We often have a Chinese banquet in the banqueting hall at Leaky Towers as we love Chinese food ( although we understand Wirral Council trade delegate Kevin “Addled” Adderley wasn’t too keen).But you know when they say that sometimes after you’ve eaten a Chinese meal you sometimes still remain strangely unsatisfied ?.Well we feel somewhat the same about yesterday’s Chinese Takeaway delivery.
The Financial Times report (with the obligatory artist’s impression) which we brought to your attention raises more questions than it answers.Although we are grateful for the fact that by the time the print edition was published on November 18th the title of the report had been changed from “Liverpool Goes After Chinese Investment” to “Wirral strikes land deal with China group” as it seems to have been brought to the attention of the FT’s “North of England Correspondent” that Liverpool and Wirral are two entirely different places.
Courtesy of the Financial Times we have provided a full transcript of the report for your delectation below and we’re sure that keen followers of the Wirral Waters saga will note that anomalies abound.
Consequently we have a list of questions we’d like to set out below and if any of our readers have any more please send them to email@example.com
- The FT report appears to us to have been a “controlled leak” via a national newspaper with a niche market .Who authorised this leak and what was the motivation to leak the jubilant news of the Sam Wa/Stella Shiu hook-up rather than being heralded as a “good news” story in the likes of the Liverpool Echo ?
- The plot of land on which Sam Wa/Stella appear to have been given first dibs is a patch of former Ministry of Defence land described as a “surburban industrial estate behind Port Sunlight Tennis Club” . Consequently how can this be described as being part of the plan to “kick start” the original £4.5 billion Wirral Waters development which was to built on 500 acres of redundant dockland?.
- Although the FT report makes reference to the fact that Wirral Council leader Power Boy Pip Davies was given “special powers” to approve asset sales up to £2.5 million there is no mention that at the same cabinet meeting that he was also given powers to remove restrictive covenants on land. As this was a former Ministry of Defence piece of land we can only assume that there were restrictive covenants on the future use of the land.If so what were those covenants and have they been removed to “smooth negotiations”? http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/13944494.Sweeping_changes_will_see_Wirral_s_cabinet_councillors_given_extensive_new_powers/
- Apparently Wirral Council claim the sale of this plot of land “will proceed after due diligence on Sam Wa” .What is the due diligence process and does it include background checks on bankruptcy and financial viability?
- In the FT report Lib Dem council leader Phil ” Rent-A-Quote” Gilchrist has questioned the suitability of the site for a trade centre particularly as the site was “inland with no immediately accessible port facilities” is “some distance from the M53″ and ” the site has not yet proved attractive to developers”. So we’d like to know whether this is a suitable site of an International Trade Centre or merely a very expensive and financially risky way to save face over the Stella Shiu affair?
- We’d also like to ask where Wirral Council Tory group leader Jeff “AWOL” Green has been during the unfolding of this (and many other) fiascos these past few months.You’d think he had something to hide and wanted to keep a low profile or something !.
- Knowing what we know about how Wirral Council conduct their business we can’t help speculating as to what went on during negotiations in China and led to the granting of special powers behind closed doors at Wallasey Town Hall .Why are Wirral Council absolutely determined to do business with Sam Wa when it seems to be a case of fools rush in where Peel Group fear to tread? .
ANDREW BOUNDS NORTH OF ENGLAND CORRESPONDENT
It was to be the centrepiece of a mini Shanghai on the Mersey. Now an international trade centre planned for the Wirral could be built on a suburban industrial estate behind Port Sunlight tennis club.
The original £175m scheme was an attempt to harness Chinese investment and to underpin the £4.5bn Wirral Waters development of offices, homes and warehouses on 500 acres of redundant dockland.It would have housed 1,000 Chinese companies wanting to do business in the UK in a tax-friendly zone.
Peel, the multibillion pound property group behind the plans, has ended a joint venture with its Chinese development partner Sam Wa “by mutual agreement” after several fruitless years attempting to recruit occupiers.
It has switched its focus, it says, to potential investors from Korea, India and other fast-growing economies.
But the Labour local council is pressing ahead regardless. It has agreed in private to sell a patch of former Ministry of Defence land in Birkenhead to Sam Wa, the Financial Times has learnt. The deal was approved by its cabinet on November 5, without public scrutiny as an “exempt item”.
The council said commercial confidentiality meant it could not discuss the deal publicly.
The challenges of development in the area were made clear at the same meeting, where the council set up a £16m investment fund for Wirral Waters, saying it would borrow money against future business rates to kick-start construction.
The council papers proposing the fund state that “there are a number of barriers to development, in particular that end values are far less than the actual cost of development”. They also warned that if land prices fell the fund could make a loss.
Peel owns the bulk of the waterfront on the Mersey and is pressing on with the rest of Wirral Waters, although a college and office block are the only buildings to go up so far.
England’s northern cities have been jostling for Chinese investment.
Last month, Manchester hosted President Xi Jinping of China. He announced that Beijing Construction and Engineering Group, a state-owned company already active in the city, would invest in two large offices by the airport, which would cater to Chinese companies.The £130m plan is part of Manchester’s Airport City scheme. President Xi also announced direct flights between Manchester and Beijing.
The Wirral wants to catch up. But the site being sold to Sam Wa is smaller and requires extensive work because it used to belong to the MoD.
Sam Wa was founded and is chaired by Stella Shiu, who changed her name after being declared bankrupt by a Hong Kong court in 2008 for failure to repay a loan.
The sale will proceed after due diligence on Sam Wa, the council said. This month it also agreed to delegate to its leader, Phil Davies, the power to approve asset sales up to £2.5m. The site being sold to Sam Wa was valued at £2m in 2013, according to a document seen by the FT.
Mr Davies said: “Sam Wa, who at an earlier stage were going to be partnering with Peel, are now looking to invest all the money themselves.”
Phil Gilchrist, leader of the Liberal Democrats on the council, said he could not comment on so-called exempt items but questioned the suitability of the site for a trade centre. He noted that it was “inland with no immediately accessible port facilities” and some distance from the M53 motorway.
“The site has not yet proved attractive to developers that I am aware of,” he added.
Sam Wa’s stated interests include electronics manufacturing, import and export, timber trading and a large mining concession in the Philippines.
An FT investigation in 2013 found its home at the time was a cramped office belonging to an organisation called “Shanghai Enterprise Top 100 Association”.
Sam Wa’s headquarters in Beijing was a closely guarded military hotel that did not allow outsiders to enter.
Several companies registered under Ms Shiu’s former name have been dissolved on the Chinese mainland.
Ms Shiu and Sam Wa did not answer emails seeking comment.