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  • 13 Dec 2013
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Manchester Airport City is gateway to Europe, says BCEG's Ma Tieshan FCIOB

The deputy general manager of the Beijing Construction Engineering Group (BCEG), the $5.5bn contractor joint venturing with Carillion to develop the new £800m Manchester Airport City project, is a CIOB fellow who has hailed the project as a “symbolic shift of entering the European market”.

Ma Tieshan FCIOB was interviewed by Winnie Zhang, the CIOB’s branch manager in north China, for the Institute’s international news website www.globalconreview.com, where he outlined BCEG’s plans to take on more “high end” projects in developed countries and to learn from working alongside Carillion. 

BCEG has a 20% stake in the office, hotel, manufacturing and logistics scheme as an investor, while Carillion also has 20% and the Greater Manchester Pension Fund has 10% of the shares. Manchester Airport Group holds the remaining 50%.

Meanwhile, BCEG is also acting as co-contractor with Carillion. The two companies are expected to set up a consortium to deliver the scheme, although Ma said that each party’s detailed role had not yet been finalised.

"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'."

Ma Tieshan FCIOB, BCEG

Asked about the part played by the Manchester project in BCEG's future strategy, Ma replied: “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.

“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. 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.

Ma also discussed how BCEG would staff the project, explaining that it would select talent from BCEG globally, but also recruit in the UK. “We will also recruit outstanding talent locally to meet the project requirements. In fact, it is an opportunity for local people. Localisation is part of our global strategy.”

During the building process “a significant part of the management team will be recruited locally” he said, adding that the project would also deliver many job opportunities in the operational phase.

The proposed Manchester Airport City on the north side

“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.”

BCEG has built landmark buildings and infrastructure in Beijing and overseas through its international branches, in particular, an American subsidiary called BCEGI-USA. In 2012 it had global turnover of $5.5bn, making it the 50th largest construction and engineering company in the world by revenue. 

The company was one of the first Chinese contractors to operate internationally, and is also currently active in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Its range of activities covers investment, design, research, construction, development, property management, project management, consultancy, and logistics.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Construction News this week, Carillion’s director for construction services Adam Green said that he believed the first Chinese-British construction project could be a “game-changer”.

“Where some see a threat I think you have to look at the flip side; I see a fantastic opportunity to work with BCEG and to learn – that’s a two-way thing.”

Green has visited BCEG sites in Beijing and added: “I have seen some of their operations and it’s fascinating to see them delivering things in a different way, almost always through self-delivery.

“I see a partner in them and someone to work alongside and why wouldn't I want to be at the forefront of [Chinese contractors working in the UK]?”

On intellectual property, Green said he was focused on “ensuring we have a big enough engine to generate big enough ideas, rather than worrying about losing one or two” during the process.

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