UK infrastructure projects attract Chinese firms

Updated: 2011-12-17 10:45

By Cecily Liu and Zhang Haizhou (China Daily)

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CARDIFF - Chinese investors have begun to seek projects in the UK infrastructure industry, following London's recent decision to open the sector to more foreign and private investors.

"We are looking for short-term projects to invest in almost immediately, and that could mean next year," said Qi Yue of CITIC Construction Co on his way to the first meeting of the UK-China Infrastructure Task Force in Cardiff on Thursday.

The Task Force - a high-level forum for China and the UK to discuss investment opportunities - was established in September when the two countries signed a landmark Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on infrastructure.

For the first time, Chinese investors are trying to participate in British infrastructure projects through public-private partnerships (PPP).

Stephen Green, the UK minister for Trade and Investment, said that the UK is keen to attract Chinese investment into priority infrastructure projects to help Britain maintain "global competitiveness, secure growth and create jobs".

The UK's total jobless figure passed 2.6 million for the August-October period the highest level since 1994, the Office for National Statistics said on Wednesday. Britain's unemployment rate is now 8.3 percent. The UK has a 200 billion pound ($311 billion) infrastructure plan by 2015. However, the government can only contribute 55 billion pounds before 2015, to be followed by a further 5 billion pounds in the next Parliament. It will rely on the private sector to make up the shortfall.

Qi said his team has looked into a number of infrastructure projects since the MoU was signed, including the Atlantic Gateway, offshore wind farms in Scotland, Battersea Power Station and the UK Olympic Park. "Britain's efforts to establish a concrete infrastructure plan make it a more attractive investment destination for us, compared with other European countries," said Qi.

"Our main concern is that these projects are either to be built in a few years time, or are too long-term and don't have the flexibility our investment strategy requires," he said.

Qi said his team is "actively involved in the construction and operation of the projects", which means CITIC "can hire teams or equipment from other Chinese companies".