Ex-director of Chinese investment firm SinoFortone Group throws doubt on its £100m pledge to Paramount resort in Kent


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A former director of a Chinese investment company has thrown into doubt its plans to invest in a Paramount resort in Kent saying it was refused a loan from a state-backed lender.

Sir Richard Heygate was briefly a director at SinoFortone Group, an infrastructure investment business which has pledged to spend £100 million on the £3.2 billion attraction.

The company, whose managing director is young business tycoon Peter Zhang, has committed billions to a range of infrastructure projects across the UK.

Developers hope the resort will be open - without the Paramount branding - in 2023
Developers hope the resort will be open - without the Paramount branding - in 2023

However, so far it has only completed the £2 million acquisition of the Buckinghamshire pub where former Prime Minister David Cameron shared a pint with Chinese leader President Xi Jinping.

Sir Richard, who resigned as a director of SinoFortone in December, said the firm’s commitment to the Paramount plans had fallen apart when China’s state export credit agency, Sinosure, refused to provide finance.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, he said: “We submitted a loan application and Sinosure turned it down flat.

“They said: ‘How many Chinese engineers are you going to use for your planning team? And when you build this theme park, how much of the technology’s going to come from China?’ The answer in both cases was ‘none’.”

Sir Richard Heygate
Sir Richard Heygate

Sir Richard, a former partner of management consultancy McKinsey & Company, added that SinoFortone “doesn’t have any assets itself but it can look for money from various sources”.

He described the firm as a “deal brokerage company” but offered no comment when asked by this website if SinoFortone had the ability to carry out its commitments.

“They said: ‘How many Chinese engineers are you going to use for your planning team? And when you build this theme park, how much of the technology’s going to come from China?’ The answer in both cases was ‘none’...” - Sir Richard Heygate, ex-SinoFortone director

In October 2015, SinoFortone said it had access to “significant Chinese funding” as it signed a memorandum of understanding with London Resort Company Holdings (LRCH), the developers of Paramount resort.

A statement from Kleinwort Hambros, which brokered the deal, said: “We can confirm that SinoFortone have publicly announced their intention to invest and that has not changed.”

LRCH, which wants to build the resort on the Swanscombe Peninsula between Gravesend and Dartford, is bankrolled by the Kuwaiti Al-Humaidi family, which has committed to provide financial resources throughout its planning application.

The company backed SinoFortone and said its “commitment is unchanged”.

Spokesman Andy Martin said: “We’re still working hard behind the scenes, developing our business plan and preparing our planning application for submission later this year.

“It’s no secret that this has taken longer than we would have liked, but this is a huge project and we’re determined to get it right.

“We’ll be sharing more news soon and look forward to updating everyone on the project.”

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