China wealth fund eyes investments in Ireland

DUBLIN Tue Mar 27, 2012 1:07pm BST

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DUBLIN (Reuters) - 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.

Europe has been courting countries with big foreign exchange reserves, such as China, to help prop up some of its indebted governments that have struggled to issue bonds as the euro zone's debt crisis rumbles on.

Ireland, nearly halfway through a three-year EU/IMF bailout, needs to return to bond markets in the next 12 months if it is to build up enough funds to exit the programme but faces of a number of hurdles if it is to get there.

Ireland's National Treasury Management (NTMA) simply said the memorandum built on existing dialogue between it and China Investment Corp International and would help identify suitable investment or co-investment opportunities in Ireland.

The head of China's $410 billion sovereign wealth fund, Lou Jiwei, said last month that it remained wary about investing in European government bonds despite pleas to do so, but would look for opportunities in infrastructure and real industrial projects.

CIC signed a deal with Poland's foreign investment body this month that could see it snap up Polish assets and Ireland is also looking to offload state assets having unveiled a final list of utilities to go on the block.

"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," Lou said in a statement.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin)

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