The Sunday Times report was written in the most tentative terms possible and gave no indication of sources or likely veracity.
It said only that: “China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), a subsidiary of the state-backed China Railway Construction Corporation, is understood to have sounded out industry figures about the feasibility of bidding for Britain’s biggest contractor.”
The business pages of Sunday newspapers have long been favourite conduits of financial public relations practitioners seeking to leak, spin and manipulate. It is unclear whether this report was fed by someone seeking to boost Balfour Beatty’s share price by talking up its attractiveness or perhaps someone seeking to test the winds with a kite-flying exercise.
Whatever the story’s provenance, it is given a certain credibility by not only Balfour Beatty's vulnerability but also the growing presence of Chinese contractors in the UK construction industry. China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) is preferred bidder for a £300m contract on the proposed Swansea Bay tidal lagoon power project. China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) is in joint venture with Interserve to build the £900m One Nine Elms skyscraper. And Chinese money is behind major development plans in Manchester and London Docklands.