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By Tanya Ashreena

Signs of eastern promise

Chinese investment in Manchester is on the up. Disclosed Chinese investment in Manchester commercial real estate stands at £2.17bn and the Manchester China Forum estimates the overall total is probably nearer £2.5bn.

Over the past few years, big-ticket deals in Manchester have included the Beijing Construction and Engineering Group’s £800m investment in Manchester Airport and Trade Group’s investment in the £730m Middlewood Locks in Salford.

“Manchester appeals to Chinese investors because of its position as the UK’s second city, but the current lack of their preferred larger lot sizes and availability of stock in London has restricted the number of actual deals to date,” explains Oliver Foster, investment director at Savills Manchester.

According to Colin Thomasson, executive director in the North West capital markets team at CBRE, Manchester’s “fantastic” infrastructure, universities, skilled workforce and strong civic leadership are all attractive to Chinese investors, who are typically interested in investments in the city centre.

And it seems they aren’t put off by the threat of Brexit. Enquiries from Chinese investors peaked in the third quarter after the referendum result. “Manchester is having a Brexit boost,” says Bernie Morris, president of EMEA and UK at Juwai. “Enquiries from individual investors were increasing rather quickly in the second half of the year. We believe this is in part due to the lower value of sterling since the referendum and the Chinese belief that Brexit may create appealing investment opportunities.”

Rhys Whalley, executive director of the Manchester China Forum, says the city’s ‘northern powerhouse’ status has also brought great confidence to investors, along with an increase in the number of air routes between China and the north of England.

“While it is too early to say if Chinese demand for Manchester property will influence development or push up prices, it certainly has the potential to do so in the longer term,” says Foster.