Exclusive-German investment in China eases in H1 after record high

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past the Chinese and German national flags before a meeting of officials between the respective trade and economy ministries in Beijing, China, November 1, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo


By Sarah Marsh

BERLIN (Reuters) – German direct investment in China eased in the first half of the year albeit remaining close to its record high in 2022 and increasing as a share of the country’s overall investment abroad, according to official data analysed by the IW institute.

Investment in China dropped to 10.31 billion euros ($11.02 billion) in the first half of 2023 from 12 billion euros in the first half of last year, the IW said in an analysis shared exclusively with Reuters.

However, that was still nearly twice as much as the 5.5 billion euros invested in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic hit. It was also more than twice the 4 billion euros invested on average in the first half of the year over the previous decade.

The data underscores concerns that German firms continue to invest heavily in China despite the government’s pleas for companies to reduce their exposure and its sharp cut in investment guarantees for the country.

Overall German direct investment flows dropped more sharply, to 63 billion euros from 104 billion euros last year, as Europe’s largest economy battled recession.

As a result, investment in China as a share of Germany’s overall investments actually increased to 16.4% in the first half from 11.6% last year and 5.1% in 2019, the IW said.

“The trend towards China remains mostly unchanged also this year,” said IW analyst Juergen Matthes. “Although the German economy is overall investing much less abroad, new direct investments in China remain nearly as high as before.”

Matthes pointed out that most of the investments in China were financed by re-invested profits.

Germany’s government has in recent months urged businesses to reduce their strategic dependencies on China given its view that Asia’s rising superpower is a growing threat to global security.

While there are early signs that German companies are beginning to rethink their China strategy, not least because of the economic slowdown there and new security laws, the data is still unclear.

Some China experts say that is partly due to a divergence between a handful of large companies like Volkswagen (ETR:VOWG_p) and BASF that are doubling down on their bet on the country, and the rest that are increasingly cautious and looking to diversify, including elsewhere in Asia.

Matthes pointed out that investments in the rest of Asia as a share of Germany’s overall investments was also rising.

“It is notable that nearly a quarter of German direct investment flows recently went to Asia,” he said.

($1 = 0.9354 euros)


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