30th October 2014
China to invest £105 billion in UK infrastructure by 2025
According to a report published yesterday by global law firm Pinsent Masons and the Centre for Economics and Business Research, China is set to invest £105 billion (US$168 bn) into UK infrastructure by 2025.
The report finds that of the £105 billion, the leading recipients will be the energy, real estate and transport sectors. The UK's energy sector will be the biggest target for Chinese capital, with investment in projects including nuclear, wind energy and solar power generation forecast to reach £43.5 billion (US$69.5 bn). The real estate and transport sectors could receive £36 billion (US$57.5 bn) and £19 billion (US$30 bn) respectively over the next decade.
Richard Laudy, head of infrastructure at Pinsent Masons: "As the need to modernise UK's major infrastructure gets greater by the day, the projected influx of Chinese investment into UK infrastructure is expected to be a welcome boost to the construction industry in particular and UK economy as a whole. As a foreign investor China is going to become increasingly important for UK infrastructure by 2025. This means UK-China partnerships need to grow over the next decade.
"Our report finds that this level of investment is going to be a game-changer for the UK infrastructure. Over the past few years, we have seen China's role as an investor evolve from making indirect investments through sovereign wealth funds – Chinese businesses are now becoming co-funders, co-developers and co-contractors in major UK infrastructure projects. We are already seeing this happen – for example, Beijing Construction Engineering Group making a major investment in Manchester Airport City."
UK and Chinese business leaders consulted for the report are already seeing a clear rise in the number of joint ventures between UK and Chinese firms, including one of the largest real estate developments in the UK – Royal Albert Docks in East London and the transformative developments at Nine Elms featuring one of the tallest residential skyscrapers in London.
Business leaders also believe that the energy sector will see a continued increase in Chinese investment in projects including offshore wind farms and other key renewable power networks. The report finds that this will pick up significant pace in the latter half of the forecast period.
As much as £19 billion will flow into transport such as roads, rail and airports. However – given the need to develop the current position in respect of policy on public ownership, planning policy and funding mechanisms – this investment is highly likely to come towards the end of the forecast period in the mid-2020s. Therefore, no immediate flow is expected into transport, according to the research.
In addition to identifying the level of Chinese investment capital projected into UK infrastructure over the next ten years, the report expects China to use its vast domestic manufacturing capability and capacity to export equipment and materials for UK infrastructure and real estate projects where it is providing investment. This will change the landscape of the UK's infrastructure industry as China enters the supply chain over the next decade.
"Over the coming decade, we expect a significant increase in direct investment from the Chinese coming through in the shape of joint-ventures and strategic alliances," says Laudy. "Four out of five of the world's largest construction and engineering companies are now Chinese with a growing appetite for infrastructure investment and with the potential to invest vast amounts of capital in advanced economies in Europe.
"Entry by China into the UK market will create significant sector opportunities to provide expertise on how to operate in the UK market effectively – from labour market regulations, to the planning process and how to operate with the framework of EU regulations.
"However, with UK public finances still under pressure, uncertainty around government support for infrastructure is still a key concern for the infrastructure sector. If the UK wants to unlock Chinese investment to fill in the funding gap to modernise its aging infrastructure, the UK government will need to address issues around policy and further develop the pipeline for investment – delay and lack of clear commitment on policy will only create uncertainty for investors.
"Although, the flow of investment from China has already started, we expect this to be the beginning of a major trend, as a trickle of major Chinese investment turns into a wave over the coming decade."