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Gopi Hinduja, 77, one of four Hinduja brothers ranked by Britain’s Sunday Times as the richest family in the UK, called for tripartite co-operation between China, India and the UK to invest in India.
Head of the diversified Hinduja Group and its driving force, the Indian origin multi-billionaire told Chinese counterparts and representatives of the British government on Wednesday night: “Chinese have money; British have expertise, competency and consultancy. There could be a tripartite concept which can work — China, UK and India.”
Hinduja was speaking at a dinner at his ornate 67,000 sq ft 18th century central London mansion — estimated by Forbes to be worth $500 million — hosted by him for visiting Chinese billionaires. He prefaced his proposal by saying: “India has excellent opportunities for Chinese companies to invest in infrastructure. Already some of them have come in (The Wanda Group, the world’s largest private property developer in the world, is said to have committed a $2-billion investment in real estate in the Delhi area). Some of them are also successful. In my view, the only country in the world today which has maximum opportunities is India.”
He added: "I hope the governments between themselves think of this and take things forward." The Hinduja Group has signed two protocols with Chinese infrastructure companies to work in India.
He offered to his guests: “Anything you would like to do with the Hinduja Group in India, UK China or anywhere else, we will welcome you.” The conglomerate’s activities in China include Gulf Oil production and distribution.
The Chinese billionaires present at the event included Yan Bin, who made his money in Red Bull, husband and wife Chen Hongtian and Lily Yao Lini of Xiangqi, who are in real estate and mining, Xu Hang of Mindray Medical, who are in pharmaceuticals and now diversifying into real estate development, and Angel Wang Yunxiao.
Xu Hang boldly predicted: “The GDP of our three countries (China, India and Britain) will account for more than 50 per cent of the world’s GDP in future.”
Among the Indian billionaires who attended were Cyrus Poonawalla of Serum Institute and S P Lohia of Indorama, headquartered in Indonesia.
Speaking on behalf of the British administration, Michael Charlton, chief investment officer in the department of international trade, said: “Welcome to our guests from China from Her Majesty’s government. There are huge opportunities for both Indian and Chinese companies in the UK. The department of international trade and my boss secretary of international trade Dr Liam Fox are looking forward to new, heightened levels of foreign direct investment in the post-Brexit environment.”
Following the outcome of the recent British general election, a hard Brexit looks increasingly unlikely. Prime Minister Theresa May lost her parliamentary majority in a snap election gamble that badly misfired. Her chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond, who has emerged as an early runner to succeed her, has, in fact, struck a realistic tone.
“When the British people voted last June (in the referendum), they did not vote to become poorer, or less secure,” he remarked in an address in London’s financial district known as The City. He spoke of “managing immigration” rather than clamping down on it altogether.
On Thursday, he reiterated his appeal for a “transitional arrangement” with the European Union. He acknowledged businesses are holding back on investment because of Brexit. “The thing that is causing concern in the business community is the risk of a cliff edge,” he explained. He felt a temporary deal with the EU was badly needed to get “businesses investing again”. The value of the pound has hit a two-month low.
The fascinating meeting at the Hinduja residence was organised by Shanghai-based Hurun Report, who publish rich lists on China and India. Its publisher, Luxembourg-born, UK-educated Rupert Hoogewerf, who is known as Hu Run in China, stated: “Bringing India and China together, two great cultures of 5,000 years history, is great.”