Chainrai joins waterfront Ferris wheel project

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 September, 2011, 12:00am


Flamboyant Hong Kong businessman Balram Chainrai has thrown his considerable clout behind the Dubai-based company that wants to erect a giant Ferris wheel on the Central waterfront.

Freij Entertainment International confirmed last weekend that it was also in talks with the Hong Kong government to raise a transportable, 60-metre-high, 42-cabin Ferris wheel, following the joint bid submitted by two British companies, The Hall Organisation and Great City Attractions Global. The government is considering both applications for a project worth HK$95 million.

Chainrai the former owner of English Championship soccer side Portsmouth, revealed he would be supporting the Freij project. He will be participating both financially and in an advisory capacity.

'It will be an icon for Hong Kong and I was excited when I was approached to get involved in the venture. They needed someone to support them and I was only too happy to take up the offer,' Chainrai said. 'I shall participate for a small stake financially, but my main reason is because I think it will be beneficial to Hong Kong.'

Chainrai's eventful tenure of Portsmouth came to an end after he sold the club to Russian consortium Convers Sport Initiatives in June. His company, Portpin, initially took over the 90 per cent shareholding in Portsmouth held by previous owner Ali al-Faraj after the club had allegedly missed deadlines to repay money Chainrai was due after he loaned it GBP17 million (HK$209.18 million) last year. He will get his money back over a period of time.

Now that he has sold Portsmouth, Chainrai said he had been approached by clubs from English soccer's lower leagues to see if he would be interested in buying them, but said he wanted to concentrate on doing some good for Hong Kong instead.

'Like the London Eye in London, I think this would be just as significant in this city. We are working closely with Invest Hong Kong, which has been helping us with our proposal,' he said.

But this is still a two-horse race, and a spokesman for Hall Organisation and Great City Attractions, which initially appeared to be the sole contender for the project, made it clear the firm was still confident it would get the green light, despite Chainrai's involvement.

'As the market leader, we have the quality equipment, funding and extensive experience as professional operators to deliver a quality product,' the spokesman said.

It is part of their plan to add 25 wheels to their fleet worldwide.