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An envoy champions UK China relations

Updated: 2014-10-25 06:05
By Cecily Liu (China Daily)

An envoy champions UK China relations

Dou Tsang, sales and export coordinator at Ford Aerospace Ltd (right) with Zhou Xiaoming. [Photo by Cecily Liu / China Daily]

With Zhou's help to understand the significant role of Chinese banks in London, the UK regulators reassessed the issue, and in 2013 British Chancellor George Osborne announced a regulatory change where foreign banks are allowed to open branches as long as their branch operation relate to wholesale activities.

Several major Chinese banks applied for branch licenses subsequently and in September Industrial and Commercial Bank of China became the first Chinese bank to receive a branch license in the UK since the regulatory change.

Zhou says ICBC's branch license signifies the British government's recognition for Chinese banks' important role in London, and he expects more branch licenses will be granted to other Chinese banks in the near future.

Meanwhile, London's strong capital market has also provided great opportunity for Chinese companies to raise capital, as there are currently 60 Chinese companies listed on the London Stock Exchange, Zhou says.

London is also a great financial market to support the renminbi's internationalization, he says.

In September 2011, China's then Vice-Premier Wang Qishan endorsed the London private sector's initiatives to develop an offshore renminbi market in London.

Since then, many renminbi products and initiatives have been launched in London, including a renminbi swap line established between the two countries' central banks and the appointment of a renminbi clearing bank in London.

As a further demonstration of the UK government's initiative, Britain became the first Western country to announce the issuance of an offshore renminbi-denominated sovereign bond in September.

In addition, there are 20 renminbi-listed bonds are sold in London, and they have raised a total of 15 billion yuan ($2.4 billion). Issuers include the Bank of China, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Lloyds Bank, HSBC and International Finance Corporation.

Over the past five years, Zhou has also witnessed a growing number of Chinese acquisitions and is happy to see great post-acquisition integration between the parent and target companies happening for most deals.

Zhou says a good example of Chinese investment and its market supporting British technology is the purchase by the Chinese company Zhuzhou CSR Times Electric of British company Dynex Semiconductor Ltd, of Lincolnshire, which specializes in a particular type of semiconductor technology.

In 2008, Zhuzhou CSR Times Electric bought a 75 percent share in Dynex and retained Dynex's management board. With financial support from Zhuzhou CSR Times Electric, Dynex built a 12 million pound R&D center to focus on developing its semiconductor technology.

"I went to Dynex in Lincolnshire and met the company's management team, which consisted mostly of British people who have worked at the company for years," Zhou says. "They are very excited about working with the Chinese owners, and they say Chinese investment has injected new life into the company."

So impressed is Zhou with Dynex's growth model that he has been promoting such cooperation to many British businesses.

Zhou says another example of acquisition leading to great synergy is Shandong Yongtai Chemical Group buying the British firm Covpress in 2013, in partnership with TIA Treadsetters Ltd, a firm that first started buying tires from Yongtai in 2003 to supply its European customers.

The deal, which stood out as one of China's biggest investments in Britain, was valued at $45.3 million, with Yongtai taking a 70 percent stake and TIA the rest.

Covpress, a globally renowned supplier of car body parts, already has customers ranging from Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc to Nissan Motor Co and Renault SA. The acquisition was helpful for Covpress as Yongtai can help it to continue selling tires to its existing customers as they start to manufacture in China.

There are many other deals like the Dynex and Covpress stories. Zhou says he is optimistic about these acquisitions because they combine UK's technology and innovation with China's market and manufacturing strength to achieve win-win benefits.

"British people are very innovative, and they come up with amazing designs. Those ideas and designs can potentially be commercialized, produced and sold on a large scale to bring down cost to generate great profit.

"However, very often British companies do not have the capital to invest in this commercialization, and Britain's market is insufficient to accommodate increased production. But China has both capital and market."

Looking into the future, Zhou is greatly optimistic about China UK trade and investment relationships, explaining that the UK is a great platform for Chinese companies' internationalization, brand building and innovation.

"UK is an important partner for China, and the importance goes much more beyond its GDP. It can help China to move up the production chain, develop innovation and it is a gateway for China to increase bilateral trade and investment with Europe and the world."

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