As an overseas investor in the City of London, the election of the new Conservative majority government and the message it sends to people like me who are keen to invest in the UK economy is welcome. After three and half years of political turmoil, the UK can finally move forward as a country and put to bed the divisive issue of Brexit.
For me, the message could not be any clearer: the UK — and London in particular — is once again open for business.
In October 2017, my company the Tenacity Group, a Hong Kong-based real estate and investment company, acquired 70 Gracechurch Street, a Grade A office and retail building in the City of London’s Eastern City Cluster. In summer 2018, we further increased our footprint in the City through the purchase of a second property located at 55 Gracechurch Street. Together, the two acquisitions represent a significant post-Brexit investment of around £400m into the City of London.
In early December 2019, we unveiled our plans to transform 70 Gracechurch Street into The Forum — a multiuse building on the site of the original Roman Forum and which will provide around 600,000 sq ft of office, retail space and a significant public amenity space. Later this year we hope to release details of our plans for 55 Gracechurch Street.
We envisage that both of our projects will help change the dynamics of the City by contributing to the City of London Corporation’s vision to make the City Cluster area the heart of a thriving 24/7 economy. We plan to make it a destination for the weekend and the night, as well as a place of work. We hope our projects will help the City to evolve and fulfil this vision.
Over recent months, when reading much of the commentary in the UK press surrounding the Brexit referendum, one could easily question the logic behind our investment and development plans. However, I remained unfazed, and indeed still am, by the British electorate’s decision to leave the EU.
After years of pessimism, it is worth reminding ourselves of why the UK, and especially the City of London, remains the location of choice for international investors. For Tenacity in particular, we are bullish on the long-term prospects for London for a number of reasons.
The City of London is historically one of the oldest global commercial centres of the world – dating back to the Romans when they established Londinium. As a member of the Board of Trustees for Harrow School Development Trust, I am only too aware of the abundant talent from within the UK education system.
As someone who has worked and studied in both the UK, America and Asia, I also recognise the irreplaceable centrality of the English language to international business. As an outsider, it is hard not to fall in love with London’s multi-cultural and cosmopolitan nature.
As an international businessman, it is the UK’s close proximity to Europe, USA and the long-term historical relationships with the Far East, including Hong Kong and China — I value the UK as a great place for collaboration in creativity, entrepreneurialism, and hospitality.
And finally, but perhaps most importantly, being from Hong Kong we are only too aware of the UK’s world-class legal system and its similarities to ours back home.
Once the dust has settled and 2020 starts to get underway, I very much hope the UK can finally put to bed the issues of Brexit and open a new chapter that focuses on the opportunities which lie ahead. I hope the UK can, once again, rediscover its renowned role as an enterprising, outward-looking and open country. The future, for London, is bright indeed.
Patrick Wong is founder and chief executive officer of the Tenacity Group