Interviewed By Foo Boon Ping
Karine Hirn, co-founder and partner at East Capital Holdings, points out that being state-owned in China is not as straightforward as it may seem.
Here is the edited transcript:
Having a partly state-owned company is not an issue as such. You can have very good owners, being state-owned entities in China, though not in all places. I’m French and I can tell you that in general, if you’re French, having a state-owned entity as your owner or as your landlord for instance is not necessarily a good thing. There are a lot of inefficiencies. But that's the case and you know it's not necessarily well-organised and efficient. In China, when we assess an investment opportunity, it's not like we go ‘Be careful, it's a state-owned entity.’ Not good because with the anti-corruption drive that President Xi Jinping initiated in 2012, there's been a lot of focus on these topics for instance. It's not black and white but I'm just saying that let's not think that easily that ‘state-owned is bad; privately-owned is good.’ Because privately-owned could also be pretty bad because you have some entrepreneurs out there who do not necessarily understand yet that if you listed your company, you're no longer a hundred percent in control. You have the stock market and investors to consider so that's really quite important.
One of the main sources of concern for us in terms of corporate governance in China has more to do with the boards. Because around the world, boards have very important functions. And here, the quality of the board is not necessarily bad in terms of competencies and skills. We are a minority shareholder company so we would like to find independent directors who are champions to support us and to make sure that we have the same aligned interests as a long-term shareholder, also protecting the rights of the minority shareholders whereas if you look at it, it's a huge country with a lot of companies so we cannot generalise.
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