You have to do more than look good, says Justin Knapp, director of China outbound practice at Ogilvy Public Relations in Beijing: "Both RMB and overseas PE funds are increasingly being forced to tell a better story to companies as to why their money is more reliable. It's like a dating service that is developing quickly only it's between companies and private equity funds."

That means foreign investment funds must offer something such as a strategic alliance -- maybe access to unusual new technology -- that the local ones lack.

If nothing else, they need at least the same crew of outside legal, financial and accounting pros that Caterpillar hired to examine Siwei before the acquisition. Cat says those experts were hardly sleeping on the job.

"To have something blow up so soon, that's a mystery," says Jack Perkowski, China private equity veteran and founder of the merchant bank JFP Holdings in Beijing. "Caterpillar is a very careful company. They do their homework."

And Caterpillar says buying Siwei may be worth it: "At this point, there are no plans to remove the Siwei name," the statement says. "The company maintains a strong reputation in the marketplace. Caterpillar intends to build on Siwei's strengths."

At the time of publication the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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