GEORGE Osborne didn’t exactly say “give me all your money” to the assembled business leaders at the Orange National Business Awards.
No, he phrased it rather more elegantly than that. “We need to see cash coming out of corporate balance sheets and into real investment prospects,” if The Capitalist’s memory serves correctly.
So no prizes for guessing who the chancellor made a beeline for when he arrived at the pre-dinner drinks in the Orange VIP area: Victor Zhang, UK chief executive of Huawei, the second-biggest telecoms company in the world with global revenue of $28bn and the largest investor from mainland China in the UK.
Osborne was “very impressed” by Huawei’s plans to double its presence in the UK within three years, said Sir Andrew Cahn, chairman of the Chinese operator’s advisory board – and Osborne returned the favour in his opening address, reminding his audience that UK exports to China were up 30 per cent in the first six months of the year.
Disappointingly, however, there was only one joke among Osborne’s tales of Eurozone woes. “Apologies for not being properly dressed,” said the business-suited budgeter, who had spent the day at a meeting of European finance ministers in Brussels. “But I thought it would be better to turn up here in a suit rather than there in a dinner jacket.”
And so to the actual awards, where Liverpudlian shipping firm Bibby Line Group won the 3i private business of the year, chemicals business Johnson Matthey won the Coutts & Co Large-Cap Business of the Year, and manufacturer Renishaw won the Grant Thornton Mid-Cap Business of the Year.
Next’s chief executive Lord Wolfson was awarded the Decade of Excellence in Business accolade, while the Orange Leader of the Year award went to Ruby McGregor-Smith, chief executive of Mitie Group.