NWS Holdings raises stake in mainland roads

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 September, 2011, 12:00am


NWS Holdings is considering increasing its investments in two mainland highways to more than US$2 billion this year and initiating investments in two others.

The Hong Kong-listed firm has spent US$652 million in three stages since June 14 building a 59 per cent stake in the Hangzhou Ring Road, said NWS executive director Brian Cheng Chi-ming. 'This is one of the most important additions to NWS' roads portfolio,' Cheng said.

NWS - the infrastructure arm of Hong Kong-listed conglomerate New World Development - has the option to increase its stake in the Hangzhou Ring Road to 90 per cent. Cheng, however, said the company had not yet decided on the move, which would raise its investment in the 103 kilometre road to more than US$1 billion.

The Hangzhou project represents NWS' biggest investment since its public offering in 2003, said executive director Tsang Yam-pui, younger brother of Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. The toll road encircles Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province, and carries more than 100,000 cars daily.

In August, NWS increased its investment in the Tangjin Expressway by US$571 million to US$1 billion, raising its stake to 60 per cent in the 61 kilometre road in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin. The investment will expand the expressway's daily traffic capacity to 75,000 vehicles.

Cheng said NWS' investments in these two highways will be financed from the company's internal resources. NWS is also considering investing in two other highway projects in the mainland, said Cheng, who declined to give details.

'Our long-term strategy is to expand this highway business, because the road sector in China is growing very fast due to the growth of Chinese cities,' Cheng said. 'We are definitely going for high-quality road projects in high-growth cities in China. We see highways as a long-term investment offering stable growth.'

Roads are the largest segment in NWS' infrastructure portfolio and the firm's biggest profit contributor, accounting for nearly 60 per cent of the company's operating profits in the first half, said Tsang.

NWS has equity stakes in 21 road and bridge projects representing a total length of more than 700 kilometres. Projects are also located in Hong Kong, Guangdong province, the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Shanxi province.