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Chinese billionaire to invest in major Birmingham infrastructure

11 June 2015 - Greame Brown, Birmingham Post

A consortium of investors including a Taiwanese shipping magnate have set their sights on Birmingham to filter capital from the super-rich of China and Taiwan into property, infrastructure and energy schemes.

A group of wealthy Far Eastern investors are planning a major spending spree in Birmingham – and have huge regeneration schemes in their sights. The group, which included one of Taiwan’s richest men, met Birmingham City Council’s deputy leader Ian Ward last week to discuss investment opportunities.

A consortium headed up by Denise Li, president at GlobalChina Wealth Management Company, plans to filter capital from the super-rich of China and Taiwan into property, infrastructure and energy schemes in the UK.

Speaking to the Post on a visit to Birmingham, Ms Li said the city was its principal focus, rather than London, which she said was “saturated”.

Billionaire Dr Ching-Chih Chen one of the richest men in Taiwan, joined Ms Li on the visit to Birmingham to identify investment sites.

Dr Chen, whose family is behind the giant Wan Hai Lines shipping dynasty, has a strong record in regeneration. In 1991, he invested heavily in developing 300 hectares of swamp land near Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam – now hundreds of thousands of people live there.

He said, over the last 30 years, China has been developed because of the direct investment of foreign countries, and people were keen to spread their wealth.

Now, a lot of wealthy Chinese people look to invest between three and five per cent of their money outside the country.

He said: “China was taking a lot of direct investment and exported a lot.

“Now, they have got to the point where they want to reinvest money abroad so they can use up surplus capacity. They want to export technology like high-speed rail and nuclear power.”

He added: “Chinese people like real estate so, to introduce people to invest abroad, the first project has to be a real estate development with a reasonable return on investment.”

While Ms Li did not reveal potential investments, the group’s spending power would stretch to huge schemes like the Birmingham Smithfield development at the Wholesale Markets, regeneration around Curzon Street Station and the Icknield Port Loop residential quarter.

Ms Li, a former Miss Taiwan, said she wanted to use Birmingham as an exemplar to show how Far Eastern investment can help cities in the west to achieve growth ambitions.

She said: “We consider Birmingham to be the best city for this.

“It is developing. Everyone knows about London – it is a great city but it is saturated and hasn’t got much room to grow.

“We want to be building something new.

“We believe there is a very bright and interesting project here and it could change the relationship that Birmingham has with the Chinese.

“We want to offer job opportunities and help improve the lifestyle of British people and provide a demonstration of how to invest in a city for the 21st century.

“There is money ready and waiting for us to do this.”

Ms Li has established an equity company to invest in the UK, aided by Birmingham property developer Anthony McCourt and James Ng, a consultant at Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co in the city.

There are more than 350 billionaires in China and a further 33 in Taiwan, and rising fast, as well as more than three million millionaires.

She said she was keen to use Birmingham to demonstrate how much could be achieved using this rising wealth.

Ms Li added: “We are not just coming here with a brain, we are coming here with a heart. We are a global ambassador and Birmingham is the right place for us.

“We want to build something that helps Chinese people to invest and helps Birmingham and the city government here. We see Birmingham as Boomingham – there is lots of construction going on. We have been speaking to Ian Ward about it and we have some tentative potential sites we would like to build.”