Cash-rich NWS keeps all its options open

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2006, 12:00am


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NWS Holdings, the cash-rich infrastructure arm controlled by New World Development, yesterday said it was not ruling out investment opportunities outside China after a media report said it planned to invest in $3 billion worth of infrastructure projects in South America.

Hong Kong Economic Times said NWS had plans to invest in a basket of infrastructure projects including highways and airports in Suriname, north of Brazil.

'The report is true in some parts and wrong in others,' said a NWS spokesman, adding that the company was exploring investment opportunities in China but would not necessarily be limited to the region.

With $3.2 billion cash on hand after offloading its entire interests in Kwai Chung Terminals 3 and 8, NWS has been the envy of investors, not to mention the cash generated by the potential sales from the Hunghom Peninsula project this year. Analysts say abundant cash has prompted NWS to go hunting for suitable projects.

A report from Malaysian brokerage house CIMB estimated sales at Hunghom Peninsula would generate more than $4 billion cash and $3 billion after-tax profits on top of the $3.2 billion cash on hand.

Based on the data compiled by Thomson Financial, all three analysts who have tracked the stock rate it as a 'buy' and project a 12-month median price target at $15.80. The stock closed at $13.35 yesterday.

The move to invest in a distant country is also a sign that the company is keen for opportunities in emerging markets.

Lavin Mok, a managing director at Oppenheimer, said the trend of investing in emerging markets had been embraced by many firms.

'It is not surprising that a company based in Hong Kong made an investment plan in other emerging markets,' Mr Mok said.