Chinese could spend millions in Portsmouth on back of Sir Ben Ainslie's America's Cup success

MILLIONS of pounds are set to come in from China to improve Portsmouth's prospects on the back of huge global attention during the America's Cup, The News can reveal.

Tuesday, 26th July 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 6:45 pm
Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council, with Jin Xu, minister counsellor of the economic and commercial office of the Chinese Embassy, at Southsea Castle during the Portsmouth America's Cup World Series

Wealthy Hong Kong investment firm Fosun Group has held talks with Portsmouth City Council about investing huge blocks of cash in the city – a move that could be the catalyst for major regeneration.

And bosses from the international conglomerate, spearheaded by billionaire founder Guo Guangchangin, came to Portsmouth during the World Series regatta at the weekend to talk more about their intentions.

Chinese leaders say they are interested in the opportunity to bolster the seafront, showcased to millions around the world as they roared on sailing’s elite competitors.

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And the Chinese Embassy has declared the attention placed on Portsmouth has inspired them to begin lobbying major private companies in Asia to part ways with their money and spark an economic boom in the city.

Speaking to The News, Jin Xu, minister counsellor of the economic and commercial office of the Chinese Embassy, says Portsmouth’s growing university is a draw to entrepreneurs.

And he also believes the region must get new hotels as the region becomes known as a prime visitor destination.

He said: ‘The business leaders who have visited have been left with a very good impression of the city.

‘My role now is to encourage the people and businesses of China to come back and put their money here.

‘I was delighted to come here for the America’s Cup. Many times I have read about Portsmouth; this is a very beautiful city and I am impressed by its culture.

‘There have been thousands of people here, joining together to celebrate the cup. I want businesses to bring investment here and create opportunities.

‘I also want to see this come from local business people; so we will see.

‘The infrastructure here is very good, it’s very close to everywhere like London, and its healthcare system is very good.

‘The waterfront is also very exciting.

‘The transport here is better than it is in London, the university is excellent, there’s not too much traffic.’

Global investors were introduced to Portsmouth’s cutting-edge industries and investment opportunities, at an event held against the backdrop of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series on Friday.

The international spotlight was not only on the world’s best sailors this weekend, but also the city’s ambition to become the future for marine and maritime industry.

Mr Xu spoke after guests from the Chinese Embassy and the Fosun Investment group heard about plans to strengthen Portsmouth’s reputation as ‘a leader for cutting-edge technology’.

Presentations were given at Southsea Castle by Portsmouth America’s Cup World Series chairman, Sir Keith Mills, Portchester-based marine engineering firm Magma Structures, maritime security firm Dryad Maritime and autonomous boat firm ASV Global.

Portsmouth has also struck up a friendship link with Zhuhai, a city in China’s southern Guangdong province, which city leaders say will play a big role in securing business support.

It comes as Portsmouth awaits possible investment from the UAE after city MP Flick Drummond visited the Gulf earlier this year to speak to business leaders.

Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council, said she plans to visit China next year to see what she can do to strength relations with Portsmouth.

Cllr Jones said: ‘I have been focused on the Chinese overseas investment market since I became the leader.

‘I worked in banking for over 15 years, am well aware of the strength of the different economies around the world, and those that are looking for opportunities in the UK.’

Cllr Jones says Chinese investors could be interested in putting money into the up-and-coming Dunsbury Hill Business Gateway in Havant.

She said: ‘There is the opportunity for new build there, specifically warehouses for the Chinese market, for products to be exported there.’

Fosun Group was unavailable for comment.

FOSUN was founded in 1992 in Shanghai.

It was listed on the main board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on July 16, 2007.

A statement on its website says: ‘Over the last two decades, Fosun has evolved from an entrepreneurial start-up into a leading investment group taking roots in China with a global foothold.

‘Fosun has been actively implementing its investment model of “Combining China’s Growth Momentum with Global Resources” and adhering to its “value-investing” discipline, aspiring to becoming a world-class investment group underpinned by the twin drivers of “insurance-oriented integrated financial capability” and “global industrial integration capability taking roots in China”.

Fosun’s interest in Portsmouth comes despite a report in the Wall Street Journal in March saying it was looking to rein back its foreign spending and billionaire founder, and chairman, Guo Guangchangin was taking a more cautious approach to business.

Fosun’s marquee deals include buying resort operator Club Méditerranée SA and a stake in avant-garde circus troupe Cirque du Soleil,

Further description of the company on its website says: ‘Fosun unremittingly builds up its core competencies in “identifying and capturing investment opportunities in China”, “improving the management and enhancing value of the investees”, and “establishing a multi-channel financing system to access quality capital”.

From 2010 through 2015, Fosun has spent billions buying foreign firms and says it is looking at healthcare, tourism, fashion firms and banks in the US and Europe.

THE head of culture in Portsmouth is certain World Series organisers will want to thrash out a plan to ensure the spectacle makes a return to the Solent.

Tory councillor Linda Symes says the council will explore ‘every opportunity’ to hold world-class events that sees hotels, shops, bars and restaurants packed out.

Cllr Symes said: ‘I think there will absolutely be discussions about putting on more of these World Series events.

‘We’ve proven we can put on world-class attractions here.

‘There’s no reason why we can’t stage occasions of a similar size here again and show the world our ability to put them on.

‘The Solent is the most wonderful piece of water.

‘We will explore every chance and every opportunity to celebrate the city, and bring money into our local economy.

‘We want to keep our seafront, our shops, restaurants and bars full, all of the time.’

Cllr Symes, who enjoyed watching the racing from Southsea Castle, added: ‘It speaks volumes there wasn’t a hotel bed between here and Guildford available.

‘And it’s the same for Victorious Festival, there is not one hotel where you can stay that weekend now.

‘And all of the feedback we have had, and through the economic report produced into the success of Victorious, shows that once people are drawn into Portsmouth, they want to keep coming back.

‘It seems to be the case that people who haven’t been here before don’t understand what Portsmouth is about, but when they come here, they want to return.’