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China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) wrapped up its 3rd Europe Forum 2017 earlier this month in London where academics, government officials, investors, and business leaders congregated to talk about business opportunities arising from China’s outbound investment, particularly under the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative.
Co-organised with the China Chamber of Commerce in the UK (CCCUK), the forum included keynote speeches by well-known figures such as Professor Li Mingjun, president and professor of management, CEIBS; Angus Knowles-Culter, vice chairman of Deloitte; Liu Xiaoming, Chinese ambassador to the UK, and Catherine McGuinness, chairman of the policy and resources committee of the City of London.
The event also marked the first stop of CEIB’s Europe forum. For the rest of the year, the school will be visiting Paris, Munich, Warsaw, and eventually Zurich, where CEIBS has a campus, to wrap up the forum.
‘As the fifth largest economy in the world, UK is a very appealing investment destination for China,’ said Professor Li in his keynote speech. ‘This is especially true when the Sino-British relationship has just entered into a golden age, creating a favourable business environment.’
‘CEIBS was founded in 1994 with a vision to connect the East and West in terms of the exchange and creation of knowledge, which brings real business opportunities and economic benefits. Over the years, we have become one of the best business schools in the world. In fact, our MBA programme is ranked as the top in Asia by Financial Times.
‘We are excited by the tremendous business opportunities ahead. Through our top-notch programmes and extensive alumni network, we will continue to connect top business leaders and entrepreneurs in China with their counterparts in the West on both academic and business levels.’
Knowles-Cutler from Deloitte, where senior staff had been teaching at the EMBA classes at the CEIBS, said China and the UK are complementing each other in terms of work relations and business development.
In particular, he pointed out that the UK has a lot of high quality products that could benefit from the enormous domestic market in China’s growing economy. China could also benefit from the knowledge and skills accumulated by years of scientific research and experience by British companies in creating these products.
The forum also featured two roundtable discussions attended by high-profile business leaders such as Rita Liu, Alipay’s head of Europe, Middle-East and Africa; Han Ruixiang, CEO of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (London); Frank Slevin, senior vice president of Sanpower Group who also chairs House of Fraser, and Xu Lingjiang, who oversees the Lisbon and London offices for Fosun Group.
Both Alipay and Fosun had embarked on a spate of overseas mergers and acquisitions as a result of the growing consumption power of Chinese’s middle-class population and the increasing economic power of China.
‘In 2014, the outbound travelling population in China had reached 1.2 billion. The figure is expected to be growing well into 2020 and beyond,’ said Liu from Alipay. ‘That is why we want to expand the global footprint of Alipay, so that Chinese tourists can use it wherever they go. Apart from mergers and acquisitions, we have also established connections with leading retail groups such as Harrods and Selfridges in the UK.’
Slevin shared how the acquisition of House of Fraser by Sanpower Group had turned around the business. The British department store chain, with 60 stores and 6,000 employees in the UK, was founded in 1849. It had been suffering a decade of red prior to acquisition by the Chinese conglomerate.
Slevin said that Sanpower Group not only brought the company financial stability through capital injection, but also brought about structural change in its business operation as it opened up the vast Chinese market.
‘We have opened our first store in Nanjin last year at a prime location. We are hoping to open more stores in Suzhou and Chongqing,’ Slevin said. ‘Our Chinese investor has not only opened a door for us in first tier cities, but also in second and third tier cities.’
His views were echoed by various speakers, including McGuiness and Liu, who pointed out that the UK is the top destination for China’s outbound investment in Europe. He foresaw that there would be growing collaboration opportunities in financial services, legal and consultancy services, as well as research and education.
‘UK has a well-established, modern financial system, and it has the most foreign bank branches and offices in the world,’ Liu said.
‘It is also where the common law system was coined, making it the authoritative voice in international trade dispute and arbitration. As one of the best places for education in the world that also enjoys centuries of relationships with the rest of Europe, the Middle East and the Commonwealth countries, British companies are in a great position to offer consultancy services in project management, risk management and quality control on a global level.’