Assets, not bonds, are China’s preferred route

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CHINA is more interested in buying European assets than using its sovereign wealth fund to buy bonds in EU countries, despite vague promises made yesterday by premier Wen Jiabao at a meeting in Beijing with European Council president Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

Mr Wen said: “China is ready to increase its participation in resolving the European debt problems. We are willing to conduct close communication and co-operation with the EU.”

Earlier this week, the head of China’s $410 billion sovereign wealth fund said Germany had asked it to buy European government debt earlier this month, but such investments were “difficult” for long-term investors.

Lou Jiwei, chairman of China Investment Corporation, which recently bought 9 per cent of Thames Water, said any fresh injection of funds into Europe would be in industrial and other real assets, not government bonds.

Beijing views European bonds as a poor investment, and thinks assets are more profitable. However, this means that the Chinese state – as China has no truly independent companies – is building stakes in some primary EU assets.