Changing climate right for buyout?

Posted: Sunday, June 26, 2005

The headline in Friday's Clarion

— "Bid for Unocal faces hurdle" — brings to the forefront interesting issues going on in our world today. The Chinese state-owned oil company CNOOC Ltd. made an unsolicited bid of $18.5 billion to challenge Chevron's offer of $16.6 billion in cash and stock that's been on the table.

Chevron says it has no plans to counter — not just yet, anyway.

Unocal is considering both offers.

Unocal employees were told not to worry.

But should they?

China is stepping up its interest in U.S. companies and starting to move about the country with a shopping cart.

According to analysts, China's visibility is becoming more prominent and there are concerns that all this movement might instigate anti-China sentiments, especially since Congress sees the country as becoming more of a threat economically, not to mention the military challenge they pose.

What may be taking shape is making those in Washington a little nervous.

Other recent movements include Bank of America Corp. announcing it is investing $3 billion for a 9 percent stake in China Construction Bank — one of China's largest banks. The Haier Group, China's largest refrigerator maker, and two U.S. buyout firms offered $1.28 billion for Maytag. In December, China's Lenovo Group Ltd. purchased IBM Corp.'s personal computer division for $1.25 billion.

Should we be concerned?

Many U.S. companies are seizing opportunities to setup headquarters in China — Motorola, General Electric and Honeywell, to name a few. Ford is interested, as well, and is planning to build an engine plant there.

According to economist David Wall, by 2025, Chinese investors could own two dozen of the Fortune 500 companies.

There's no doubt the economy in China is growing. It's been climbing at an annual rate of more than 9 percent since 2003.

What's even more intriguing is the fact that while China is playing Pac-Man with U.S. interests, our popularity is waning in the rest of the world.

Eleven of the 16 countries surveyed by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press — Britain, France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Russia, Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Jordan and Indonesia — had a more favorable view of China than the United States.

There are definite image problems at home, but even with these issues there is a silver lining — especially in Alaska.

The boom in China hasn't hurt our state. In fact, the export of goods and services to China and the air cargo industry's number of flights between here and there are flying high.

Other figures are up, too.

The Travel Industry of America has forecast that the number of Chinese visiting the United States will increase 10 percent this year to about 200,000 visitors. China restricts the amount of people who can travel, especially to the United States, but as its economy expands, so does the number of those who can afford to venture outside its borders.

With its pristine views and relatively close location, Alaska is a big draw for those who live in crowded cities.

It will be interesting to see what lies ahead for our country and theirs. However, knowing China's future is on the upward swing could be a positive for Alaska, and inviting them into our oil business just might improve the neighborhood.

We'll see.

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