Beijing-based developer Advanced Business Park (ABP) has officially opened an office in Hong Kong, as the business park specialist markets its plan to develop a new business district in London to companies throughout the region.
Launched at a reception in Central last week, the new Asia Pacific base for the developer behind the £1.7 billion ($2.2 billion) ABP Royal Albert Docks is planned as an outreach centre for marketing the company’s transformation of the east London port area to potential investors and tenants throughout Asia.
With the 14 hectare (35 acre) commercial complex having just broken ground London in late June, ABP’s top leadership see the office opening as providing their project with a regional hub for reaching companies in Hong Kong, mainland China and other parts of Asia that are looking to invest in the UK.
Promoting a UK Business Destination in Hong Kong
“Through ABP’s London project, Asian companies can promote their products and also their brands to the UK and all of Europe,” ABP Vice Chairman Nancy Xu said at the VIP event.
The project, which was negotiated under former London mayor Boris Johnson, has received implicit backing from Chinese president Xi Jinping, who appeared at signing ceremony alongside then-UK prime minister David Cameron in 2015.
Also speaking at the opening ceremony was the director of the UK’s Trade and Investment office in Hong Kong, Jo Hawley, who praised the urban redevelopment project as facilitating trade links between China, the UK and other Asian markets.
The event at ABP’s new location in The Centre, near the heart of Hong Kong’s Central district, was presided over by recently-appointed ABP Hong Kong CEO, Sam Crispin, who joined the developer in April, after more than seven years as a director with PwC in Shanghai.
Among the business representatives attending were top executives from Swire Properties, Blackstone, Macquarie Retail Real Estate Management, JLL, Savills, and UK management consultancy Control Risks.
London Project Ties into China’s Belt and Road Initiative
While a number of large mainland investors have come under scrutiny over debt-backed overseas deals, ABP sees its effort to build a London home for Chinese and other Asian companies as dovetailing with President Xi’s One Belt One Road program.
“ABP Royal Albert Docks is close to the UK-end of the new Yiwu to Barking train,” Xu pointed out in an exclusive interview with Mingtiandi. The eastern China to London railway, which opened earlier this year, is a key part of China’s efforts to promote trade through the One Belt One Road initiative. The initial rail link has since been supplemented with a second, Chengdu to Barking train.
ABP’s Thames-side project is also located close to the London Gateway Port, which provides ocean freight access for companies setting up in the riverfront business park, and is convenient to the nearby ExCeL London international exhibition centre.
Giving Companies a Chance to Own a Corporate Home in London
ABP, which in 2015 was joined by state-run giant CITIC for its London project, gained its business park chops developing the 1.4 million square metre (15 million square foot) ABP Beijing, which consists of 400 office buildings, plus apartments and retail. The company has since gone on to pursue mainland projects in Shenyang, Qingdao and in eastern China’s Zhejiang province.
In London, the company has an agreement with the Mayor of London to create a new business destination for Asian companies, and is working with engineering firm Multiplex to build a collection of commercial space distributed across buildings between six and 12 floors in height.
“The low-rise buildings play to our strengths,” Xu noted. “These properties give companies from Asia the rare opportunity to own a building in London and have the corporate pride in owning their own building, seeing their investment grow and controlling their brand image. They can have their own entrance, they can have their own lift, and they can manage how they use the space.”
The low-rise buildings will have floor plates between 1500 and 2200 square metres. The developer is also making property available on a rental basis.
Impact of Capital Controls Expected to Be Limited
While news of major Chinese companies running into restrictions on outbound investment has dominated the news in recent weeks, ABP sees its project as appealing to a broader Asian audience less affected by the mainland moves.
“Through the first half of our pre-sales, we haven’t felt the impact of the capital controls,” said Xu. “Many of our clients are Indian companies, Hong Kong companies and also local UK companies, along with Singapore companies.”
The mainland developer sees its project as supported by China’s “go global” policy which it sees as continuing to drive interest in its London home for Asian corporates.