Norfolk firms join in China boom

MARK NICHOLLS The massive growth of the Chinese economy is bringing with it a boom for a wide range of Norfolk companies.

MARK NICHOLLS

The massive growth of the Chinese economy is bringing with it a boom for a wide range of Norfolk companies.

An increasing number of firms from the region are moving into the lucrative Chinese market and are experiencing unparalleled success as they play a significant part in the development of the world's fastest growing economy.

Companies offering expertise and products in fields such as insurance, engineering, construction, automotive and legal services have moved into China.

Norfolk businesses setting the pace in China include Norwich Union owner Aviva, King's Lynn-based roller bearings manufacturer Cooper, automotive business Lotus Engineering, regional law firm Mills & Reeve and construction specialist Davis Langdon.

All are reporting significant growth and buoyant returns from a country that has now nudged ahead of Britain to become the fourth biggest economy in the world.

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And the new business in the Far East is helping sustain and create jobs in Norfolk.

In an exclusive interview with the EDP, the president of Aviva-Cofco Life Insurance Eric Chang revealed that the company is set to double its outlets in China over the next 12 months, to a presence in 30 major cities across the country.

Aviva-Cofco, a joint venture between Aviva and the state-owned Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Import and Export Corporation, started operating in China in January 2003 and is the fifth biggest foreign insurer operating in the China market. But Mr Chang added: “I believe Aviva-Cofco has a promising future in China and if we keep hard to our strategy, we should really be leading the Chinese market.”

Project management and cost consultant Davis Langdon Seah in Shanghai is now dominating the super high rise market in the city and has six offices on mainland China employing 300 people, while Cooper Roller Bearings saw sales rise twentyfold from 2004 to 2005 and double in 2006.

Legal specialists Mills & Reeve has a China Group of corporate lawyers and can advise clients on setting up a business in China.

Nathan Horton, a corporate lawyer with Mills & Reeve in Norwich, said: “There are advantages to persevering with entry in the Chinese market - the sheer scale of it to start with.”

China, with a population of about 1.3bn, has an economy that is expected to grow another 10pc during 2007.

t See tomorrow's EDP The Business for the first in a series of special reports from China on the success of Norfolk companies. Also visit www.edp24.co.uk to read Mark Nicholls's blog from Shanghai and Beijing.