Malaysian investment show’s region’s Unlimited appeal

05 October 2020

A Malaysian cocoa company is to invest around £25m in Suffolk in a move which illustrates the region’s attractiveness as a business location.

Guan Chong Berhad (GCB) is to set up a UK production base at the former Philips Avent baby bottle factory at Glemsford, near Sudbury, which is within easy reach of the Port of Felixstowe.

Last week’s announcement followed almost six months of discussions with New Anglia Local Enterprise Parntership’s recently established Inward Investment Team and represents a significant boost for the local economy.

Around 425 jobs were lost and the 18-acre site with more than 300,000sq ft of industrial space left vacant after the Dutch firm Philips Avent decided to move its operations to the Netherlands and Indonesia.  

GCB hopes to be operational on the site by the second half of 2021 and has confirmed its plans to invest around £25m, including the £8.5m purchase price.

Investments such as this will be crucial to the region’s economic prosperity in a post-Covid and post-Brexit landscape. Last year, the LEP launched Norfolk & Suffolk Unlimited, a brand aimed at attracting companies from overseas or other parts of the UK that are looking to set up new operations or extend their existing ones here.

C-J Green, the LEP''s newly-appointed Chair, said the announcement was “really fantastic news” especially in the current economic climate, and a “ringing endorsement” of the region’s attractiveness to investors from overseas.

“The Norfolk & Suffolk Unlimited brand was launched with the objective of enticing businesses to set up or expand their operations here,” she said.

“The decision of the Guan Chong Berhad Group to locate its cocoa production facility here and take over a vacant site is a win-win for the whole area. This will ensure the premises at Glemsford remain in use and sustain much-needed job opportunities for the local workforce.”

David Dukes, head of inward investment at the LEP, said: “This is a real coup for the inward investment team which was set up by the LEP earlier this year, and a vindication of the new partnership- based approach we have been taking.

“It has been very gratifying to be able to convince an investor like this that we had a perfect site in a competitive location with good connectivity and excellent local skills. I am confident we will be able to attract more investment like this to Norfolk & Suffolk.

“This Malaysian company was looking to set up a production operation in the UK and exploring locations close to major container ports, including Felixstowe. This announcement follows six months of discussions and negotiations and we are delighted that it has opted to invest and create jobs here.”

In a statement, Guan Chong Berhad said: “This acquisition is in line with our group’s strategy and provides a great opportunity for GCB to access the market in the United Kingdom in the future.

“In addition, the investment in the facility represents a key part of the group’s vision to be a fully integrated and market-leading cocoa supplier across the globe.

“We believe that this acquisition will equip us to be a reliable supplier to customers and create job opportunities to locally skilled workforce in the post-Brexit landscape.

“The site is strategically located near the port of Felixstowe, which will allow easy transportation of raw materials and cocoa derived food ingredients, while having the convenience of accessing to main roads with excellent connections to customers.”

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