China Minsheng Investmen (CMI), the country’s largest private investment fund, said on Saturday it would invest 1 billion pounds ($1.5 billion) in a Chinese-led project to develop a new financial district in London.
The project is one of the largest Chinese investments in the United Kingdom in recent years and one of the most significant for Minsheng, which launched last August with registered capital of 50 billion yuan.
The private equity firm said it would become the majority investor in the project, which was unveiled in 2013 by Chinese developer Advanced Business Park (ABP) and Mayor Boris Johnson and touted as potentially London’s third financial centre after the City and Canary Wharf.
ABP, headed by little-known Beijing businessman Xu Weiping, wants to develop a 14-hectare sliver of land at the historic Royal Albert Dock in east London into 400,000 square metres of offices and shops.
Headed by Dong Wenbiao, the former chairman of state-owned Minsheng Bank Corp, Minsheng Investment claims no formal relationship with the bank or the Chinese government despite the name.
In January, the fund’s international advisory committee, a panel that includes former European prime ministers, Asian tycoons and a Nobel laureate, assembled at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing for the first time to discuss its globalisation strategy.
The fund has said it would invest broadly in areas ranging from sustainable energy to real estate to business jet services.
The Chinese developers and London officials have envisioned attracting growing Asian companies to establish their European headquarters at their business park, which is close to the London City airport.
“After the project is completed, it will be the international platform and foundation for Chinese companies and capital to enter the European market,”
Minsheng president Li Huaizhen told reporters in Shanghai on Saturday, hours after striking a deal with the UK finance ministry.
As China’s economy cools, its businesses are ploughing money into projects overseas at such a pace that China’s outbound investment will soon overtake inbound flows.
China’s outbound direct investment surged 14.1 percent to a new high of $102.9 billion last year, according to the commerce ministry.