Saturday, 19 Sep 2020

David Cameron in talks with buyout veteran about new China fund

Sky News has learnt that Malcolm Offord, who spent 16 years at the buyout firm Charterhouse before retiring at the end of 2013, has been in talks with Mr Cameron for some time about a senior post.

The discussions with Mr Offord are said to be ongoing and have not yet resulted in a formal agreement, according to one person close to the former PM.

Mr Cameron has already provisionally signed up a former executive at China’s sovereign wealth fund to join his new investment firm, the aim of which is to leverage trade links between Britain and the world’s second-biggest economy.

Hu Bing, ‎who held a senior role at China Investment Corporation (CIC) until 2013, is said to be in line to run the UK-China Fund’s Chinese arm if it gets off the ground.

The former PM has been working on plans for a $1bn UK-China investment fund for the last year, and has held talks with a wide range of institutions in the City and elsewhere about backing it financially.

The fund is likely to invest in sectors such as technology, with roughly half the money expected to come from British investors.

Mr Cameron has told City executives that he is confident of CIC committing hundreds of millions of dollars to the fund, although in recent weeks there have been indications that it might have chosen not to get involved.

Details of the former PM’s vehicle’s investment strategy remain sketchy, and it is continuing to progress applications for relevant licences.

A final decision about whether to proceed with the venture is expected in the coming months.

Recruiting an executive with Mr Offord’s profile would be likely to improve Mr Cameron’s prospects of raising a fund.

During his long stint at Charterhouse, the latter part of which was spent as its senior partner, Mr Offord invested £2bn in companies such as Saga and Wood Mackenzie, the energy consultancy, generating a return of nearly three times investors’ money.

Mr Cameron was a major enthusiast for stronger bilateral trade links with China during his time in office, a tone which has cooled noticeably since Theresa May replaced him.

Sky News revealed this month that a date had yet to be agreed for this year’s instalment of the UK-China Economic and Financial Dialogue, a key annual event for bilateral relations for the two countries’ financial services sectors.

A spokesman for the former PM declined to comment on the talks with Mr Offord, but has previously said: “David Cameron remains very proud of his work as prime minister launching the ‘golden era’ between the UK and China with President Xi, and strengthening the UK-China trade and investment relationship.

“In an effort to build on that work out of office, he wishes to play a role in a new UK-China bilateral investment fund that will invest in innovative and sustainable growth opportunities in both the UK and China to create jobs and further boost trade links.

“Having now received official advice from ACOBA [Whitehall’s advisory committee on business appointments], work is continuing on establishing the fund – including holding discussions with a number of financial institutions in the UK and China.”

Mr Offord could not be reached for comment.

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