GLOBAL fast-food giant McDonald's says it is continuing to step up its operations in Beijing and is negotiating to open a new store, despite its now legendary problems with Oriental Plaza and the municipal government. General manager of Sun Hung Kai Properties' China department, David Leung, said McDonald's had expressed keen interest in leasing a large amount of retail space in its unfinished commercial complex, Sun Dong An Plaza. The 2.15 million square feet office and shopping arcade is situated close to the fast-food chain's controversial outlet at the corner of Changan Avenue and Wangfujing. The outlet attracted attention last year when city officials terminated its lease to make way for Oriental Plaza. The plaza project is by a consortium led by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing's flagship companies Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hutchison Whampoa. But the outlet still is operating because the development cannot start until approval is granted by the central government. 'Even though leasing of Sun Dong An Plaza will not be officially launched until August this year, McDonald's has contacted us to show their initial interest,' Mr Leung said. The fast-food chain had signed an agreement with Sun Hung Kai Properties last month for the lease of a 4,800 sq ft premises in the property firm's 226,000 sq ft unfinished shopping arcade, Beijing New Town Plaza in Fangzhuang district. Beijing McDonald's Food managing director, Tim Lai said the fast-food chain was seeking opportunities for expansion in view of the optimistic prospects in China. He said the intention of opening an outlet in Sun Dong An Plaza was not a replacement for the Wangfujing outlet. He said talks on the new lease in Sun Dong An Plaza were still 'in a preliminary stage.'