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Chinese investors to head to Europe: report

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(BEIJING) - The Chinese government will lead an investment delegation to Europe next year as debt-laden eurozone countries open their doors to much-needed help from Beijing, state media said Tuesday.

Commerce Minister Chen Deming announced the trip after the head of China's $400 billion sovereign wealth fund said it was keen to invest in European and US infrastructure -- a move welcomed by British authorities.

"Some European countries are facing a debt crisis and hope to convert their assets to cash, so we will push forward more Chinese companies to acquire European enterprises," the Global Times quoted Chen as saying.

But Chen warned that Chinese companies faced challenges investing overseas and called on US and European authorities to further open up their markets and remove unnecessary hurdles and barriers.

"We are willing to further open up our market, such as the financial sector, but other economies must be more open to us in return," he said.

The report did not say when the delegation would go to Europe or which countries it would visit.

European leaders have been calling on China, the world's second largest economy, to help struggling eurozone countries by contributing to a bailout fund, but so far Beijing has not made a firm commitment.

A move to help developed European countries would be a hard sell for Communist Party leaders in a country where millions of people live in poverty and inflation and soaring housing costs are straining household budgets.

China has also been burned before on risky overseas investment. It bought stakes in investment bank Morgan Stanley and asset management firm Blackstone only to see values collapse in the 2008 global financial crisis.

China Investment Corporation chairman Lou Jiwei wrote in Britain's Financial Times on Monday that the company was keen to invest in overseas infrastructure projects.

CIC was set up in 2007 to invest some of China's massive foreign exchange reserves -- the world's largest at $3.2017 trillion at the end of September -- partly to gain better returns.

Britain's Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander welcomed the prospect, saying Chinese investment would represent a "very significant boost" to the ailing economy.

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