Caixin
Nov 07, 2016 04:50 PM
ECONOMY

China Launches 10 Billion Euro Fund to Boost Investment in Central, Eastern Europe

(Riga, Latvia) — China has set up a 10 billion euro ($11.1 billion) investment fund to finance projects in Central and Eastern Europe, the latest in a series of moves under Beijing's "One Belt One Road" initiative to help Chinese firms scouting for investment opportunities abroad amid an economic slowdown at home.

The China-Central Eastern European fund will raise another 50 billion euros to finance joint ventures, Premier Li Keqiang said at an annual meeting with 16 regional heads of state in the Latvian capital, Riga.

The fund is managed by Sino-CEEF Holding Co. Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) — the country's biggest lender. The holding company was launched by Li and Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis on Saturday.

Jiang Jianqing, a former chairman of ICBC, will head the company and the investment fund. Jiang said that the new fund, unlike previous Chinese investments in the region that mostly focused on infrastructure, is more market-driven and will invest in more profitable projects such as logistics, clean energy and pharmaceutical manufacturing.

"Countries in Central and Eastern Europe have a competitive edge given their location and an attractive environment for investment," Jiang said during the meeting. "The formation of the China-Central Eastern European fund will provide more market-oriented financial services and meet the growing funding needs for cooperation projects."

China and 16 Central and European countries formed a multilateral forum called "16+1" in 2012, and the heads of states of member countries have met annually to discuss economic projects. During last year's meeting in Suzhou, a modern industrial hub in Jiangsu province, Li proposed the idea of a holding company to channel investments to the region. In response to the call, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (Asia) Ltd., the Hong Kong-based subsidiary of ICBC, said in May that it had spent 1 billion euros to form the company.

Trade between China and Central and Eastern European countries has grown rapidly in recent years, hitting $56.3 billion last year. The figure was 14 times the level in 2001, Chinese customs officials said. China's major trade partners in the region included Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania.

Contact reporter Chen Na (nachen@caixin.com); editor Poornima Weerasekara (poornima@caixin.com)

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