China client case studies in 2023
Global IP consulting firm sets foot in Beijing
Our client is a leading intellectual property group providing intellectual property (IP) services through the Asia-Pacific region. The group provides a comprehensive range of services including i) IP agency and consulting, ii) business information consulting, iii) investment consulting and iv) enterprise management consulting.
The group decided to set up business in Beijing as part of their expansion plan. Being the heart of China, a branch in Beijing would allow the group to tap into the massive Chinese market.
The directors of the group approached Healy Consultants. Our Client explained their existing global business and their planned business activity in China in detail. Healy Consultants assisted the Client in determining the optimum corporate structure for their company in China.
Prior to China company set up, the Chinese government must review and approve a lease agreement for office premises. Healy Consultants assisted our Client locate office premises for their staff of 2 and also helped our Client agree on a 12 months lease with the landlord.
After receiving all the required documents from our Client including i) original attested signed lease agreement, ii) attested original passport copies iii) original bank reference letters, Healy Consultants submitted the company name application to the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) in Beijing for name reservation.
Healy Consultant then applied for a letter of approval and certificate of approval of foreign investment from Ministry of Commerce for the company’s business activities and foreign ownership.
Upon approval of the above, Healy Consultant submitted a complete incorporation package to the SAIC and approval of the WFOE was received within 3 weeks.
Corporate bank account
With the WFOE successfully incorporated, Healy Consultants proceeded to assist the Client open a corporate bank account in the Chinese branch of an international bank. Our banking team drafted a business plan detailing the i) company’s profile, ii) business activities and iii) expected transaction volume to support the application.
In addition, Healy Consultants also assisted Client apply for a foreign exchange registration certificate with the State Administration of Foreign Exchange.
Within 4 weeks, Healy Consultants received confirmation from the Chinese branch of an international bank that the corporate bank account has been approved and successfully opened.
Singapore-based Client opens company in China for food import and export
Mr. Tan is a Singaporean citizen who has been working in the food industry (particular Coco) for the past ten years. He approached Healy Consultants requesting assistance and support to help him expand his business in Guangzhou, China. The proposed company will be involved in the import and export of various food ingredients, machinery, and building products for export to the Middle East, Europe, and Northern Africa.
Mr. Tan outlined his business objectives to Healy Consultants. The engagement began when Mr. Tan agreed with Healy Consultants’ fees, signed Healy Consultants’ Client Engagement Letter, confirmed the corporate structure required, and supplied the necessary due diligence documents.
Before Healy Consultants commenced the company incorporation process, the Chinese government must review and approve a lease agreement for office premises. As requested by Mr. Tan, Healy Consultants assisted him in locating permanent office premises. This includes i) sourcing for the permanent office premise, ii) arranging an office viewing iii) negotiating the terms and conditions of the lease agreement iv) preparing the lease agreement in the format stipulated by the Chinese government v) negotiating with the landlord to obtain a travel exemption for lease agreement signing.
After the signing of the lease agreement, Healy Consultants began the company incorporation process. Usually, the Chinese government requires the company director to travel to China personally to complete the: i) incorporation process, ii) corporate bank account opening, iii) tax registration process. However, due to Healy Consultants good long standing relationship with the Chinese government, we successfully obtained a travel exemption to allow Mr. Tan to sign all the necessary incorporation forms and lease agreements in Singapore.
Healy Consultants completed the application form from the Guangzhou Bureau of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation at Guangzhou Municipality, requesting name approval for the WOFE. Healy Consultants also prepared a business plan stating the company’s intended activities (translated to Chinese), draft articles of association, and due diligence on the investors. Following this, Healy Consultants received a Certificate of Approval from Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation of Guangdong, which enabled Healy Consultants to apply for a business license. The company is legally incorporated in China after three months.
After company incorporation procedures were complete, Healy Consultants approached the leading local bank in Guangzhou to apply for Mr. Tan’s corporate bank account. By submitting a full set of corporate documents, and a business plan highlighting the company’s activities, the Renminbi foreign exchange corporate bank account was successfully opened within a week. Mr. Tan can now begin invoicing international Clients. In the meantime Mr. Tan is required to transfer the proposed initial investment to the corporate bank account, in accordance to the China Companies Act.
Other support services
Because the China based company is doing general trading of raw material, and food products, an import and export license is required. In addition to this, the company is also required to be registered as foreign trade operator. The license application takes approximately one month to complete.
To further support Mr. Tan’s business engagement in Guangzhou, Healy Consultants aids Mr. Tan in many other related tasks. For example, Healy Consultants provided: i) full recruitment support, including hiring of local staff, advertising, interviews, shortlists, etc. ii) Sourcing for contractors to furnish Mr. Tan’s office iii) contacts in China, e.g. suppliers, export agents iv) an introduction to existing Clients who operate in the same industry. Last but not least, to enable Mr. Tan to work legally in China, Healy Consultants also assists Mr. Tan and his family to obtain residency and working visa in China.
China incorporation is complex and time-consuming. The whole company incorporation and bank account opening process takes approximately four months to complete from start to finish. Mr Tan’s timely response and co-operation was highly appreciated during the engagement.
Healy Consultants provides Mr. Tan with a complete company kit including i) Original certificate of approval ii) Original Certificates from the local and national tax bureaus iii) The original Business License iv) Original Foreign Exchange Registration Certificate v) Original Food Circulation permit vi) import and export license and bank kits (incl internet banking token and cheque book). For our continuous improvement, Healy Consultants also emailed Mr. Tan an Engagement Feedback Survey for his completion.
European chemicals manufacturer sets up Tianjin facility
Our Client is a small European fine chemicals manufacturer who operate a small manufacturing and research and development (R&D) facility in the Netherlands. As part of a strategic expansion, the company’s management decided to explore the possibility of setting up a manufacturing facility in China to produce chemicals for the Chinese coating, agriculture, plastics and cosmetics industries, for which there is currently high demand. Having found our website via a Google search, the Client contacted us by e-mail requesting further details about China company incorporation, and their investment options in China.
Healy Consultants agreed to undertake initial market research in China on behalf of our Client, to identify the ideal province in which to locate a manufacturing facility and to then draw up a strategy for business setup logistics in that region. Our Client agreed to pay us a retainer fee of US$1,000 to complete this task.
Our initial market research was challenging because of language difficulties, as well as variations in legal and regulatory conditions in different provinces in China. Healy Consultants staff on the ground in Shanghai obtained specific market information about other provinces, and made many telephone calls to provincial government departments and chambers of commerce to obtain hard data for our Client. Our initial two-week market research did, however, identify the northern province of Tianjin as being a suitable location for a grassroots facility, because:
- It is possible to set up a wholly-owned foreign company (WOFE) for manufacturing purposes there;
- Many of the existing industries in Tianjin require specialty chemicals produced by our Client;
- Tianjin offers certain tax breaks to WOFEs set up there;
- Tianjin already has a good industrial infrastructure, including reliable utility supplies, and is already home to several multinational companies.
Accounting and tax support
We presented this information to our Client, and explained the many accounting, tax and legal issues related to setting up a business in Tianjin in particular, and China in general. In particular, we highlighted the likely delays we would encounter in getting WOFE approval, the lack of transparency over federal and provincial government approval and company registration costs, and other incidental fees such as legal fees and translations.
After considering their options for two months, the Amsterdam-based board members of our Client’s company decided to proceed to set up the manufacturing WOFE in Tianjin, and our Incorporation Teams in both Shanghai and Singapore started the engagement. The first step was to reserve the intended company name with the Tianjin Municipal Administrative Bureau for Industry and Commerce, located in the city of Tianjin. Our Shanghai office submitted the name application on behalf of our Client, and received approval that the name was available within five working days.
The next step was to prepare a Project Proposal for our Client. Healy Consultants’ Marketing and Media Department in Singapore prepared a detailed Proposal containing the following information:
- The business scope of the WOFE;
- An analysis of the market;
- An overview of products and services;
- Operational strategy;
- Marketing strategy;
- Financial information, including amount to be invested;
- Technology to be deployed;
- Land-use requirements (including the area) and selection of sites;
- Personnel and wages;
- Utility requirements.
Luckily, some of the preliminary market research had been done at the beginning of the engagement, so our Marketing Team were able to produce a draft report within three days. As with any WOFE application, it was important to emphasise the technologies which would be used in the manufacturing facility, since approval often hinges on this issue. At the same time, our Client expressed concern to us over potential intellectual property rights infringements in China, since the facility would be using proprietary technology. (To assist them with this matter, at a later stage of the engagement we introduced our Client to a lawyer who was experienced in WOFEs and who had represented multinationals operating in the country).
Healy Consultants Shanghai team arranged to have the proposal translated into Chinese, and at the same time they prepared the other documents as part of the approval process, including:
- A written WOFE application;
- The Articles of Association of the proposed WOFE;
- A list of the proposed chairperson and the members of the WOFE board of directors, and appointment letters;
- The incorporation documents of the WOFE investor (i.e. the Netherlands parent company);
- A credit certificate for our Client issued within the past three months;
- The name approval from the Tianjin Municipal Administrative Bureau for Industry and Commerce.
These documents, as well as the translated Proposal, were submitted to the Tianjin provincial government, which gave its approval approximately one month after submission.
The next step was to apply for a business registration license from the Tianjin Municipal Administrative Bureau for Industry and Commerce. Approval was granted 15 days later, and a 30-year Business License certificate was issued and collected by Healy Consultants Shanghai-based staff, who had traveled up to Tianjin to manage this part of the engagement. Over the next four weeks, our team registered the WOFE with the State Tax Bureau (which has an office in Tianjin), the Tianjin Tax Bureau, the Foreign Exchange Control Authority and Customs Authority in Tianjin.
Only once all the approvals had been obtained was it possible to approach a renowned international bank in Beijing to apply for a corporate bank account for the WOFE. Our Shanghai team prepared an account application, and sent this, along with supporting corporate documents and approval certificates, to the bank. Four weeks later our Client had received bank account numbers, and this marked the end of this phase of the engagement.
Healy Consultants continues to provide post-incorporation services for our Client. We have been negotiating with the Tianjin Tax Bureau for tax breaks for our Client’s WOFE, and our Shanghai team has been helping our Client secure a suitable site for the manufacturing facility.
Innovative global consulting company sets up Shanghai WOFE
Our Client is a successful, innovative global management consulting company with operations in Singapore, Hong Kong, India and Massachusetts (US). As part of the management’s continued global expansion ambitions, the Client wished to open an office in Shanghai, China to provide the full range of consulting services to customers in China.
Healy Consultants has worked closely with our Client to engineer a global structure which fulfills their international business requirements. Following the successful and efficient incorporation of the Singapore, Hong Kong, India and Massachusetts entities on behalf of our Client, we were engaged to set up a company in Shanghai with 100% foreign ownership.
From the outset of this project, Healy Consultants’ Shanghai office advised our Client on the many statutory and licensing requirements of setting up a wholly-owned foreign entity (WOFE) in China, as well as any seemingly minor (yet important) details which could create delays (for example, all documentation must be signed in black fountain pen, no other colour is permitted). Another key challenge for any engagement of this type is communication. The directors of the WOFE are busy businessmen, based in Singapore but who travel regularly throughout Asia. Arranging signatures on important corporate documents is an important time factor in any engagement. However, thanks to the cooperation of our Client, and the fact that the directors visited Shanghai during the process, we were able to overcome some of these potential difficulties.
Our Client was grateful for our experience on the ground in China, because although he was anxious to start conducting business through the WOFE as quickly as possible, he did not want any unwanted surprises during the course of the engagement. One of the first steps in the engagement was for our Client to agree on the corporate structure of the WOFE. A WOFE legally requires a minimum of one director, a minimum of one shareholder, a chairman/legal representative, and a supervisor. In our Client’s case, three international directors were appointed (one Canadian citizen, one French citizen and a Singaporean citizen). The French citizen was also appointed as the chairman/legal representative. One of our Client’s Chinese business associates was appointed as the supervisor. The sole shareholder of the WOFE was to be our Client’s Hong Kong-incorporated company.
With the corporate structure agreed, Healy Consultants completed an application form from the Shanghai Administrative Bureau for Industry and Commerce, requesting name approval for the WOFE. Name approval was obtained within two weeks. Both Tina and Hazel in our Shanghai office then began to prepare all documentation required for the multi-stage application to obtain a WOFE business license. A key challenge in this process was that all documents to be submitted to the Shanghai authorities must be in Chinese, meaning that some documents may require translation, and other documents would have to be signed by our Client in a language he did not understand. The following documents were prepared:
- A feasibility study/business plan for the Shanghai WOFE – our Shanghai office drafted a document in Chinese outlining the proposed activities of the WOFE, an analysis of the market conditions, financial projections and credentials of the directors (to support this, the directors were required to submit resumes, translated into Chinese);
- An application form from the Shanghai Administrative Bureau for Industry and Commerce and Xuhui District Foreign Investment Commission for the establishment of the WOFE;
- Appointment letters (in Chinese) for the proposed chairperson and the members of the WOFE board of directors, signed by our Client;
- A bank reference letter relating to the sole shareholder – since this was a Hong Kong company, it was necessary to obtain a bank reference letter (also in Chinese) for the company from its bank in Hong Kong. The bank reference letter had to show that the Hong Kong company had a minimum balance of HK$100,000 (approximately US$12,800);
- It was also necessary to get the Hong Kong company’s Certificate of Incorporation and Business Registration Certificate to be notarised by a Hong Kong notary public – Healy Consultants’ Hong Kong officer Tammy assisted with this process, sending the notarised corporate documents to Shanghai, where Tina was required to have them further certified by a local institution authorised by the Chinese Ministry of Justice. Fortunately, the Hong Kong Certificate of Incorporation and Business Registration Certificates are bilingual (English and Chinese), so did not require translation;
- A tenancy agreement for an office in Shanghai – since our Client planned to use our Shanghai office in the initial stages of its operation in the city, Healy Consultants’ Shanghai tenancy agreement sufficed;
- Articles of association for the proposed WOFE – these were prepared by Tina and Hazel in our Shanghai office.
The above documents were submitted to both the Shanghai Administrative Bureau for Industry and Commerce and Xuhui District Foreign Investment Commission, at which point she advised our Client that it would take approximately one month to obtain Certificates of Approval. Within two weeks, an officer at the Xuhui Foreign Investment Commission had given Tina verbal confirmation that this phase of the application had been successful. One week later, she again visited the Xuhui Foreign Investment Commission, and was able to collect the Certificate, a scanned copy of which was e-mailed to our Client on the same day.
Having obtained the Certificate of Approval, our Shanghai Incorporation Team were in a position to apply for the Business License on behalf of the WOFE, which would allow it to legally conduct business. Another application form was completed by our Shanghai office, and, accompanied by the Certificate of Approval, was submitted to the Shanghai Industrial and Commerce Administration Bureau. Initial indications from the Shanghai Industrial and Commerce Administration Bureau was that the approval process for the Business License would take approximately 15 days. However, this was not achieved, despite frequent follow ups by our Shanghai office. In reality, approval took a full calendar month.
A scanned copy of the Business License was e-mailed to our Client on the same day it had been issued. This confirmed that the WOFE has a legal entity and was able to conduct business as per the consulting activities noted on the license. However, to the frustration of our Client (who was keen to start invoicing Clients in China), we were still unable to open a corporate bank account in China at this stage, due to Chinese banking regulations which require a Foreign Exchange Registration Certificate. While Tina applied for a Foreign Exchange Registration Certificate at the Foreign Exchange Bureau, Hazel liaised with the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Finance to obtain a Tax Registration License for the company. As part of this process, a tax officer visited the WOFE premises (in this case, Healy Consultants’ Shanghai office) to conduct a physical inspection.
Five days after submitting the application, the Foreign Exchange Registration Certificate was issued by the Foreign Exchange Bureau, finally enabling the WOFE to open a foreign currency corporate bank account at a renowned international bank Bank in Shanghai. To fulfill the bank’s account opening requirements, our Shanghai Banking Team were required to complete the following tasks:
- Complete the foreign currency corporate bank account application form, signed by the legal representative of the WOFE and stamped with the WOFE’s seal (made following the business license approval);
- Ask all directors (including the legal representative) to have their signatures, passport copies and proof of residential address to be verified by the bank officer in Singapore (where the directors are based). Healy Consultants’ Singapore Banking Team accompanied the directors to the bank, close to our headquarters in Singapore.
With point 2 complete, Healy Consultants’ Singapore Banking Team couriered the verified Singapore documents to our Shanghai office, where our Shanghai Banking Team received them and submitted the full application pack to the bank branch in person.
To support our Client’s WOFE, Healy Consultants provide full Virtual Office services, including meeting facilities when required, as well as a telephone answering and mail forwarding service.
European pharmaceutical company sets up China Branch Office
Our Client, Mr. Narain, is the general manager of an international pharmaceutical company with corporate offices in London, UK and Berne, Switzerland. The company provides innovative and effective prescriptions and products in three main areas of medicine: oncology (cancers), cardiovascular and neuroscience. The company has operations mainly focusing on markets in Europe and the Americas and has many ties with leading researchers and universities from around the world.
The company undertook a strategic review of its global operations, both to streamline processes and penetrate new markets. The emerging market of China was of particular interest, given its blistering economic growth of 9.5% at the time, and with this in mind the management took the decision to create a presence in the country. Preliminary research and an exploratory visit to China by the company management highlighted the potential challenges of establishing a presence in China, not least the language barrier, complex Chinese bureaucracy and ongoing concerns over the protection of intellectual property rights (despite China’s obligations as a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO)). In short, Mr Narain required professional assistance to set up a branch office in China as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
Mr. Narain contacted Healy Consultants, sending us an e-mail outlining his requirements and objectives for the China operation. We replied with a comparison table of different Chinese entities, including a wholly foreign-owned entity (WOFE), a joint venture and a foreign investment enterprise (FIE), highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of each, as well as the approximate costs of setup. Our Client had indicated that the China entity would not be involved in manufacturing – it would be a sales, marketing, storage and distribution operation, with facilities in southern China, possibly Guangzhou. Research and development (R & D) and manufacturing, he said, may occur at a later date but would continue to be done in Europe until they were more confident of China’s commitment to protecting intellectual property.
Aidan Healy, the managing director of Healy Consultants, followed up this initial correspondence with a telephone call, during which he described to Mr Narain the potential challenges of setting up a wholesale FIE in China, including the long timeframe, and the company’s legal and tax obligations. With the engagement costs agreed, Mr. Narain transferred the required funds to our company bank account, and then signed our Client Engagement Letter (which had been included in our original e-mail), couriering it, along with the required due diligence on the new company’s directors and shareholders, to us from London.
Healy Consultants began the incorporation process by submitting a foreign investment application to the Guangzhou Bureau of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation at Guangzhou Municipality. This included an application form (completed by Healy Consultants in Chinese) for name approval, a feasibility study on the company’s intended activities (prepared by Healy Consultants, this included information on the company’s products and services, a detailed analysis of market conditions, and financial projections, translated into Chinese), draft articles of association and due diligence on the investors. Preliminary approval was provided by within 20 days, enabling Healy Consultants to take the process to the next stage – applying to the Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation of Guangdong for FIE approval. This involved submitting similar documents as those supplied to the Guangzhou Bureau of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation, in addition to the name approval certificate, a lease agreement for an office (to overcome this requirement, our Client decided to use our Virtual Office services in Guangzhou as a temporary measure), and proof that the minimum paid up capital had been paid into a bank in Guangzhou (completed by Healy Consultants).
Healy Consultants received a Certificate of Approval for the FIE from the Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation of Guangdong, enabling us to then apply for a business license on behalf of the FIE. Healy Consultants again completed an application form, which was submitted, along with the Certificate of Approval, to the Guangzhou Bureau of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation, which issued a business license (allowing the company to conduct wholesale and retail activities) within three weeks.
With the company a legal entity, Healy Consultants was asked to open a corporate bank account to support its activities. To enable an FIE to open a bank account in China, it requires a Foreign Exchange Registration Certificate, which is obtained from the Guangzhou Foreign Exchange Bureau. At the same time, Healy Consultants applied for a Tax Registration License, which involved a Guangzhou tax officer visiting the FIE premises (in this case, Healy Consultants’ Guangzhou office) to conduct a physical inspection. Five days after submitting the application, the Foreign Exchange Registration Certificate was issued by the Foreign Exchange Bureau, finally enabling the FIE to open a foreign currency corporate bank account in Guangzhou. To fulfill the bank’s account opening requirements, Healy Consultants completed the following tasks:
- Completed a foreign currency corporate bank account application form, signed by the legal representative of the FIE and stamped with the FIE’s seal (made following the business license approval);
- Asked all directors (including the legal representative of the company) to have their signatures, passport copies and proof of residential address to be verified by a bank officer in the UK (where the directors are based). With point 2 complete, our Client couriered the verified bank documents to Healy Consultants, and we then submitted the full application pack to the bank branch in person.
For the pharmaceutical company to be able to import and export items (chemicals, medicine and laboratory equipment), it is required to obtain specific licenses. Healy Consultants applied for an import/export card from the Bureau of Foreign Trade in Guangzhou to allow the company to be able to distribute its products both locally and internationally.
Healy Consultants’ final role in the engagement was to help Mr Narain find suitable premises in Guangzhou, including offices and a small yet specialised storage facility, according to his specifications and budget. Within two weeks, a draft lease agreement had been prepared and forwarded to Mr Narain for his acceptance and signature, which he did and couriered to us. This marked the end of the engagement from Healy Consultants’ perspective.