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Prey becomes predator

Companies from emerging markets are on the acquisition trail, and their targets now include firms in North America and Europe. Sudip Roy reports on a trend that could be the biggest driver of global M&A transactions within the next few years.

Who's buying what and where

WHEN STATE-OWNED company China National Offshore Oil Corporation announced its intention to buy US rival Unocal for $18.5 billion, there was a predictably irrational response from certain American politicians, who saw the bid as an assault on strategic interests. But it is something they will need to get used to – CNOOC's June bid was exceptionally ambitious, but was otherwise typical of a new-found aggression from emerging-market companies in their growth strategies. For years, companies in the developing world have been prey to takeover bids from businesses in north America, western Europe, Japan and Australasia. Now, the tables are beginning to turn. A handful of regional champions, mostly in Asia and Latin America but also in eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, are on a global hunt for assets. Buoyed up by strong emerging-market economic growth, relatively low funding costs and ambitious management, companies such as Mexico's Cemex, China's Lenovo, Russia's Severstal and Egypt's Orascom Telecoms are blazing a trail in the US and Europe.

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