May 9, 2021

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China now has £ 143 billion in British assets, from nuclear power to bars and schools

Chinese investors have accumulated nearly £ 134 billion in assets in major industries in the UK, ranging from energy companies and transportation hubs to breweries and schools, it turns out.

According to an analysis of business data, nearly 200 British companies are either controlled by groups or individuals based in China and Hong Kong or are considered minority shareholders.

The list of investments prepared by the Sunday Times includes the Hinckley Point Sea Nuclear Power Plant, Heathrow Airport, Northumbrian Water, and the pub retailer Greene King and Superdrug.

It reveals that Chinese investors own nearly £ 57 billion of shares in the UK’s top 100 listed companies, dominated by a 49 percent stake in HSBC worth £ 45 billion. Investments have also been made in pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, oil and gas companies Shell, BP and Diageo Alcohol worth more than £ 1 billion.

Other investments include at least 17 independent schools, Lotus Cars, Barnsley, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Manchester City football clubs, Cineworld and Odeon UCI cinemas, QHotels group, and the Skyscanner travel site.

Chinese companies have also invested heavily in real estate such as the £ 1.35 billion “Walkie Talkie” building in central London and Royal Albert Dock in Liverpool, with state-owned investment firm CITIC buying a 40 per cent stake in 2015.

Meanwhile, the sovereign wealth fund of the China Investment Corporation (CIC) has built a portfolio of ten percent of Heathrow Airport’s £ 1.65 billion stake, and a 49 percent (£ 1.37 billion) stake in the oil and natural gas company Neptune Energy, stake 9 Per cent (1.2 billion pounds) in Thames Water and a 90 per cent stake in Logicor logistics and warehouse services (9.7 billion pounds).

Serious concerns have been raised about the security implications of China’s investments in UK assets, most notably with regard to the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant owned by French energy company EDF.

In 2016, Theresa May’s government halted the project for a short period before new terms were attached to a £ 18 billion deal. Nick Timothy, a senior adviser to the prime minister at the time, had warned that China “could use its role to build vulnerabilities in computer systems that would allow it to shut down energy production in Britain whenever it wanted.”

China State Nuclear Energy Corporation owns a 33.5 percent stake in the plant owned by the French state-owned energy company EDF.