Tue, Mar 11, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Developer courts Chinese firms for UK business district

Reuters, LONDON

The developer of a huge new business district in northern England is planning a roadshow through cities like Beijing and Shanghai to attract Chinese tenants to Manchester.

China’s Beijing Construction Engineering Group (BCEG, 北京建工集團) says the project is the biggest in Britain since the 2012 Olympics and believes it could help move the center of economic gravity away from London.

In October last year, BCEG announced it would become a 20 percent partner alongside construction group Carillion and the Greater Manchester Pension Fund to develop an £800 million (US$1.34 billion) business district at Manchester airport, Britain’s third busiest.

Its choice of Manchester marks a departure from the path taken so far by most Chinese property developers, such as Advanced Business Park, that have so far headed first to the capital, where demand for space has stayed strong through the downturn compared with the rest of the country.

“The project itself by size is the biggest development project since the London Olympics ... I think the way people do business in the UK, particularly in the northwest, will be changed because of this project,” BCEG International managing director Xing Yan (邢嚴) said by telephone.

BCEG, which employs 20,000 people worldwide and worked on the 2008 Beijing Olympics’ gymnasium venue, is being backed by China’s biggest bank by assets, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (中國工商銀行), a source said in October last year.

Britain has been trying to woo Chinese investment as part of plans to increase bilateral trade to US$100 billion by next year.

London has often been accused of sucking up business and talent at the expense of other British cities, resulting in a local economy that has rebounded strongly since the financial crisis even as other parts of the country still grapple with high unemployment and slower house price recovery.

The value of offices, shops and industrial property across Britain fell as much as 42 percent after the 2007 financial crisis. While London property has since recovered 41 percent of its value, the rest of the country has only rebounded by 9 percent, data from Investment Property Databank showed.

Another British city, Liverpool, has pitched heavily for Chinese investment in recent years, proposing a 55-story skyscraper to be called Shanghai Tower, which would be the tallest building outside London if constructed.

The Airport City consortium will visit Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen from June 9 to June 13 to drum up interest from Chinese firms who want to rent or buy space in the scheme, which is part of a wider, 116 hectare enterprise zone, Xing said.

He said that while the consortium hoped to attract Chinese firms from sectors such as technology and manufacturing, it would also visit other countries to market the scheme.

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