P1F Ltd were the only UK company present and presenting at the OBOR Event in Kunming China, focussed on identifying strategic partnership opportunities for development and investment in the OBOR Countries including Sri Lanka. We were tasked with the responsibility to share our experiences of working alongside partners in SE Asia as a UK Business as well as speaking of our experiences of doing business in Sri Lanka. The focus on our presentation was on our speciality area of Real Estate and Development, however we also discussed the general investment climate that would be relevant for new entrants. With an audience including some of the major state-owned and private development and investment companies in China valued at over US$10bn, the conference highlighted still a very small knowledge of Sri Lanka’s development potential with the audience, who as a majority had not even been to the country or were aware of the investment opportunities available.
The focus of conversations and presentations was actually on China’s mainland neighbours including Myanmar, Cambodia, and Vietnam, which have been receiving on average over US$5bn/annum in FDI as a result of increased de-regulation of foreign direct investment as well as sound fundamentals supporting growth. This changed however when we began to show comparative data and the real opportunities that are very present here in Sri Lanka. After sharing several examples of development occurring in the country, there were many questions about supportive legislation for FDI, available investment opportunities, tax and VAT exemptions, and so on i.e. once they became aware of the reality of the environment, the market became of interest. This interest gathered as we further discussed specific investment opportunities, and our clear structured process of evaluating opportunities before making any investment decisions. The end of the conference resulted in four major private and state-owned companies starting discussions to partner with P1F Ltd to leverage opportunities in Sri Lanka, where investments would range from US$3m-US$200m, from water infrastructure, real estate, and telecommunications infrastructure.
We therefore have been very lucky to have received a positive reception, and we are thankful for the UK Government to have provided the platform to market the opportunities available in Sri Lanka. I believe more events like these can only help attract investment to Sri Lanka, where other countries could prepare such platforms instead of it all being pushed by the Sri Lankan Government – the message is less persuasive this way. I think more foreign companies who have been successful/ are finding success in Sri Lanka should offer their time for events like these – new entrants need to hear from neutral players what the reality of the business and investment environment is, good and bad, because the trust that is bread is more valuable – this is hard to gather if it is only the Government who are singing the praises of the country, as this is expected anyway.
There is little doubt more events like these will occur, and more investment will be attracted to the country, however these cannot be successful without supportive legislation and more success stories coming out of the country. The more we breed success, the more success we will attract, so it is the easy wins we want to get right in the beginning – the easier it is to achieve this, the better.