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China's Fosun big on expanding in pharma

Chinese conglomerate Fosun International will remain on the lookout for investment opportunities in the West amid concerns in the market over capital controls and debt levels, according to the company's chairman.

"We will continue to look for good investment opportunities in Europe and U.S., especially sizeable ones. For instance, opportunities may be slim in the property sector but pharmaceuticals could be worth entering," said Fosun International Chairman Guo Guangchang ー often referred to as China's answer to billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

Health care is a major theme for the acquisitive Chinese investment company going forward, as it looks to buy hospitals and medical centers that have in place developed medical services and insurance.

"We want to buy many things," Fosun International Co-President Xu Xiaoliang said.

"What's important for people is the pursuit of happiness, and that comes in many layers ー clothing, food, housing and transportation. So we're looking for opportunities globally to help serve this middle class," Xu added.

The company reported that its consolidated assets grew by 19.5 percent to 486.78 billion yuan ($70.55 billion) in the last financial year. It has snapped up acquisitions including holiday company Club Med and entertainment group Cirque du Soleil in recent years.

Last month, the company's pharmaceutical arm, Fosun Pharmaceutical, was reportedly in talks over a potential deal involving German drugmaker Stada.

The changes appear to be in line with the company's overall strategy, which has seen it shift away from the steel and mining industries. While Guo said it was not a compulsory step for Fosun to sell off assets in the sector, he mentioned that the company would not increase its investments in the area.

When asked about Warren Buffett's 35 percent debt to equity ratio, Guo said that a comparison between Fosun and Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway would be "meaningless." Fosun's current debt-to-equity ratio stands at around 50 percent, Guo said, adding that such a figure was reasonable.

"Don't compare Fosun with Buffett because our scale of operation and revenue and profit margins differ greatly. To compare us with Buffett 30 years ago is perhaps fairer," Guo said.

ー Dorin Lim contributed to this report.

($1 = 6.9 Chinese yuan)