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Everything Is for Sale in Cyprus, and China’s Buying 一切都在塞浦路斯和中國的購買

Everything Is for Sale in Cyprus, and China’s Buying 一切都在塞浦路斯和中國的購買

The heavy scent of citrus blossom hung outside the Hilton Park hotel in Nicosia, Cyprus, where about 100 small-business owners, lawyers, accountants, and their partners packed into the ballroom to mark the Chinese New Year. Guests were treated to a fan dance and a performance by drummers clad in red silk costumes.

But the symbolism went far beyond celebrating the Year of the Dog’s arrival: This was about cementing a burgeoning relationship between two unlikely partners.

One is an increasingly assertive global powerhouseof 1.4 billion people, the other an island nation of 1.2 million that boasts a strategic location and a reputation for a no-questions-asked approach to financial affairs. That makes for a compelling match as China seeks to expand its footprint inside the European Union.

“We have investments right across all sectors of the economy,” Christodoulos Angastiniotis, president of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said before joining the other guests to hear speeches extolling the excellent state of China-Cyprus relations. He said there were “some very interesting funds” from China, lured by an “attractive tax system.”

Welcoming the Year of the Dog at the Hilton Park hotel in Nicosia.PHOTOGRAPHER: ANDREA FRAZZETTA FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK

As U.S. President Donald Trump builds barriers to Chinese trade, Cyprus is throwing open the gates. The Mediterranean country’s stance is also at odds with those of some of the EU’s bigger economies, which, alarmed by China’s appetite for acquisitions, have become more assertive in vetting deals. It may be a case of too little, too late: China is already deeply embedded in Europe, owning everything from ports in Spain, Greece, and Belgium to a German airport, stakes in North Sea oil rigs, and soccer clubs in England and Italy.

Such is the dilemma confronting governments across the globe as they weigh the question of how to manage China’s growing clout. Few countries can afford to shun investment from China’s $11 trillion state-run economy, especially one such as Cyprus, whose per capita gross domestic product, at $27,000, is a little over half that of Germany.

It may not be immediately visible, but Chinese money is everywhere in Cyprus, from real estate to shipping, financial services, tourism, and renewable energy. The only exceptions may be olive oil and halloumi cheese, though these are now being exported to China.

At the event in Nicosia, Chinese Ambassador Huang Xingyuan spoke of the “huge potential” offered by China’s Belt and Road initiative to double bilateral trade to more than $1 billion—equivalent to about 5 percent of Cyprus’s annual economic output.

China invest to Cyprus

Lawrence Ho, the billionaire owner of Hong Kong-based Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd., visited Cyprus in January to lay out his plans for what’s being billed as Europe’s biggest integrated casino resort, a $670 million project. China’s JimChang Global Group is investing 100 million euros ($122.9 million) in a five-star hotel and housing development near Ayia Napa, via a joint venture with Cyprus property group Giovani.

And at Larnaca, site of Cyprus’s main airport, state-owned China Communications Construction Group Ltd. is one of two bidders shortlisted to take control of the port and adjacent marina. There are also plans to start direct flights to Beijing after Cypriot airline Cobalt Air received a capital injection from Aviation Industry Corp. of China.

Writing in the Cyprus Mail at the end of March, Ambassador Huang placed all this activity firmly in the orbit of the Belt and Road initiative, citing the economic opportunities it opens to all “regardless of their size and wealth.”

Standing at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, Cyprus has fallen under Greek, Byzantine, Ottoman, and British influence through the centuries. More recently, it became the destination of choice for Russian money before succumbing to the European debt crisis that forced the Cypriot government to take an international bailout in 2013. The economy has yet to return to its size before the crisis.

Part of Cyprus’s pitch is that the island has a European legal and institutional framework that’s familiar to Chinese investors from Hong Kong, says Christos Scordis, a partner at Scordis, Papapetrou & Co., whose clients include Melco. It also has that geographical advantage. “Cyprus is the first European port as you exit the Suez Canal and enter European waters, utilizing the proximity of the Middle East,” says Scordis, who recently organized a seminar in Beijing on doing business in Cyprus. “China tends to see Cyprus as a gateway.”

One person’s gateway is another’s backdoor, according to reports in recent months on the nature of China’s involvement in Europe. The most comprehensive, called China at the Gates, by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), asserted that Beijing is trying to divide the EU to further its interests. China “seized the opportunity of the euro crisis for massive takeovers in southern Europe,” where the economies were most ravaged, it said.

“We see an increasing Chinese interest in Europe, and there’s a discussion among European leaders—things are not black and white,” Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said in a Bloomberg Television interview earlier this year. “We also have to protect ourselves to some extent.

 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are taking the lead on tackling China’s attempts to take advantage of Europe’s open economy while it maintains barriers to foreign investment at home. They back EU moves to tighten up screening of outside Chinese investments.

The wake-up call for Germany was the $4.5 billion acquisition of robot maker Kuka AG by China’s Midea Group Co. in 2016. More recently, Chinese billionaire Li Shufu’s purchase of a $9 billion stake in Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler AG has stoked government concerns that the balance of national interests against those of outside investors is weighted in China’s favor.

Berlin is faced with China getting its hands on “the jewels in the crown of German industry,” says François Godement, the Paris-based director of the Asia program at the ECFR and the report’s lead author. The risk for smaller EU economies such as Cyprus “is more about actual influence and lobbying rather than dependence.”

Cyprus’s ally Greece has already pivoted to China, which bought the country’s government bonds during the Greek debt crisis. In recent years, Chinese investors have acquired control of the port of Piraeus, along with a major stake in the national power grid. Last year, Greece blocked an EU statement at the United Nations that was critical of human rights in China.

Lying adjacent to Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Israel, there’s long experience in Cyprus of being on the front line of geopolitical power plays.

Turkish forces invaded the northern part of the island in 1974, and UN troops still patrol the buffer zone that bisects the country. Later it was Russians fleeing the Soviet Union who began arriving in numbers, lured by the sun, the taxes, and, subsequently, the chance to procure an EU passport in exchange for an investment of 2 million euros in a Cypriot business or real estate.

The same promise is now proving popular with wealthy Chinese. While just a few hundred strong, the fledgling Chinese community in Cyprus is making its presence felt on an island that takes barely two hours to traverse by car. Many of those arriving have settled in Paphos, where Greek legend has it that Aphrodite emerged from the sea. On the coastal road, ostentatious villas occupy the hills overlooking the city. Billboards advertising prime property stud the highway, in English, Russian and now Chinese.

Panicos Kaouris, president of the Cyprus China Business Association, shrugs off concerns that the onetime British territory may wind up becoming a client state of China. Cyprus is small and open, and its people are survivors, so why not welcome the new wave and make some money along the way? “There’s an ocean of investments from China,” he says. “We would be drowned with just a drop of that.” —With Georgios Georgiou, Paul Tugwell, Keith Zhai, Peter Levring, Francine Lacqua, Richard Bravo, and Andre Tartar

Bloomberg Businessweek

European Citizenship through Investment, granted within 6 months - 通過投資獲得的歐洲公民身份,在6個月內獲得

一切都在塞浦路斯和中國的購買。
這個小小的地中海島嶼正在打開大門,而德國和法國則建立了障礙。

在塞浦路斯尼科西亞的希爾頓公園酒店外面散發著濃郁的柑橘花香味,大約有100名小企業主,律師,會計師及其合作夥伴進入宴會廳迎接中國新年。客人們受到了粉絲舞和粉紅色絲綢服裝鼓手的表演。

但像徵意義遠遠超出了慶祝狗年的到來:這是為了鞏固兩個不太可能的合作夥伴之間的新興關係。

其中一個是擁有14億人口的日益強大的全球強國,另一個是擁有120萬人口的島國,擁有戰略位置和無問題處理金融事務的聲譽。隨著中國尋求擴大其在歐盟內部的足跡,這將成為一場引人注目的比賽。

“我們在所有經濟部門都有投資,”塞浦路斯工商會主席Christodoulos Angastiniotis在與其他嘉賓一同聽取讚美中塞關係良好狀態的演講之前表示。他說,中國有“一些非常有趣的基金”,受到“有吸引力的稅收制度”的誘惑。

隨著美國總統唐納德特朗普為中國貿易設置障礙,塞浦路斯正在打開大門。地中海國家的立場也與歐盟一些較大經濟體的立場不一致,這些經濟體對中國收購的興趣感到震驚,在審查交易時變得更加自信。這可能是一個太少,太晚的案例:中國已深深紮根於歐洲,擁有從西班牙,希臘,比利時港口到德國機場,北海石油鑽井平台以及英格蘭和意大利足球俱樂部的所有東西。 。

這就是全球各國政府面臨的兩難困境,因為他們在權衡如何管理中國不斷增長的影響力的問題。很少有國家能夠從中國11萬億美元的國有經濟中避免投資,尤其是像塞浦路斯這樣的國家,其人均國內生產總值(27,000美元)略高於德國的一半。

它可能不會立即可見,但中國的資金在塞浦路斯無處不在,從房地產到航運,金融服務,旅遊和可再生能源。唯一的例外可能是橄欖油和halloumi奶酪,雖然這些現在出口到中國。

在尼科西亞舉行的活動中,中國大使黃興元談到了中國“一帶一路”倡議的“巨大潛力”,雙邊貿易額將超過10億美元,相當於塞浦路斯年度經濟產出的5%左右。

總部位於香港的新濠博亞娛樂有限公司(Melco Resorts&Entertainment Ltd.)億萬富翁老闆何鴻燊(Lawrence Ho)於1月份訪問了塞浦路斯,計劃將其作為歐洲最大的綜合賭場度假村計劃,該項目耗資6.7億美元。中國的JimChang Global Group通過與塞浦路斯房地產集團Giovani的合資企業,在Ayia Napa附近的一家五星級酒店和房屋開發項目中投資1億歐元(1.229億美元)。

在塞浦路斯主要機場拉納卡,國有的中國交通建設集團有限公司是兩個控制港口和鄰近碼頭的入圍者之一。在塞浦路斯航空公司Cobalt Air從中國航空工業公司注資後,還計劃開通直飛北京的航班。

黃大使於3月底在塞浦路斯郵報中寫道,將所有這些活動牢牢地置於“一帶一路”的軌道上,理由是它向所有人開放的經濟機會“無論其規模和財富如何”。

塞浦路斯站在歐洲,非洲和中東的十字路口,幾個世紀以來一直受到希臘,拜占庭,奧斯曼和英國的影響。最近,在屈服於歐洲債務危機之前,它成為俄羅斯貨幣的首選目的地,迫使塞浦路斯政府在2013年採取國際救助計劃。經濟在危機前尚未恢復規模。

塞浦路斯的一部分是,該島擁有歐洲法律和製度框架,這是中國投資者對香港的熟悉,Scordis,Papapetrou&Co。的合夥人Christos Scordis表示,其客戶包括新濠。它也具有這種地理優勢。 “塞浦路斯是第一個退出蘇伊士運河並進入歐洲水域的歐洲港口,利用中東的鄰近地區,”斯科迪斯說,他最近在北京組織了一次關於在塞浦路斯開展業務的研討會。 “中國傾向於將塞浦路斯視為一個門戶。”

根據最近幾個月有關中國參與歐洲性質的報導,一個人的門戶是另一個人的後門。歐洲對外關係委員會(ECFR)最全面的稱為蓋茨的中國,稱北京正在試圖分裂歐盟以促進其利益。中國“抓住歐元危機的機會,在南歐進行大規模收購”,其中經濟受到最嚴重的破壞。

“我們看到越來越多的中國人

European Citizenship through Investment, granted within 6 months - 通過投資獲得的歐洲公民身份,在6個月內獲得

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