Sheffield signs deal with Sichuan Guodong
The 60-year deal will see Sichuan Guodong invest £1bn in SheffieldSheffield City Council

Sheffield has struck an agreement with Chinese firm Sichuan Guodong to secure Britain's largest property deal by a Chinese developer outside London.

The Yorkshire city's council said the Chinese group will initially invest £220m ($290.7m, €263m) over the course of the next three years, with a total investment of approximately £1bn over the next 60 years. The funds, which comprise equity and bank loans, will be deposited in a fund managed by the city council and the money is expected to be invested in a number of unnamed projects all understood to be involving the city centre.

"It's a massive vote of confidence in Sheffield," said Julie Dore, leader of Sheffield city council.

"It is the first deal of its kind to be made by a UK city. This is, we believe, the biggest Chinese investment deal in a UK city outside of London."

Dore added the deal was particularly significant given the financial uncertainty that has followed Britain's European Union referendum.

"This [the deal] is significant for Sheffield and the UK," she said. "It shows confidence at a time of uncertainty with Brexit."

Sichuan's chairman, Wang Chunming, first visited the steel city after his daughter began attending one of the local universities and previously said Sheffield has "real growth potential".

Chengdu, where Sichuan is based, is the fifth largest city in China and the largest in Sichuan Province and is twinned with Sheffield. A number of Sheffield politicians and officials have visited the Chinese city, which will host the G20 meeting of finance ministers this coming weekend, during the 18-month negotiations.

According to local councillor Leigh Bramall, the investment could create "hundreds, if not thousands, of additional jobs" in Sheffield.

Kamel Mellahi, a professor of strategic management at Warwick Business School, said the agreement could pave the way for more UK cities to pursue similar deals.

"This is not only the biggest investment of its kind outside London, it is also a novel type of investment and perhaps the first of its kind pursued by a UK city," he said.

"The process of obtaining the deal could serve as a template for other UK cities on how to cooperate with Chinese businesses. Such investments have significant ripple effects on the local economy, and given the size and brand recognition that Sichuan Guodong Construction Group has, it will put Sheffield on the global map."