Chinese investors attracted to UK's regional cities

Updated: 2016-09-13 16:28

By Cecily Liu(China Daily UK edition)

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Chinese investors attracted to UK's regional cities

An artist's impression of Curzon Street Eastside.

Guangdong-based developer Country Garden is the latest such company to make a significant investment in one of the UK's regional cities, despite Britain's decision to leave the European Union.

Country Garden will invest up to 2 billion pounds ($2.65 billion) in the industrial city of Birmingham, where it will build quality homes and other developments around the High Speed 2 rail project.

The deal, which was signed with Birmingham City Council last week, follows the post-Brex-it footsteps of Sichuan Guodong Construction Co, which agreed in July to invest more than £1 billion in Sheffield.

Analysts say the deals signify a growing appetite for regional investment as opportunities in London become more competitive and expensive, and infrastructure expansion increases the potential of regional UK property.

Sites under consideration by Country Garden in Birmingham include the Curzon Street Eastside area, the Smithfield development on the old Wholesale Markets site and Icknield Port Loop in Ladywood.

City council leader John Clancy, who signed the deal during a week-long trade mission to China, said Birmingham wants foreign investment post-Brexit to improve housing quality and create jobs.

He praised Country Garden's record of delivering large projects quickly.

"They have played a major role over the past 20 years as house builders and met the massive demands of China's rapidly expanding economy. Bringing this level of investment and experience to Birmingham would be a massive economic boost to the region's businesses, skills base and families."

Country Garden founder and chairman Yang Guoqiang said he was impressed with Birmingham's ambition and huge potential for growth, adding that the investment matches major infrastructure projects, such as the HS2 high-speed rail link.

The UK government plans to build the HS2 link in two phases. Construction of the first, linking London and Birmingham, will start next year. Costing £22 billion, the project should be completed in 2026.

Zhang Xueying, head of the China and Far East Desk at Sherrards Solicitors, said Birmingham is attractive because costs for developers are lower, the city has a big Chinese community, and it is about to become better connected.

Frazer Fearnhead, CEO of The House Crowd, a UK property crowdfunding company, said other cities that may appeal to Chinese investors include Manchester, which has good air links to China, thanks to Hainan Airlines' Manchester-Beijing service launched in June and Cathy Pacific's Manchester-Hong Kong route that started in 2014.

Eric Zhao, Chinese capital markets specialist at Savills, a UK property agent, said Chinese developers mainly want opportunities in well-known cities.

"Country Garden focuses predominantly on large-scale, out of town development in China, and in the UK it was looking for opportunities on the same scale. This latest deal with Birmingham City Council allows for this."

Founded in 1992, Country Garden has been listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange since 2007.