BRITAIN is vying to finance the US$1 billion Guangzhou Metro project in a move that could take funding away from the territory.
Chartered WestLB managing director Peter Godwin said that depending on the methods of financing used, capital would either be raised in Hongkong or masterminded out of London.
Hongkong is counting on a niche as middleman and key provider of services to big mainland manufacturing and infrastructure projects as China's economy takes off, and will lose out if projects look abroad for banking and other expertise.
Chartered WestLB was part of the latest British trade mission, which has whipped up keen interest in construction projects on the Guangzhou subway.
The leader of the mission, Trade Minister Richard Needham, said British interests were closer to clinching projects from Guangzhou's biggest-ever infrastructure project after the trip. The delegation arrived in Hongkong on Tuesday evening.
Speaking after a lunch meeting, Mr Needham said Balfour Beatty - a member of the mission - was looking to secure work drilling tunnels, and others hoped to win contracts to provide electrical and mechanical equipment.
He said: ''I think it represents a very good opportunity for Britain.'' Mr Needham brushed off political rows, which have already cost French firms their chance at the Metro project, saying the Sino-British dispute did not appear to be hampering the roads of commerce.
''I have no evidence that China does not want to do increasing amounts of trade with Britain,'' he said.
But a newspaper report said Britain's chances of participating in the subway project had been compromised by the lingering row.
The Hongkong Economic Times yesterday quoted unidentified government sources in Guangzhou as saying Britain's chances were ''relatively low'' in winning contracts for the project.