“This project can be seen as the symbolic shift of entering the European market”

3 December 2013

Exclusive interview with Beijing firm investing in and building the new Manchester Airport City.

Ma Tieshan FCIOB is deputy general manager of Beijing Construction Engineering Group (BCEG), which in October this year joined a joint venture to develop the new, £800m Manchester Airport City Project with Manchester Airport Group, Carillion and Greater Manchester Pension Fund.

As well as taking a 20% stake in the scheme, BCEG will team up with the UK’s Carillion to build it. A fellow of the Chartered Institute of Building, Ma Tieshan told the CIOB’s Winnie Zhang about how this collaboration, a first for both the UK and China, will work.

How will duties be split between BCEG and Carillion? 

BCEG will set up a consortium with Carillion to build the project together. The specific and detailed duties of each party are still under discussion, which will be finalized in the agreement of the Joint Venture.

Will you be investing in the scheme, or doing project delivery only?

Both. BCEG will develop Manchester Airport City Project with the form of setting up a Joint Venture to with Manchester Airport Group, Carillion and Greater Manchester Pension Fund, which means we will invest in the project in accordance with the requirement agreed within the consortium. At the same time, BCEG will build and deliver the project together with Carillion. BCEG has subscribed 20% of shares of the total investment.

Can you describe how you won this partnership?

BCEG obtained the cooperation opportunity through a joint effort with the UK side from project qualification, rounds of negotiations and project preparations over the last year.

During this process we have been working closely with each party. Focusing on the integrated benefits of the project, we made great effort to move the project forward in coordination with each party.

Eventually, mutual trust had been built among the parties, which is a good and solid foundation for the cooperation in the future.

How many BCEG staff will be employed on this project?

This project is complicated and will take a long time to build. We are playing both the investor/developer role and the contractor role.

The employment arrangement will be planned specifically along with the project scheme. Based on the project requirement we will provide an appropriate management team for the project.

In addition to selecting talent from within BCEG globally, we will also recruit outstanding talent locally to meet the project requirements. In fact, it is an opportunity for local people. Localization is part of our global strategy.

There are two types of job opportunities.

One is for the building process while the project is under construction and a significant part of the management team will be recruited locally.

We hope a lot of job opportunities can be provided when the project is successfully delivered, as a lot of employees are needed for businesses, like the hotels and office buildings.

What categories of BCEG staff will you need? Engineers, managers, technicians, labourers?

Based on our project duties, our employees will be mostly engineers and managers. Besides that we will also equip our team with specialists in investment, law, accounting and engineering.

Ma Tieshan FCIOB, deputy general manager of Beijing Construction Engineering Group

What special skills and experience will BCEG bring to this project?

BCEG was the first enterprise taking overseas projects independently in China. As one of the largest contractors in China, its international business has been spreading to the five main continents globally.

From investment, design, research, construction, real estate development, property management, project management, consultancy, logistics, to production, BCEG has the capability to provide turn-key solution in the whole process.

Cooperating with a couple of strong strategic partners both in China and worldwide, BCEG is able to integrate all kinds of superior resources all the way through the whole value chain to provide the best service to clients.

What part does this project play in BCEG’s international strategy?

In recent years BCEG has made great efforts to transform and upgrade its business to the high-end markets, expand market in developed countries, and transform our service. This project can be seen as the symbolic shift of entering the European market. Moreover, it is a new type of international project management model as we have two different roles, investor and contractor.

What does BCEG hope to learn from taking part in this project?

We believe that the shareholders of this project can learn from each other. As an international contractor, we try to act in the way of "Do in Rome as Rome does". We will get familiar with local laws and regulations in project development and contracts, implementing the excellent experiences in UK project management into our own management work. At the same time we will also share our experience of international projects to our partners.

Actually, we have already started to engage in FIDIC and UK contract systems. In Africa, there are only two contract systems, one from the UK and the other from France. There we engaged more with the UK system, as we have in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

Now we are in the territory of the UK, we believe that we can learn the complete and local basis of the system and develop a deep understanding. We experienced a similar dynamic with the US standard: although we have worked with US standard contract conditions for many years it was different when we did projects in the US in terms of operating model, details, methods and environments.

Which other international project compares most closely with this one?

Each project is unique, especially this project. Based on the information we have learned, the scale and development model of Manchester Airport City is similar only to projects such as Amsterdam Airport City and Frankfurt Airport City.

All parties in this project have their own strengths and are leaders in their sectors. We will seek common ground while preserving difference during the cooperation process, paying attention to the whole benefits of the project. We think this project will be a new experience in the development and construction of large projects in the UK.

Winnie Zhang is branch manager for the Chartered Institute of Building in North China

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