China now owns £143bn in UK assets, from nuclear power to pubs and schools

Hinkley Point C, Heathrow Airport and Greene King among investments by Chinese firms

Peter Stubley
Monday 03 May 2021 03:52
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<p>China General Nuclear Power hold a 33.5 per cent stake in Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Somerset </p>

China General Nuclear Power hold a 33.5 per cent stake in Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Somerset

Chinese investors have amassed nearly £134bn of assets in key UK industries ranging from energy companies and transport hubs to breweries and schools.

Nearly 200 British companies are either controlled by groups or individuals based in China and Hong Kong or count them as minority shareholders, according to an analysis of business data.

The list of investments drawn up by the Sunday Times includes Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, Heathrow Airport, Northumbrian Water, pub retailer Greene King and Superdrug.

It reveals that Chinese investors own nearly £57bn of shares in the UK's 100 biggest listed companies, dominated by a 49 per cent stake in HSBC worth £45bn. Investments valued at over £1bn have also been made in pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, oil and gas firms Shell and BP and alcohol company Diageo.

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

Chinese companies have also invested heavily in property such as the £1.35bn "Walkie Talkie" building in central London and Royal Albert Dock in Liverpool, a 40 per cent share of which was bought by the state-owned investment firm CITIC in 2015.

Meanwhile the sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corporation (CIC) has built up a portfolio featuring a 10 per cent share in Heathrow Airport valued at £1.65bn, a 49 per cent share (£1.37bn) in oil and natural gas company Neptune Energy, a 9 per cent (£1.2bn) share in Thames Water and a 90 per cent share in logistics and warehouse firm Logicor (£9.7bn).

Serious concerns have been raised about the security implications of China's investment in UK assets, most notably in relation to Hinkley Point nuclear power station which is owned by French energy firm EDF.

In 2016 Theresa May's government briefly put the project on hold before attaching new conditions to the £18bn deal. Nick Timothy, one of the Ms May’s chief advisers, had warned that China “could use their role to build weaknesses into computer systems which will allow them to shut down Britain’s energy production at will”.

China General Nuclear Power holds a 33.5 per cent stake in the plant, which is owned by the French state-owned energy firm EDF.

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