CBI member Marks & Spencers (M&S) released its results for the full year ended on 28 March 2015. In China, following the completion of a review, M&S took a decision to focus on Shanghai and closed five of its smaller regional stores. M&S also announced its intention to open flagships in Beijing and Guangzhou.
CBI member Lloyd’s commented on its expansion in China. In line with its long-term strategy of “Vision 2025” to increase and reinforce its position as the global hub for specialist insurance and reinsurance, there is a need to increase the footprint to be the major market in the world, so that, “it is not just Lloyd’s of London, it is Lloyd’s,” said Lloyd’s Chairman John Nelson during the opening of its Beijing branch.
He went on to say, “The Beijing branch office helps access new business and forge closer links with business partners in the Chinese capital. It has been an extraordinary period but more can be expected.”
The Lloyd’s China Beijing branch was opened on 16 March 2015. Under the new branch licence, Lloyd’s China will be able to provide non-life insurance and reinsurance service within the Beijing Municipal Administrative region. The new Beijing office will also enable Lloyd’s China’s underwriters to strengthen relationships and client service with brokers and policyholders in the region. Mr. Chen Songlin was appointed as the General Manager of the Lloyd’s China Beijing branch.
Another big milestone last year was the capital injection of RMB 780 million from Lloyd’s to Lloyd’s China in September, which brought its gross paid-in capital to RMB 1 billion. “This will secure Lloyd’s China’s solvency position under the future C-ROSS regime and position as a treaty leader in many other business opportunities where capital threshold exists,” said Lloyd’s China CEO Eric Gao. He also said, “Lloyd’s China platform is expected to double its current business written of RMB 450 million (US$73.28 million) in 2015.”
In total and across the different platforms, Lloyd’s writes about US$400 million of Chinese business. The China platform is growing in strength and size, with the number of syndicates on the platform growing from four in 2007 to 22 today.
John Nelson also said, “While the developed countries account for the majority of our business in Lloyd’s – 40% of our business is from the US – we see China as the single largest long-term growth opportunity for Lloyd’s.” Lloyd’s is not necessarily aiming to compete with domestic insurers. It intends to continue providing, in particular, reinsurance and expertise for the highly specialised risks that it underwrites, and complement domestic insurers through various works, such as the development of new products, he added.
CBI member Shell launched its new Shell Rimula R5NG and Shell Rimula R3NG at a marketing event in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. These two new products join existing NGEOs Shell Rimula R6M and Shell Rimula R2 CNG in Shell’s NGO portfolio.
They will be launched in other select markets later in the year. China is in the midst of a transport revolution, and the Chinese government has advocated the use of alternative fuels to power its transportation systems.
CBI member Burberry released its preliminary results for the year ended on 31 March 2015, reporting that it saw double-digit growth percentage growth from the Chinese consumer globally in retail, albeit slowing somewhat in the second half.
About half of this spend was within China where Burberry delivered mid to high single-digit comparable sales growth in the year, helped by increasing brand awareness and successful execution around key festive periods.
In the second half of the year, Burberry tested a new fulfilment approach for digital in China, allowing transactions to draw on inventory in both the local distribution centre and in the store network.
This improved stock availability and reduced delivery times, enhancing the customer shopping experience. Burberry plans to implement this model of integrating online and offline inventory within both the U.K. and U.S. in the current financial year.
A decade after its last visit to the U.K. in 2005, the China National Peking Opera Company is returning to the U.K. later this year, where it will perform two masterpieces: Warrior Women of Yang and the full-length European premiere of Farewell My Concubine.
The China National Peking Opera Company will perform at the Liverpool Echo Arena Auditorium (13-15 November) and London’s Sadler’s Wells (19-22 November). Tickets are now on sale.
Ming Ming Dong and Kevin Zhang, Directors, Sinolink Productions, said, “With respect and honour, we are taking the opportunity of the 2015 U.K. and China Cultural Exchange Year to present this fine, traditional art form of Peking Opera to the world to demonstrate that China is not just about what they can manufacture, but also about what they can perform.
We sincerely hope the British audience will appreciate and be inspired by the masterpieces that the National Peking Opera Company are to bring to the U.K.”
The time is ripe for EU reform Businesses must speak out early in favour of remaining within a reformed European Union, CBI President Sir Mike Rake will say tonight (Wednesday) at the CBI’s flagship Annual Dinner.
As the CBI celebrates its 50th Anniversary, Sir Mike will acknowledge progress made on the economy and outline future risks.
He will make the case for Britain remaining at the heart of a reformed EU and the importance of maintaining the integrity of the UK’s single internal market. Sir Mike will also issue a call to arms to the Government and business to tackle longer-term issues facing the country, from airport capacity to ensuring growth works for everyone.
The Annual Dinner, attended by a 1000-strong audience of senior business leaders and politicians, will be held at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel, with IBM and ManpowerGroup as strategic sponsors.
Sir Mike Rake will say:
“Business welcomes the fact that several weeks of negotiations to form a new government were avoided. And business will very much welcome the continuity the Prime Minister has shown in his choice of ministerial appointments.
“Today, we are at a critical moment for growth. The election may be over, but risks remain – at home and abroad. Our fiscal deficit is still the highest of any major EU country. And on the global stage, headwinds persist. From structural challenges in the Eurozone, to Greece’s on-going debt issues and conflict in the Ukraine.”
Pointing to the UK’s strong economic growth and falling unemployment, Sir Mike will credit the Coalition for tackling the deficit and pursuing pro-enterprise policies, for example by reducing the headline rate of corporation tax, saying: “With our political future more certain and our economic outlook more positive – now is the time to tackle remaining challenges to growth.”
On Britain’s place in a reformed EU, Sir Mike will urge business leaders to speak out in favour of the benefits of EU membership, arguing the time is ripe for reform:
“Business has increasingly spoken out on this crucial issue and the time has come to turn up the volume. Speaking out clearly and in a language which people can understand.
“In the months to come, our country will have to make its own choice. A choice between openness and isolation. Between shaping the future or retreating into the past.
“The question is not whether the UK would survive outside the EU, but whether it would thrive. No-one has yet set out a credible alternative future to EU membership. The current alternatives are not realistic options – little or no influence and the obligation to comply with EU principles whilst still paying most of the costs.
“Norway is the 10th highest contributor to the EU budget – despite not being a member – and it took Switzerland nine years to negotiate and implement partial access to the Single Market.
“Business must be crystal clear that membership is in our national interest. The EU is key to our national prosperity. Letting us set the trade agenda, be part of the biggest free trade deal ever negotiated – TTIP – and be able to properly compete with global giants like China and India.
While acknowledging public concerns around immigration, Sir Mike will point out that “skilled migration” is part of the solution.
“We need to keep up-skilling our population at home and attract the best and brightest European and global talent. Many businesses – and our National Health Service – could not operate without skilled migration.”
He will acknowledge that the EU is “far from perfect”, arguing that regulating on so-called “life-style issues” should be left to member states and that “poorly thought-out legislation – especially on employment law - can be a real headache for business.”
But Sir Mike will call for the UK to redouble efforts to build alliances to achieve EU reform and to complete the single market, saying:
“Today the moment is ripe for reform. The things we want are shared by our European colleagues and the EU can be more competitive without the need for treaty change.
“Reform will not happen overnight. But by working with our allies on an ambitious – yet achievable – agenda, we can make it a reality. So we support the Prime Minister’s drive for a more competitive EU. And the new Government can count on business’s support to make this happen.
“Already, we are seeing a growing consensus - from Government, business and Europe’s leaders. We have seen some encouraging signs of progress from the European Commission and we are delighted at the appointment of Lord Hill as the Commissioner for financial services, a key area for us in the UK.
“We – of course - need to complete the Single Market. And the Commission has made a start on the Single Market for a digital age.
“And with Vice-President Timmermans’ recent drive on deregulation, the Commission is focusing on fewer, higher-profile challenges - putting quality over quantity when it comes to legislation.
“The Capital Markets Union shows signs of this new approach – with the possibility of unlocking the potential of financial services right across the EU.
Sir Mike will highlight how the City is Europe’s financial capital, and warn that the UK regulatory environment is going above and beyond others and that there are unmistakeable signs of activity being diverted elsewhere:
“Of course - the City is 'Europe’s financial capital'.
“Europe and the City need each other.
“Europe needs the City to produce growth and fund EU competitiveness.
“And the City needs Europe as a gateway to clients, business and investment. EU reform is a chance for both to benefit.
“Right here in the UK, the financial services sector supports growing firms, invests in infrastructure and contributes significant tax revenues…in the last Parliament, we recognise that the Chancellor took action to protect the City’s interests on many occasions.
“But today, with the UK regulatory environment going above and beyond others, there are unmistakeable signs that activity is being diverted elsewhere.
“We need to retain major global institutions based in London – key to our reputation as a global hub and to our world-beating legal, accounting and other professional services.”
On tackling obstacles to growth at home, Sir Mike will say:
“Our future growth depends on overcoming a whole range of challenges which have held us back in the past…the development of an Industrial Strategy - the work of two different governments – shows us what we can achieve when political will is present.
“On airport capacity, Britain’s future has waited long enough. That is why we want the Government to implement the Airports Commission’s recommendations.
“On education, we have seen some positive signs in recent years – such as academies. We want to see an education system which help prepare young people for life and work.”
On taking steps to ensure growth works for everyone, Sir Mike will say:
“The first step towards this goal must be addressing our poor productivity. That means investing to get our workforce the skills they need to compete in a globalised world…by 2022, half of all jobs will require workers to have completed some form of higher education, including apprenticeships.
“But if we get skills and education right, the prize would be sustainable increases in productivity and wealth for everyone.”
Commenting on the devolution debate, Sir Mike will stress the importance of maintaining the UK’s single internal market:
“With the recent expected – but dramatic – result in Scotland, devolution is once again at the forefront of policy.
“We welcome the Prime Minister’s emphasis on the UK being ‘one nation’.
“And now is a time for a period of calm reflection. If done in a careful and considered manner, devolution can be part of the solution – driving growth across the UK.
“But looking forward, any further devolution of power must be driven by economic evidence, not political expediency.
“Above all, we must protect the crown jewel of our ‘United economic Kingdom’ – our single internal market.
“Future growth across the country will rest on our ability to trade freely across the United Kingdom, without additional cost or complexity.”
Concluding his speech, Sir Mike will highlight the role of the CBI as the voice of business as it celebrates its 50th anniversary:
“For 50 years, guided by our members, we have spoken up for growth and jobs as a factual and unemotional voice in the debate.
“We have done this under Governments of every kind and every colour, when times were good for our economy – and when times were bad.
PwC announced that PwC China has signed a formal alliance with GooAnn, one of the largest cyber-security consulting firms in China. Together, the two firms plan to leverage their respective strengths and offer comprehensive cyber-security solutions through an integrated service delivery channel. The alliance is formed at a time of heightened awareness of the importance of cyber-security by large and small businesses worldwide.
The U.K. announced that the number of visitor routes for Chinese nationals planning to visit the U.K. has been reduced from 15 to four, while student visitor routes have been rebranded and shortened. The Immigration Rules and accompanying guidance will also be shorter and written in plain English to help customers understand them better. The U.K. government is also reducing the number of documents that it recommends Chinese applicants provide.
In late April, Barbara Woodward paid her first visit to Chongqing as the British Ambassador to China. During her visit, she met Mayor Huang Qifan and exchanged views on U.K.-Chongqing bilateral relations.
In the meeting, the Ambassador said that 2015 was a golden year for U.K.-China relations—the Duke of Cambridge already visited China in March, and later this year the U.K. will welcome President Xi for a state visit. 2015 is also a Year of Cultural Exchange and marks the 15th anniversary of the Consulate-General in Chongqing.
The Ambassador said she looks forward to further co-operation in training, education, and trade and investment between the U.K. and Chongqing. She also met with the staff of the Consulate-General in Chongqing and exchanged views with business and education contacts to better understand the ongoing collaboration in trade and investment, training, and education. She hoped for more educational and business exchanges that would benefit both Chongqing and the U.K.
The Ambassador also delivered a speech on Employability in the 21st Century to hundreds of students at Chongqing University and shared the U.K.’s experience in increasing employability for graduates.
Over 30 British companies have a presence in Chongqing, and there is great potential for even more business collaboration in the fields of urban planning, architectural design, environmental protection, and energy, especially shale gas.