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Fierce challenge from similar centres as competition hots up

THE Athlone hub would face fierce competition from other similar facilities in the UK and continental Europe.

The biggest rival to the Irish plan is an International Trade Centre in Liverpool, which was given the green light last September by Wirral Council.

The company behind the project, Peel Holdings, plans a £200m (€245m) trade centre, which will total about 230,00sqm -- about twice the size of phase one of the Irish project.

A series of buildings will be constructed in four stages, allowing up to 1,000 companies from China, India, South Korea and other emerging economies to exhibit, sell, assemble and distribute their goods into the UK, Irish and European markets.

Although Peel Holdings has stolen a march on the Athlone Business Park Ltd project, it is still looking for tenants.

A spokeswoman said the company was in the "marketing phase" and was in the process of securing companies interested in setting up a UK base.

Most would be Chinese, she added.

There are also two other similar developments in Europe, at The Hague in Holland and in Antwerp in Belgium.

A 35,000sqm Chinese wholesale centre in The Hague opened in 2009, but recently secured a new owner after the previous backer filed for bankruptcy because too few companies had signed up.

Between 200 and 300 Chinese manufacturers were expected to open an office, but just 19 actually did.

The Europe China Trade Centre (ECTC) was bought by a group of Chinese investors based in Dubai earlier this year.

Another facility, the China Europe Trade Centre, was founded by provincial governments in Antwerp, Belgium and in Tianjin, China, and opened in 2007.

It is much smaller in scale, covering an area of just 16,550sqm -- with a building space of 8,115sqm. It is located in Antwerp, Belgium.

Irish Independent