Jul. 17 – Chinese investment holding company, Legend Holdings, which owns well-known PC maker Lenovo Group, has bought into Banque Internationale à Luxembourg, the oldest private bank in the country, The Paper reported. Legend Holdings Corporation is a Chinese investment holding company with interests in finance, real estate, and information technology, and the controlling shareholder of its better-known subsidiary, the Lenovo Group.
Legend Holdings paid a total 1.534 billion euros (US$1.79 billion) to acquire an 89.936% stake in the Luxembourg bank. The remaining 9.993% stake is held by the Luxembourg government. Other minority shareholders account for only 0.071%.
The Chinese company hopes to build up its foundation in the financial sector via this investment. Meanwhile, the company’s asset structure, which has been dominated by Lenovo, is expected to be optimized after the acquisition. After that, the assets of the bank will account for 35% of the total assets of Legend Holdings, while Lenovo’s shares in the company will fall from 54% to 33%. The existing governance structure and management team of the bank will remain the same.
Belgium Expected to Partner with Alibaba for Trade Platform
Belgium is likely to join an emerging world trade arrangement initiated by Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group, as more countries strive to facilitate trade, especially among small and medium-sized enterprises.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel expressed his country’s interest in becoming a partner of the electronic World Trade Platform during a meeting with Alibaba chairman Jack Ma in Brussels on 3 July, the company said in a press release.
While no details were provided, more may be in the works in Belgium, with the city of Liege under consideration as one of six hubs Alibaba’s logistics arm Cainiao plans to open across the globe. Nearly two million parcels are being transported between China and Belgium on a monthly basis, according to Cainiao’s data. Alibaba launched its first eWTP hub in Malaysia last year. The purpose of such an establishment is to provide SMEs with the same infrastructure as larger companies to conduct global trade.
International mechanisms like the World Trade Organization and the World Economic Forum are increasingly adopting such concepts, co-launching a new initiative last November to put e-commerce practices and policy front and center among governments, businesses and other stakeholders on a global level.
Chinese, Greek Energy Giants Sign Cooperation Deal in Athens
China Energy Investment Corporation, one of the world’s largest power company, signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Greece’s Copelouzos Group here on 5 July in the fields of renewable energy and conventional electricity.
Under the deal, the Chinese company will acquire a 75-percent participation in a significant pipeline of wind power parks constructed by Copelouzos Group in Greece, the Group’s President and CEO Dimitris Copelouzos said while addressing the celebratory event for the signing of the deal. In addition, the two groups have expressed interest in acquiring Greece’s Public Power Corporation’s lignite units in Megalopoli in southern Greece and Meliti in northern Greece, a step which marks the beginning of their cooperation also in the conventional power plants, according to Copelouzos.
The cooperation deal envisages investments worth at least 3 billion euros (3.5 billion U.S. dollars) in the Greek market only, Copelouzos group sources said. Spokespersons from both sides noted that the two groups aim to expand in both the Balkans and other European countries via their cooperation. Ling Wen, President and CEO of China Energy Investment Corporation, also expressed his confidence in future cooperation at the event. “We firmly believe that we will have more profound cooperation and have more benefits for both countries which have great history and our common future will be much better.”
The event also saw the presence of several Greek ministers, who welcomed the deal by terming it as a new milestone in Sino-Greek win-win collaboration. “It is a very important development given that Greece has a comparative advantage in renewable energy sources, as we know, an advantage that we have not exploited as much as we should have so far. Now there is a framework available to be able to move forward at fast pace,” Stergios Pitsiorlas, deputy minister of economy and development, said while delivering a speech during Thursday’s ceremony.
The Greek side will facilitate more Chinese investments, he added. Chen Suhong, first secretary of China’s embassy in Greece, also welcomed the cooperation between the two companies, voicing optimism that it will help both sides to become more competitive. “It is a very big event to realize the Belt and Road Initiative.Our cooperation will certainly benefit both sides,” she said, addressing the ceremony. (1 euro= 1.17 U.S. dollars).
London Attractions Adopt Alipay to Boost Tourism
Tourist attractions around the world are stepping up their efforts to deploy Chinese mobile payment methods as the country’s outbound tourism market has become the largest in the world, with more than 130 million overseas visits being made last year alone.
In its latest attempt to allure more Chinese visitors, Merlin Entertainments recently partnered with Alipay, China’s largest mobile payment platform, in a deal enabling tourists from China to make payments in their home currency to purchase both tickets and souvenirs across all of Merlin’s London attractions, including London Eye, Madame Tussauds London, the London Dungeon and more.
Iis Tussyadiah, president of the International Federation for Information Technologies and Travel & Tourism, said there is a growing trend for tourism destinations targeting the Chinese market to adopt mobile payment systems such as Alipay and WeChat Pay. “I see this as a reflection of the increasing importance of the Chinese market to many tourism destinations,” she said. “The industry recognises that Chinese tourists generally have more purchasing power compared to their counterparts. Therefore, adopting the payment system that is familiar to Chinese tourists will potentially be effective in increasing their spending.”
Tao Tao, Alipay’s business development director in Europe, said: “Alipay is focused on enabling Chinese tourists to experience seamless travel – from the moment they book their flight, through to their transport, shopping, eating and entertainment. “We’ve made great progress in the retail space, with leading brands across Europe embracing the opportunity to better cater to the lucrative Chinese tourism market. This partnership with Merlin marks a significant step into the attractions and entertainment space for Alipay,” he added.
Alipay is available for Chinese visitors to use at brick-and-mortar shops in 18 European countries, while its tax-refund service is supported at 76 European airports. UK retailers include Harrods, Selfridges, Holland and Barrett, and Heathrow Airport.
Finland is another key European country where Alipay is widely accepted among merchants, including at the Santa Claus Village and Finnair, as well as with leading Finnish taxi companies. Tussyadiah said: “Mobile payment has an important role in overseas travel among Chinese tourists not only because it can facilitate a seamless travel experience due to the prevalence of mobile payment in China, but mobile payment systems also have great marketing power to influence Chinese tourism consumption (anywhere).”
Tourism experts said using mobile payment is a more cost-effective method than a bankcard, which is commonly used in Europe. Liu Anyu, a lecturer in hospitality at the University of Surrey, said: “Compared with Visa and Mastercard, Alipay does not charge the commission fee for consumption, only the exchange rate loss, if any. Customers only need to pay a commission fee if they move the money from the Ali account to a bank account.” Liu added that using Alipay lowers costs for visitors, which could be another reason for its popularity among Chinese tourists.
The use of Alipay is well established for short-haul destinations, such as Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore, and, according to Liu, more long-haul markets will soon adopt the system given the sustained growth of outbound tourism and the significant purchasing power of Chinese tourists.