The years of the Chinese Investors

[dropcap]H[/dropcap]ave you ever been in China? I mean, in the business China, or in China for business? Only if you look with your own eyes, you can see and realize how actually far we are. Generally speaking, in terms of consumption or lifestyle, Italian people prefer good taste and style, sober qualities and low-profile look. Chinese love brands and, from a social point of view, having suffered for long time from a past where personal expression was quite banned, they usually try to affirm their status through objects and products which are worldwide very well known. It is not a coincidence that most luxury products are promoted and sold through a lifestyle-oriented communication initiatives. Especially in the yachting sector. So, after this short consideration, if you give a look at the list of the Chinese major investements towards the Italian industry, you can sense how deeply we are involved in the Chinese system, and feel how difficult is for all those Italian businessmen and entrepreneurs to face new financial structure. I do not think that money or investment can make this world a global place. There are so many different aspects that separate the West from the East, and business will never been a common language.

The list of the major Chinese investors in Italy include Ferretti Group, the Italian motor yachts manufacturer, where the Chinese Shig-Weichai group in 2012 acquired the majority share for a total of 374 million euro. The other companies that considerably attracted the interest of the Chinese investors are Ansaldo Energia (40% acquired by Shanghai Electric for 400 mln euro), Generali-Mediobanca (the financial operation by People’s Bank of China, valued 570 mln euro, involved both banks, 2,001% and 2,014% respectively), Telecom Italia-Prysmian-Fiat Chrysler (acquisition by the Chinese central bank for 670 mln euro), the recent investment of 700 mln euro by Suning Commerce Group in Internazionale FC (68,55%), AC Milan (now in the hands of the chinese enterpreneur Sonny Wu, operating in the fields of renewable energy, who in the Italian football team invested 740 mln euro). Then we have Unicredit-Mps-Intesa San Paolo, where the Chinese central bank entered with 2% shares for a total amount of 2 bln euro. Eni-Enel, owned by the People’s Bank of China for 2,07% and 1,3, respectively (total of 2,1 bln euro). Terna-Snam (the 35% acquisition of the their holding – Cdp – by State Grid International was made 2 years ago for a total value of 2,1 bln euro. Then, Pirelli, the largest nvestment ever made in Italy by chinese giants: through this operation Chem China bought Pirelli for 7,1 bln euro.

Developing businesses and expanding globally always means sharing global views within the group. And, in particular, when the East marries the West, the efforts that both sides have to face are doubled, because of the general prejudice people (including clients) have when the Made in Italy is bought by Chinese investors. There is always a tangible fear that quality is lost or seriously undermined. So, on one side it is a financial success for a company or a group, when it is acquired and saved by foreigh investors, on the other, however, it must deal with other crucial aspects, culture included. When the brand expands, its corporate values need to be totally understood and absorbed also by the new entity just acquired, by all the members of the staff, by partners and, then, by clients. It is not an easy action.

In May 2016 the committee of “Top 500Brand Value Chinese Companies” announced the top 500 list of its 10th launch. Weichai Power ranking the 64th with the brand value of 43.336 billion yuan. As China’s equipment manufacturing industry leader, Weichai Power attaches great importance to cultivate brand value. Furthermore, in December 2015, at the “2015 Chinese brand value evaluation information conference” held by Chinese Brand Building Association and China Central TV, WeichaiPower won the first place in the Chinese machinery manufacturing company category. But brand is not everything. And, as a matter of fact, the Chinese group Weichai, as stated in one of their press notes, in order “to help overseas employees to deepen the understanding and recognition of Weichai cultures, under the coordination and organization of Weichai International Division”, organize learning sessions and interactions focused on corporate culture, strategy, human resources, production research, brand and other business areas.

Then there is the problem of building and preserving the good reputation. It is like when a new individual aims at being accepted by the high society. He has to prove something that makes him worthy of that position. So, also in this case, Weichai proved to deserve the international acknowledgment. In 2013, when Weichai Power appeared among the sponsors of the Ferrari Racing team (sponsorship agreement valid until 2016), the vice-president, Mr Xu Xinyu, declared that the operation was another example of the international success for the Weichai group. It was the first case of a Chinese brand among the sponsors of legendary Ferrari F1. And today with the recent acquisition of 13% of the share capital by Piero Ferrari through the holding F. Investment, the Ferrari family officially enters the Ferretti Group, which, among its latest branding initiatives, adds the brand Riva to the sponsors of Ferrari.

Image: Weichai Press Area