KL-London relations rises to new heights

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and London Mayor Boris Johnson addressing the media at the official launch of the 9th World Islam Economic Forum in the British capital on Wednesday.

MUTUAL GAIN: Launch of Battersea project during Najib’s UK visit highlights Malaysia’s new relationship with Britain

(Bernama) – PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s four-day visit to the United Kingdom,  which ended on Thursday, has taken Kuala Lumpur-London relations to greater heights.

This is especially so with the launch of the iconic Battersea Power Station (BSP) project in London by a Malaysian consortium comprising SP Setia Bhd, Sime Darby Bhd and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF).

The 15.6ha redevelopment project, with gross development value of STG8 billion (RM38 billion) will see some 3,500 new homes built as well as offices, commercial space and a park in West London, and is expected to take at least 10 years to complete and create 15,000 jobs.

Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin, chairman of joint venture company BSP Holding Co, said on Wednesday that the project marked the move by local companies from being “juara kampung” (village champions) to international champions.

“Combining the strengths of the three companies, we can beat every company in the world to become world champions and not just look at being jaguh kampung.”

On Thursday, the Financial Times, in an article titled “Malaysia moves into London” quoted Najib as saying that Malaysia’s aggressive investment in the UK, especially in the property market here, would turn the former colony of the British Empire into a major player in the property market.

The FT said last year, Malaysia spent STG1.4 billion, almost all of it in London, more than any other Asian country, snapping up City of London offices and the vast redevelopment project at BSP.

Najib told the British media at the official launch of the 9th World Islam Economic Forum (WIEF) that Malaysian investment in the UK had been on the upswing, with companies, including government-linked firms, looking at investing in real estate and purchasing buildings in London.

The prime minister said Mara was looking at a few London properties and EPF, flushed with funds, was looking for opportunities to invest here, adding that this was good for the British economy.

The upcoming WIEF, to be held here from Oct 29 to 31, is expected to deliver tangible investments. At the previous forum in Malaysia, deals worth an estimated RM28 million were struck.

The WIEF said the Islamic financial sector was currently estimated at STG1.2 trillion and is expected to grow to STG1.6 trillion by 2015, with Islamic nations accounting for nearly 25 per cent of the world’s population.

“London will seek to extend its role as a western hub for Islamic finance, building on the STG22.3 billion that has been raised to date, via its status as the leading exporter of financial services across the world,” it added.

Themed “Changing World, New Relationship”, the forum is expected to attract more than 1,500 government leaders, captains of industries, academics, regional experts and corporate managers from 100 countries.

WIEF will also help build closer relations between Malaysia and the UK, while expanding trade and investment between the Islamic world and European countries.

If Malaysian investment in London is on an upswing, so too are ties between both countries, and Najib has described Malaysia’s relationship with the British government under Prime Minister David Cameron as a partnership of prosperity.

For the BSP project, for example, Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson cooperated by settling all issues within a short time, including the decision on extending the Northern Line Tube to Battersea with a government financial guarantee.