In mid-March, Wang Jianlin – chairman of property firm Dalian Wanda and the richest man in China – made the bold claim that the UK is currently the best place in the world in which to invest.
The declaration was very much in keeping with a survey conducted by law firm Pinsent Masons last year which found that Chinese investors were poised to provide over £100 billion (€138 billion; $148 billion) of funding for UK infrastructure by the year 2025.
The problem for the UK – and one which prevented it from reaching the top ten last year – is a lack of deal flow. When assets do come up for grabs – for example, the government stake in cross-Channel train operator Eurostar – they tend to be highly fought over.
But many of the ‘grand projects’ – such as Crossrail, High-Speed Two or the new generation of nuclear power stations – do not have a clear access point for private investors (or at least not in the foreseeable future). Perhaps some encouragement may be drawn from innovative efforts to devise a suitable institutional investment structure for the Thames Tideway project – at least it showed some thought and effort being applied to the issue.
This year, we decided that the potential of the UK was too large to ignore, but it will need to show an ability to better match demand and opportunity before it climbs further up the ranking.