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2008 FLASHBACK

Europe is worried about Chinese corporate takeovers tied to Covid-19

Protesters raise a Greek flag in front of a banner that reads "Cosco Go Home"
REUTERS/Yiorgos Karahalis
Since 2008, Chinese state-owned company Cosco Shipping Ports has taken control of ports in Greece, Belgium, and Spain. Locals and EU authorities worry about what new opportunities this crisis may provide.
  • Annabelle Timsit
By Annabelle Timsit

Geopolitics reporter

As Europe enters a recession induced by the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials are bracing for another possible wave of takeovers and acquisitions by Chinese companies, much like they saw after the 2008 financial crisis.

Asset prices have crumbled around the world, and European institutions have started warning their members that they need to bolster corporate defenses to prevent a Beijing-led buying spree. Earlier this month, NATO deputy secretary-general Mircea Geoana told defense ministers that some countries are vulnerable to losing their “crown jewels” because of the pandemic. And EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager told The Financial Times (paywall) that European governments should buy stakes in key companies to prevent Chinese takeovers.

Europeans are not alone: India’s commerce ministry has said that any foreign direct investment from countries with which it shares a land border—including China—will be subject to government approval, and Australia also tightened their restrictions on foreign takeovers and acquisitions to “protect Australia’s national interest.”

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