Mainland fund eyes Ireland investment

By Padraic Halpin and Michael Martina, Reuters

BEIJING/DUBLIN — A subsidiary of China’s sovereign wealth fund on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding with Dublin’s debt agency to explore investment opportunities in Ireland, but gave little detail on what it might be interested in. While Europe has been courting China to help prop up some of its indebted governments struggling to issue bonds, analysts said Beijing’s US$410 billion sovereign wealth fund would likely be more interested in buying Irish assets than Irish debt. Ireland’s National Treasury Management (NTMA) simply said the memorandum built on existing dialogue between it and China Investment Corp. International (CIC) and would help identify suitable investment or co-investment opportunities in Ireland. “There is nothing specific mentioned here, but it is an agreement signed between the NTMA and CIC, to explore a very broad spectrum of possibilities for investment,” Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny added at a news conference toward the end of a four-day visit to China.

Ties between Ireland and China have progressed rapidly in the last 18 months and China’s leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping chose Ireland as the only European stop of a trip that took in visits to the United States and Turkey last month. “The memorandum signed today reflects our strong working relationship and shared commitment. It will be of valuable assistance for us in identifying and assessing potential opportunities in Ireland,” CIC Chairman Lou Jiwei said in a statement.