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China's Dirty Job Could Benefit Foreign Firms

If enough CO2 emitters -- steel mills, cement processors and power generators, to name the most likely clients -- went for the scheme, pipelines could pool storage by linking up underground tanks.

At least four multinationals now active in China should be in a position to help the country with some element of carbon capture and storage. They include U.S.-based Dow Chemical and General Electric. Those who follow industry in China also point to Air Liquide and Alstom, both from France.

They're established firms with elaborate China resumes, namely local partners (key to getting real work in the country) and projects using technology that's akin to carbon capture or storage.

Dow Chemical, which earned $3.7 billion in sales revenue there in 2009, says it will form a joint venture with China's largest coal producer Shenhua Group to build and operate a coal-to-chemicals complex.

GE opened a factory in China in 2006 to make turbines for the country's largest wind farm. The same firm has developed a system to clean coal, requiring less water and a cleaner fuel with fewer emissions.

Air Liquide boasts 60 China factories as of last year, up from eight in 2004. The company that handles gases for industry and health care says it sees demand growing for environmental protection in China and expects more outsourcing to firms of its type. Engineering firm Alstom, with more than 30 joint ventures in China, works on power generation.

Dow Chemical share prices have fallen 30% over the past five years while GE lost 46%. But Dow's prices have largely kept up with the broad market despite lower demand for commodities because of a slow world economy. It also posted a dividend yield of 4%. GE's yield is 3% and investors consider it a steady bet, although its stocks have not kept up with gains in the broad market since the global economic crisis of 2008 and 2009.

Both will do OK if the world economy allows, argues Wojtek Zarzycki, chief investment officer with Optimal Investing in Toronto. "If the landing in China is verified as a soft landing and the Europeans finally and completely come up with a resolution for their debt problems, then these stocks would definitely benefit," he says.

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