dealmaking this year.

"We see strategic sectors, hardcore industrial technology, automation, semiconductor-related to be a focus for outbound activity," said Mark Webster, partner and head of Singapore at BDA Partners, an Asia-focused investment banking adviser.

"Health care opportunities are proving of interest, both domestically and outbound, including in Southeast Asia," he added. "Geographically, Indonesia in particular is attracting a lot of attention."

Australia has also already emerged on China's radar. In one such deal, Tianqi Lithium and IGO's joint venture are bidding for lithium miner Essential Metals.

Outbound M&A involving companies in China halved last year to the lowest point since 2006, Refinitiv data showed, which pulled total Chinese company-led dealmaking to its lowest point in nine years.

"We have had a lot more requests for proposals from companies in the past two to three weeks," said Li He, a capital markets partner at law firm Davis Polk who traveled to Beijing to meet clients the day after China's border reopened on January 8.

"That is not just because of travel but people think that a reopening is good for the economy, good for capital markets and good for deal execution," He said.

Opened borders could lead to a pick up in deals involving private equity funds later in 2023 as firms head to China to find buyers for their assets, according to Bagrin Angelov, head of China cross-border M&A at Chinese investment bank CICC.

Chinese private equity activity was worth US$24.1 billion in 2022, down from US$57.8 billion a year before, Pitchbook data showed.

"Six months or one year before the deal, private equity firms would already start meeting potential buyers to try to warm up the interest and try to understand who could be interested," Beijing-based Angelov said.

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