I am writing this on a flight from Hong Kong to Singapore, having already been to Shanghai, Seoul and Tokyo in the past seven days.
This is my ninth trip to Asia in the past 18 months and although I am a little tired, I am as excited about the future of the region as I was when arriving in London in 2008.
Last year, we decided that it was long overdue for us to have a strategy for investing in Asia. I am sure everyone has seen the statistics that 50% of world GDP will be coming out of the region by 2030 and recently Bloomberg ran an article headlined ‘China to overtake the US economy by 2032 as Asian might builds’.
Like most, we have been aware of this trend and doing business with Asian-based companies for many years as occupier customers, suppliers, lenders and, more recently, key equity partners in our assets in both Europe and North America. That is why we have opened a new office in Singapore.
The UK, like Canada, has historic and strong connections to the region. The origins of Hong Kong, Singapore and India (among many others) are based on the British system of law, finance and business practice, and the fundamental way of doing business continues in that manner today.
The UK’s relationships with multiple Asian countries and businesses are among the strongest in the world and most UK property companies and investment managers have long-established partnerships in many different forms.
This is also reciprocated by Asian countries. Businesses in the region have made significant investments in the UK for many years, and generations of families have migrated to the UK, enhancing the culture of our major cities and, like me, call London their home today.
Given this backdrop, you won’t be surprised to learn that I am deeply concerned with the tone coming out of Washington and the enormous risk to the world from increased barriers to trade and controls on free movement of people.
’Two to tango’
I know it ‘takes two to tango’ and China is not blameless in the current trade war sabre-rattling, but we are all better off in an open and free trading world. I personally believe society is enriched by multiculturalism. The people I now spend a disproportionate part of my life with are some of the smartest and most globally minded and interesting people I have ever met.
Together, we are forging some fabulous partnerships to do things around the world, embracing the diversity of thought, experience and relationships that result in us all being better off.
If there is anything good that comes out of Brexit, maybe it will be that we will embrace these wonderful historic relationships and trading partnerships and truly be the ‘Global Britain’.
For our business, today our Asian partners are co-owners and partners in a significant number of our European and North American assets and with our new office in Singapore now open we are targeting initial investment activity in Asia that will represent circa 10% of our global business in the next few years.
Unlike when I came to Europe 10 years ago, when we didn’t know anyone, we are very fortunate to already have tremendous existing relationships and friendships with key players in the Asia region that I am certain will help accelerate this growth.