Developers of £800m Airport City confirmed

Simon Donohue

One of the largest ever British-Chinese joint ventures has won the contract to develop Manchester's £800m Airport City.

Working with Manchester Airports Group, Beijing Construction Engineering Group will join Carillion and the Greater Manchester Pension Fund as funding partners in a joint venture to build the scheme.

Argent has been appointed by the joint venture as development manager.

Airport City will provide over 5m sq ft of business space, including manufacturing, warehousing, offices, hotels, retail and leisure outlets across a 160 acre regeneration site.

The project is a key part of the Enterprise Zone launched in 2011 to attract international businesses to Manchester, with companies choosing to locate at Airport City benefiting from tax breaks and other incentives.

MAG is providing the land for the project. Place North West understands that MAG has also received in principal confirmation of £10m in funding from the North West Evergreen Fund towards Airport City. The North West Evergreen Fund, which is made up of 16 local authority limited partners, was established to provide funding to support real estate projects which are critical to the region's economy, generating jobs and growth.

It is capitalised through the European Regional Development Fund and other public money allocated under the Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas initiative, which is managed by the European Investment Bank in the North West on behalf of the Homes & Communities Agency.

MAG launched its search for joint venture partners at the end of 2012, advised by CBRE and Eversheds.

Charlie Cornish, chief executive of MAG, said: "The inclusion of BCEG is significant because as a group, we have been keen to forge greater links with the Far East and this gives us an opportunity to strengthen vital business links with China."

BCEG is a leading construction and engineering company in China and is already active in global markets, particularly in the USA.

Xing Yan, managing director of BCEG International Co, said: "To be part of a project of this size and scale, working alongside other such highly regarded organisations, will be an exciting, challenging and rewarding opportunity, which we look forward to beginning.

"We see our involvement in Airport City as an extension of the memorandum of understanding between China and the UK, where we have been looking to further explore joint infrastructure opportunities for some time."

The consortium will start work immediately and the project is scheduled for completion over the next 15 years.

Carillion expects to invest up to £12m of equity in the development, as well as delivering up to £580m of construction work.

David Partridge, managing partner at Argent (Property Development) Services, said: "Our aspiration as part of this international joint venture is to create a world class business destination that will open up new connections on a global level. Argent's involvement plays to our key place-making strengths, and underlines our continuing commitment to Manchester and the North West region."

In July of this year, Place North West reported that Ken Knott, at the time chief executive of Ask Real Estate, had instructed lawyers to explore a challenge to Manchester Airports Group over its procurement process to find a development partner for Airport City.

The crux of the legal row was understood to be alleged talks between MAG and the Chinese funding partner introduced by Ask as its joint bidding partner in the contest which took place without Ask. Ask said it had an exclusivity agreement with the Chinese group.

Contacted by Place North West today, a spokesman for Ask said the company would not be commenting at this time.

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