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UK finds source of investor support in China

By Zhang Haizhou (China Daily)

13:12, August 15, 2012

When Martin Uhlarik told a colleague he was about to join SAIC early this year, the first question he was asked was: "What is that?"

But the doubts from others did not make the 41-year-old car designer change his mind, as he believes SAIC Motor Corp Ltd will soon be "a major player" in the car industry.

"That’s very obvious. People don’t know what SAIC is yet. But they will," Uhlarik said.

SAIC is now the owner of MG, a British car brand started in 1924.

SAIC bought MG Rover in July 2005 and in August 2008 began the small-scale assembly of limited-edition MGs from Chinese-made kits at Longbridge, a part of Birmingham.

The company introduced its first car in the United Kingdom in April 2011. The MG6 was also the first all-new MG in 16 years.

MG’s rebirth under SAIC means fresh opportunities for Uhlarik, who used to work as a designer for international brands including Volkswagen, Nissan and Skoda.

"MG is kind of enjoying a renaissance, a rebirth. It’s not every day that a designer gets a chance to be part of that. Not many brands are being reborn with such a big investment," said Uhlarik, who is now SAIC’s UK design director.

Increased investment from China in recent years is now all the more important for Birmingham and the rest of the UK.

The UK is now home to more than 400 companies from the Chinese mainland, according to the government department UK Trade and Investment.

Chinese investment in the UK has increased from almost nothing in the 1970s to more than $2.3 billion last year, according to Liu Xiaoming, Chinese ambassador to the UK.

SAIC is not the only large Chinese investor in Birmingham. The UK’s second-largest city has also attracted investment from NVC Lighting Technology Corp, China’s largest lighting company, from Guangdong province.

Chinese businesses have invested in 24 projects in the Birmingham area, creating 711 jobs and safeguarding 78, according to figures provided by the investment program Business Birmingham.

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