Overseas Investors in China Moving West amid Financial Crisis
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A Hong Kong-based energy firm has located its regional headquarters in the ancient Chinese capital of Xi'an, one of the latest overseas companies to seek opportunities in western China amid the global financial crisis.
Eco Service Management Company Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Hong Kong and China Gas Company Limited (Towngas), set up its regional headquarters at a high-tech zone on the outskirts of Xi'an last week, said Song Haiyang, spokesman of the high-tech zone.
"It was the first overseas company to locate regional headquarters in Xi'an," Song said on Monday.
Alfred Chan, managing director of Towngas, said he and his colleagues were impressed with the infrastructure in Xi'an and services offered at the high-tech zone.
Chan said Eco Service would handle all the business of its parent company, the Hong Kong-registered Eco Environmental Protection Investment Company, in China's interior regions, including the exploitation and use of coal bed methane and natural gas, coal-based energy and chemical engineering.
Prior to the establishment of the Xi'an branch, Eco Service had reached energy investment agreements with partners in Shaanxi, Guangdong and Jiangsu provinces as well as Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, with a combined value of 15 billion yuan (US$2.15 billion), said Chan.
The company plans to invest another 15 billion yuan in the interior regions in the coming five years, he said.
While the global financial crisis has shut down many foreign-funded businesses along China's southern and eastern coasts since last year, a growing number of investors are moving westward to seek opportunities.
Last month, ABB, a leading power and automation technology group, announced the opening of a new engineering center in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality.
Tobias Becker, head of the Process Automation Division for ABB North Asia Region and ABB China, said the center would "consolidate the strategic importance of Chongqing" in the company's overall business deployment.
"China has more leeway for investors in time of the financial crisis, given its huge market demand and vast expanse of territory," said leading economist Hu Angang. "When the east gets dark, the west offers some light."
China's decade-long policy to foster development in its western regions was beginning to pay off, said Prof. Yin Xingmin with the Shanghai-based Fudan University. "Expansion of fixed asset investment has improved infrastructure and narrowed the gap between China's east and west."