CHINESE WINE MARKET ATTRACTS FOREIGN INVESTORS

19 July 2012

As a businessman, there are three ways to make money from China’s economic upswing. You can attract investment so as to secure capital, you can look for cheap suppliers or you can turn to the Chinese market itself.

The third option of course involves the greatest risk and thus also requires the most courage. But it will get you the highest returns. More than 1,000 Greek companies have established trade ties with China, mostly in the form of imports from the vast Asian country.

But although the number of companies that have entered the Chinese market does not exceed 100, their performance is quite striking. These include S&B Industrial Minerals SA, jewelry and fashion brand Folli Follie, plastics company Plastika Kritis SA, FHL Kyriakidis Marbles and Granites, Coco-Mat mattresses, beauty product company Apivita, Kleeman elevators, Iktinos marble industry and Vitex paint manufacturers. Dozens more, including food and wine producers Tyras, Minerva, Ktima Lazaridis, Kriton Artos and Tsantalis, have also established their presence in the Chinese market. Their record so far is very positive.

Constantinos Yannidis, manager at Vitex and president of the Hellenic-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says that opportunities are to be found in all sectors: marble, shipyards, mining and mineral processing, jewelry, winemaking, canning, beekeeping, food processing, the export of agricultural goods (particularly olive oil), tourism, education and energy management.

According to the Office for Economic and Commercial Affairs in Beijing, there is room for greater expansion in areas such as food products (olive oil, dairy, wine) and high-quality building material such as plastics.

Although there are still outstanding issues -- for example improving customs clearance and cutting red tape -- more and more Greeks are taking steps into the Chinese market, as building an outward-looking perspective is the best way to survive the crisis at home.

Recent data show a rise in Greek exports to China in 2010. Meanwhile, Chinese exports to Greece have dropped for a second consecutive year, though at a lower rate. Greece’s trade deficit with China reached 2.7 billion euros, a 7.35 percent drop compared to last year.

Yannidis and Zhang Yujing, president of China’s Chamber of Commerce, estimate that bilateral trade between Greece and China currently stands at 4.35 billion euros. The figure of course includes big investments in shipping and particularly in the construction of oceangoing vessels by Chinese shipyards, most of them with money from Chinese credit institutions.

Vitex is a good example of how looking outward can help your company. Thanks to its exports, it has managed to make up for its losses in the domestic market. Cosmos Building Materials Shanghai Co Ltd, created by the Greek FHL Group, is the only marble-processing company in Shanghai. Before that, the smaller Kavala-based company MMS had set up a marble-processing machinery and equipment unit. Folli Follie, meanwhile, plans to have 125 shops in China by the end of 2011.

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