Chinese developer gears up for major London push

Chinese property giant Country Garden has set its sights on building tens of thousands of homes in London as it looks to take advantage of the “golden opportunity” political uncertainty provides for overseas capital, Property Week can reveal. The residential developer, the third biggest in China by sales volume, has visited multiple agents in the capital in recent weeks to discuss possible acquisitions as it gears up to take advantage of reduced competition and potentially pour billions of pounds into the city. The company is understood to be targeting land deals and regeneration sites in London and the commuter belt. “They want to build new towns. It’s not just a few thousand houses,” a source close to the company said. Another source said the company wanted to build schemes in the same style as its $100bn (£79bn) Forest City project in Malaysia, where it is building homes for 700,000 people and expects to invest $40bn. A delegation of around 10 staff from China, including senior Country Garden officials, visited the UK earlier this month, the source confirmed. “[Chinese developers] pretty much see Brexit as a golden opportunity. They strongly believe in London and the UK, and Brexit uncertainty stops many other potential competitors,” he told Property Week. “They are very seriously looking at London. They are exploring what’s likely to happen now after the triggering of Article 50, what happens to the London property market, particularly residential, and what the opportunities are for overseas investors.”

‘Promotion opportunities’

Country Garden did not discuss its budget during the trip, he added. “But what they tend to do is buy large-scale land. They prefer to do land promotion opportunities, so they don’t normally pay a high price for land.” It is understood that Country Garden’s UK representatives, including UK investment manager Mr Yang Yang, used to be based in Birmingham but now travel back and forth between the Midlands city, London and China. Country Garden has already committed to developing sites in Birmingham, last year signing a statement of investment commitment that the city council said could be worth up to £2bn to the city’s economy. The firm currently operates in mainland China, Malaysia and Australia. The news comes amid growing Chinese interest in London residential. R&F Properties, a Guangzhou-based firm, has led the charge, buying two sites in as many months: the Nestlé Tower and surrounding sites in Croydon for £60m and Vauxhall Square, a mixed-use development in Nine Elms, for £157m.