More Chinese companies are set to follow the example of MG owner Shanghai Automotive (SAIC) and invest in Birmingham.
Production of the MG TF sports car is expected to resume at Longbridge at the beginning of next month. In advance of this, Clive Dutton, head of planning and regeneration at Birmingham City Council, said talks were under way with several Chinese companies interested in developing links with the City.
His comments came ahead of a breakfast seminar being staged tomorrow by the Institute of Directors with KPMG and HSBC.
IoD regional director John Phillips said: “IoD members and guests were coming to learn about opportunities to build their businesses in China, but news investment will be coming our way is an unexpected bonus.”
Mr Dutton, who will be one of the speakers at the event, which is dubbed International Insight for Business: China, said he believed Birmingham had stolen a march on many other areas of the UK in its relations with the Chinese.
“Birmingham is ahead of the game,” he said, adding that much of the groundwork for what was happening had been established during the talks with SAIC over the future of Longbridge. Mr Dutton said he believed the discussions, initially with Nanjing, and then with SAIC when it took the firm over earlier this year, had cemented strong relationships with Chinese leaders at all levels.
He said he was also confident that unlike the situation last year when production of the sports cars was halted because of quality issues, this time everything would be okay.
“I am confident it will happen,” he said. “This is the real deal.”
The new MG TF LE500 models are expected to arrive in dealer showrooms in September. However, SAIC has said its designers are also working on new models and it is thought that at least four could be in the pipeline – an updated TF roadster and coupe, a large car, possibly an updated Rover 75, and two mid-range cars that share the same platform as the Roewe 550, which was unveiled at the Beijing motor show in April.
In addition, Mr Dutton said: “Already we are having some discussions about other Chinese companies moving in.”
Who the companies might be and in what sector they operate remains to be seen, as Mr Dutton said he could not reveal further details at this stage.
The move is an extension of the relations developed between Birmingham and China during the past three years, a period that has seen delegations from the City visit China and Chinese officials reciprocate.
“The Nanjing issue was the thing that really caused us to major on China,” said Mr Dutton. “We have developed strong political relationships at a senior level both with central government, provincial government and city government in China.”
Describing the links as “priceless”, Mr Dutton said the intention was to develop a two-way relationship with Midlands business being encouraged to invest in China and the Chinese doing likewise in Birmingham.
Overseas opportunity in China has so far been focused on manufacturing, but the IoD is predicting opportunities will soon open up in higher value added business and financial services. The IoD wants companies in the West Midlands to be aware of the strategic risks and opportunities in the world’s fourth largest economy, which is doubling in size every 10 years.
Other speakers at tomorrow’s event, which takes place at the Botanical Gardens, Edgbaston, are Stuart Nivison, HSBC’s head of trade and supply chain in Europe, Jeremy Butler of KPMG, and Richard Butler, Advantage West Midlands’ head of inward investment.