Stepping stone to Europe

Updated: 2013-03-21 14:10

By Yan Yiqi and Zhong Nan (China Daily)

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Business people are banding together to create more opportunities for Chinese private entrepreneurs in Europe

One of the greatest contributions of the late International Olympics Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch may be the fact that he saved the Olympics Games by commercializing it.

But for Feng Jun, president of Aigo Digital Technology, a Chinese technology company, Samaranch's legacy is not just about being able to enjoy the exciting sports competitions held in different countries, but about giving a unified thrust to the global plans of Chinese private companies.

"Samaranch's theory of post-Olympics effect says that a country and its people will be aware of the importance of the commercial mode of the Olympic Games four years after it hosts the games," Feng says. "In other words, the Olympic mode can be concluded as going global in a united way, and this is something that can work for Chinese private companies also."

Inspired by Samaranch's remarks, Feng established the Aigo Entrepreneurs Alliance in 2011, three years after the Beijing Olympics.

"I founded the alliance one year in advance in order to be fully prepared when the fourth year came. We can see that Samaranch was right as the whole world is looking to China for investment," he says.

Feng thinks this is an opportunity for Chinese companies to make giant strides in the global markets, and says that he and the alliance members decided to chose Europe, mired in a debt crisis, as their first destination.

The main focus of the Alliance is to establish offices in Europe to aid and advise other Chinese companies that are investing in the continent. On July 28, last year, the alliance signed a strategic agreement with the Greenwich Council to set up an office at Greenwich Peninsula, a 77-hectare office and residential area now being developed in southeast London.

Greenwich Council is allowing the alliance's members to move in rent-free for one year, and receive a 50 percent rent reduction for their second year if they commit for another year after the second. The standard rent is 550 pounds ($820; 640 euros) per office desk per month.

Trevor Dorling, of Greenwich Council, says that working with Feng has allowed his team to come into contact with Chinese companies.

"Our ambition is to become a home for successful Chinese businesses, and over time they will create jobs for residents and provide business opportunities for local companies," he says.

Dorling says that multinational companies Greenwich used to attract were mainly from Europe, while Aigo and the alliance are the first Chinese. He says the council is keen on welcoming more Chinese companies to Greenwich.

Five Chinese companies including Aigo have already settled in Greenwich. Fashion company Eve Group, Tian Yu Consortium and Yingke Law Firm are three of them. Besides Greenwich, the alliance has also settled in Brussels, with more than 10 companies starting from September last year.

He Xianghong, chairman of Tian Yu Consortium, says Greenwich is the company's first step in making Lijiang city known to the world.

Headquartered in Lijiang in Southwest China's Yunnan province, He's company promotes tourism and real estate projects in the ancient Chinese city.

He described Feng as a builder of bridges between his company and the rest of the world.

"My company would probably not be able to expand to Europe in such a short time if we were fighting alone. With the effort of the alliance, everything has become easier," he says.

Feng regards developing the alliance as a mutually beneficial thing.

"Europe needs Chinese investment to save itself from the debt crisis. We can provide employment and tax income. The alliance, with almost 100 members, consists of industry leaders in China. We have capital, credit and the desire to build global brands."

Feng says his only criterion for choosing alliance members is that the company should be among the top three in its industry.

"It is important to create a good image for Chinese companies in Europe. The top three companies in any industry normally value their reputation more than anything else, so they will not do things that will bring shame to their companies," he says.

In the next two years, Feng is expecting his alliance to have at least 500 members.

"My time and energy are limited. If we want the alliance to do well, we have to cap it at 500 companies."

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