Nel balletto per l’acquisizione, i cinesi perdono una mossa

Cina, Usa, energia, grandi gruppi Nyt        05-07-21

<1360649">Nel balletto per l’acquisizione, i cinesi perdono una mossa


Nel contrattacco ai tentativi cinesi di acquisizione di società americane, il Senato Usa ha di recente approvato un emendamento che obbliga il segretario di Stato a riferire dinanzi al Congresso prima di qualsiasi acquisizione di proprietà americane da parte di una società straniera controllata da un governo.

Charles E. Schumer, il senatore democratico di N.Y. che ha sponsorizzato l’emendamento, parlando degli investimenti americani in Cina: «Il diavolo è spesso nei dettagli. Il governo cinese crea barriere di fatto che costringono quasi sempre le società straniere a rinunciare a una parte del controllo».

Chevron ha rilanciato l’offerta a $17md, e maggior liquidità contro i $18,5md. della società petrolifera cinese Cnooc, al 70% proprietà  della statale  China National Offshore Oil Corporation. Ma potrebbe non essere il colpo definitivo.

Chevron ha deciso di alzare l’offerta per Unocal, per non rischiare di vedersi respingere dal consiglio di amministrazione della società, con la conseguenza di maggiori difficoltà ad ottenere da parte del governo di Washington il blocco dell’accordo con Cnooc. Quest’ultima ha ribadito l’offerta di “tutto in contanti”.

È la seconda volta in una settimana che una grande società cinese subisce un serio contraccolpo nel tentativo di acquisizione di importanti società americane. Un gruppo di investitori capeggiati dal gigante cinese di elettrodomestici Haier è stato superato nell’offerta per Maytag.

Queste difficoltà potrebbero temporaneamente allentare la tensione politica a Washington per quello che viene percepito come attacco da parte della Cina, nel tentativo di creare grandi gruppi internazionali.

C’è chi mette in guardia dal rischio di una reazione di maggior aggressività da parte delle società cinesi (un consulente legale del Grandall Legal Group, con sede a Pechino).

Finora sono state poche le società cinesi che sono riuscite ad acquisire grandi proprietà all’estero: Lenovo, con il settore computer di Ibm; Tcl, produttore di televisori, ha acquisito il controllo della francese Thomson, proprietaria della marca di televisori Rca.

Nyt          05-07-21

In Takeover Dance, the Chinese Miss a Step
Don’t count the Chinese out just yet.
Chevron might have regained the upper hand by getting Unocal to accept its sweetened bid against a higher offer from Cnooc, the government-backed Chinese oil company. But it might not have delivered the knockout blow it was looking for in the monthlong takeover battle.

The decision by Unocal’s board to stick with Chevron is the second time this week that a large Chinese company has been dealt a serious setback in its attempt to acquire major American assets. On Monday, a group of investors led by the Chinese appliance giant Haier pulled out of the bidding for Maytag.

These stumbles might temporarily ease the political backlash in Washington over the perceived onslaught by China as it seeks to build global corporations. But that relief could be short-lived .

"This won’t slow things down at all," said Jerry J. Kong, a lawyer at Grandall Legal Group, which is based in Beijing. "On the contrary, I think Chinese companies will be more aggressive."
Now the question is how far Cnooc will go to try to regain the initiative. So far, it has not indicated its next move, but the company still has some time and leeway to raise its offer. Both bidders are racing against an Aug. 10 deadline, when Unocal’s shareholders will be asked to approve or reject Chevron’s offer.

Cnooc’s bold step to attempt the largest overseas takeover by a Chinese company forced Chevron’s hand. In a rare statement since the politically charged contest began a month ago, David J. O’Reilly, Chevron’s chief executive, said, "Our increased offer has been driven by competitive circumstances."

Ahead of Unocal’s board meeting Tuesday evening, Chevron decided that it had little choice but to raise its bid, executives close to the company said. Since June 22, Chevron had been resisting such a move, arguing that its original offer of $16.8 billion for Unocal had a much better chance of acceptance than Cnooc’s higher bid of $18.5 billion.

But Unocal’s board, worried that it could no longer support the lower offer from Chevron and seeking to get the best possible price, threatened to back Cnooc if Chevron did not improve its price, the executives said.

That was something Chevron could not allow to happen. It would have meant the loss of its trump card – the prospect that the United States government would block a deal with Cnooc. If Unocal had decided to accept the Cnooc bid – and the associated political risk – Chevron would have had a much more difficult time regaining ground.

Chevron’s new bid is now worth $63 a share, or $17 billion, and includes more cash than its original offer. While that is still lower than Cnooc’s offer, the company has regained the firm backing of Unocal’s board, which is recommending the deal to its shareholders.

"Unocal wanted to see Chevron make an effort with its bid," said Jeb Armstrong, an oil analyst at Argus Research, who advises investors to buy Chevron shares and recommends a hold on Unocal stock. "It’s not a major increase over all, but Chevron is still counting on its ability to complete the deal quickly."

It was not clear, however, whether Chevron’s sweetened offer would definitely seal the acquisition of Unocal or would extend the bidding war.

"Chevron wants to close the deal," said Louis B. Gagliardi, an analyst with John S. Herold, who owns Chevron shares. "It has the momentum on its side and is seeking to nip this in the bud without getting into a bidding war against Cnooc. They are also showing Unocal’s board and shareholders that they are ready to provide a little more incentives."

Chevron is hoping that Tuesday’s late-night announcement will deal a final blow to the prospects of Cnooc, which is 70 percent owned by the government-controlled China National Offshore Oil Corporation.

In response, Cnooc issued a muted statement that its "all-cash offer has not been changed and remains in effect." Referring to Unocal’s board members, it added: "We regret that they have not yet embraced our offer. We will continue to monitor the situation actively."

Cnooc probably did not expect to encounter such a level of political animosity and opposition to its offer. The backlash might ultimately cost it the battle.

The notion of a Chinese company with significant government support buying an American energy company galvanized some members of Congress into opposing the takeover and painting Cnooc’s offer as a threat to national security.

In the lat
est attempt on the political front to thwart the Chinese bid, the Senate approved an amendment on Wednesday that would require the secretary of state to report to Congress before any takeover of American assets by a government-controlled foreign company.

"The devil is often in the details," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat from New York, who sponsored the amendment.

"The Chinese government creates de facto barriers that almost always require Western companies to give up some degree of control ," Mr. Schumer said, referring to American investments in China.

No other major Chinese company has ever engaged in the kind of high- stakes Wall Street battle that Cnooc is locked in. Indeed, few major Chinese companies have even managed to acquire large overseas assets.

Lenovo , a Chinese computer company, recently acquired I.B.M.’s personal computer business. And TCL, a Chinese television set maker, recently took control of Thomson of France, which owned the RCA television brand.

While the Unocal and Maytag contests may prove to be setbacks for two of China’s star companies that are seeking to become global corporations, they and others are expected to return to the fray.

As Mr. Kong, the lawyer at Grandall, put it: "This will help these companies mature."

Jad Mouawad reported from New York for this article, and David Barboza from Shanghai. Andrew Ross Sorkin contributed reporting from New York.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times

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