New lure for private investment in SOEs

Updated: 2012-05-26 09:21


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BEIJING -- After sweeping economic reforms, which in three decades have lifted China into the world's second-largest economy, the country is moving ahead with reform of State-owned enterprises (SOEs) by inviting private investment in their restructuring.

The move comes in line with other recent measures announced by the central government to stimulate the national economy while at the same time opening more heavily State-controlled and monopolized sectors to private investment.

A guideline, issued by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC) on Friday, did not give details on how private capital could get involved in SOEs' restructuring, but provided some general directions.

Private investors can participate in the restructuring of SOEs through cash investment, share stake acquisition, subscription to SOE's convertible bonds, and finance leases, according to the guideline.

It added that private investors can band together or establish private equity funds with SOEs to invest in strategic emerging industries or make overseas investment.

The guideline requires SOEs to transfer property rights in a more open and transparent way, by making the transaction at qualified property rights transaction centers through public bidding.

SOEs that are in the process of listing or issuing new shares should invite private investors to participate in the issuance, it said.

The guideline also urged SOEs to lift barriers that will block private investors from the transaction of SOEs' share-stakes and property rights.

This will give private capital access to fair competition as previously, non-SOEs were always excluded in the bidding of SOEs' share-stakes and property rights, according to Wang Zhigang, a researcher at the research center under SASAC.

Last week, China allowed private capital to enter the railway market, which has traditionally been one of the most state-controlled sectors in the economy.

Drafting of detailed rules for private investment in the heavily State-controlled and monopolized electricity, oil and natural gas sectors is under way, the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planner, announced early this week.

The initiative came at a time when economic weakness in Europe, Japan and the United States is dampening China's export boom, which combined with China's transformation of economic growth pattern, dragged GDP growth to an almost three-year low of 8.1 percent in the first quarter of the 2012.

China's Cabinet on Wednesday sought to shore up economic weakness in the country, pledging more attention to "stabilizing economic growth" amid fears that the national economy may slow further in coming months.