China Is Still the Land of Opportunity for UK Firms; EMERGING MARKETS Martineau Johnson Senior Partner, Roger Blears, One of Birmingham's Best-Known Corporate Lawyers, Believes Britain's Private Equity Providers Must Seize the Moment and Make China Their Number One Target

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Byline: Roger Blears

Roger Blears has been convinced since the late 1990s that China represents the world's biggest opportunity for deal-making.

Now, fresh back from a 10-day visit to the Yangtze River region, he is convinced that a new initiative - driven by the British Government - is critical to finally realising the potential.

The Treasury is now passing Whitehall research papers on tax and regulation to senior government officials in China, with a view to helping them to build a thriving private equity industry.

The UK Government hopes to take advantage of political and economic tensions between Beijing and the White House, to persuade the former to favour British private equity interests against those of the US.

Mr Blears is convinced that the Treasury's unexpected actions have created a pivotal moment in the fledgling relationship between China's corporate sector, and Western private equity providers.

"There is no doubt that the Government is pushing at a door which is starting to swing open," he said.

However, Mr Blears believes with equal certainty that professional advisers from the UK must respond speedily, and not be distracted by other international target economies.

"You can forgetWestern Europe, the old Soviet bloc, South America and the Gulf States for the moment," he said. "If we don't follow the Treasury's lead in trying to woo China away from the US private equity sector, then we will regret it for decades to come.

"If the Americans entrench their foothold in the market, they will be immensely difficult to dislodge."

Mr Blears says the pressure for action is made more intense by the ongoing economic uncertainty, which has effectively ended 'big ticket' corporate buy-outs, at least for the time being. …