UK sees Chinese growth at record rate

Updated: 2014-12-12 21:57

By Cecily Liu and Zhang Chunyan in London(

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Chinese companies are growing in the UK at an unprecedented rate, adding a significant contribution to the UK economy through growth and employment, according to the Grant Thornton Tou Ying Tracker 2014 in collaboration with China Daily.

According to the Tou Ying 2014 Top 25 tracker which was released on Friday, the 25 fastest growing Chinese companies in the UK this year have generated 38 percent growth overall. Their combined turnover exceeded 25 billion pounds, and together they employ about 4,000.

The tracker monitors UK businesses with Chinese parent companies to identify the fastest-growing 25 companies by year-on-year change in turnover. The 2013 tracker monitors revenue growth of the full year ending in December 2012 and 2013. In Chinese, Tou Ying means "investing in the UK".

The tracker is in its second year of running. The 2013 tracker showed that the 25 top Chinese companies employed more than 2,600 people and generated revenues of more than 17 billion pounds in 2012, an increase of 27 percent from the previous year.

Andy Ka, Associate Director in the China-Britain Services Group at Grant Thornton UK, said Chinese companies' UK investment this year is placing less emphasis on brand acquisitions and instead are focusing more on their own brands.

Ka said there is also a greater focus on infrastructure investment and investment by service industry businesses, like banking and IT firms, demonstrating a keen appetite for Chinese companies' investment for the long term.

"This coincides with the growing maturity of UK-based Chinese businesses, which are increasingly aligning their business practices with their European peers to compete on the global stage," Ka said.

Ji Tao, Europe Editor of China Daily, said, "The landscape for Chinese companies in the UK today is now more diverse and vibrant, thanks to Chinese companies' ambition to establish themselves globally and the UK's 'open for business' mentality."

As a Chinese media in the UK, Ji's team has seen clear growth of Chinese companies' expansions into the UK in recent years.

"We believe Chinese investments in the UK will continue to grow as China achieves an economic shift to a knowledge economy and its complementarity with the UK economy increases," Ji said.

Ka said that a more recent trend has seen China-based businesses establishing smaller-scale ‘reconnaissance' operations to build their understanding of the UK and European markets. This has proved a successful formula for companies such as TP Link, which set up its consumer electronics brand from scratch in the UK, recognizing the difficulties in generating brand recognition in the market without a physical presence.

Thirteen new entrants were added to the tracker this year, many of which are relatively new arrivals to the UK. This year's Top 25 also contains a number of well-established companies in the UK such as Sinochem Europe, Bank of China, China Telecom, China Unicom and Huawei Technologies.

As per previous years, manufacturing and financial services sectors dominate the list, closely followed by tech, media and telecoms.

Last year less than half of the 25 had chosen to set up in London, demonstrating the success of other UK regions in establishing themselves as alternative centers of expertise to attract inward investment. However, the 2014 tracker shows a shift back to a greater concentration on London and the South.

Ka said that many Chinese companies are very well prepared when coming to invest in the UK market, being very aware and appreciative of business environment cultural differences between the two countries.

"They do a lot of research before they come, and they carry out practices in a local way," Ka said.

Looking into the future, Ka said Chinese companies should focus on taking their business to the next level, which is establishing internationally recognized brands synonymous with quality.

"This takes time and a lot of Chinese companies have only just started this process, but it will come with time as Chinese companies increasingly learn how to operate in the UK market," he said.