HENDERSON Land Development, Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP) and Hong Kong and China Gas are planning a consortium to bid for development rights above the Mass Transit Railway Corp's planned airport railway station in Central. The news is expected to intensify the bidding for next month's tender of the massive property project on top of the Hong Kong station, to be linked to the new Chek Lap Kok airport. Henderson Land chairman Lee Shau-kee said yesterday the group of companies was negotiating with SHKP to team together to bid for the project. Vice-chairman Colin Lam Ko-yin said it was very likely that Henderson Land and indirectly owned associate company Hong Kong and China Gas would together hold a 50 per cent interest in the consortium, with the balance owned by SHKP. It is understood that Sino Group, Manhattan Garments (International) and Great Eagle (Holdings) will head another consortium while Hongkong Land has also expressed keen interest in the bidding. Other big names in the property sector chasing the deal are expected to include a consortium comprising New World Development, Hang Lung Development and Hysan Development and a combination of Li Ka-shing's flagship companies, Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hutchison Whampoa. The property scheme involves the development of three office towers, two hotels and 968,760 square feet of retail space on a four-hectare site. With a total gross floor area of about 4.5 million sq ft, the mammoth project is expected to be worth about $40 billion. Hong Kong and China Gas has already been planning a redevelopment of the Ma Tau Kok gas plant site into a rental building. It joined forces with Henderson Land in March to buy the 168,392 sq ft luxury residential site in King's Park Rise at a government auction for $1.33 billion. Analysts said the utility company's bid for the planned airport railway station was not unexpected. Sassoon Securities' analyst Vivian Kwok said the move reflected the senior management's underlying negative sentiment in Hong Kong's utility market. 'It is one of the last Hong Kong utility companies emerging into property markets,' she said. The move into the property market was not a bad one because property investments could achieve a relative stable return, she said. Some analysts said the utility's minority shareholders would consider the move a negative one. Mr Lam said Henderson Land was arranging a US$300 million Samurai bond to improve its financial position. He said the arrangement of the Samurai bonds - yen-denominated bonds issued in Japan by a foreign borrower - would be completed within one month. The proceeds would be used to repay the company's borrowings in Hong Kong, Mr Lam said. It was expected that this move would strengthen the company's working capital for future investments. Mr Lee said Henderson and SHKP - the two biggest holders of outstanding Letter B Land Exchange Certificates - were very likely to team together to jointly develop a housing site in Tseung Kwan O. Total construction cost for the project, expected to have a total gross floor area of about two million sq ft, would be nearly $2 billion.