HOPEWELL Holdings and the Guangzhou municipal government are discussing ways to scale down a multi-billion dollar ring road in the city to allow it to proceed without further delay. Ou Guangquan, chairman of the Construction Commission of the People's Government of Guangzhou, said yesterday that Hopewell was not pulling out of the east-south-west elevated tollway project, which he estimated would cost about 10 billion yuan (about HK$9.29 billion). His comments contradicted reports last week quoting the director of Guangzhou's planning commission as saying Hopewell had withdrawn from the project. Hopewell officials were not available for comment yesterday. Mr Ou said the Guangzhou Freeway Co, Hopewell's joint-venture partner, was looking for ways to reduce resident relocation and land acquisition costs, but he would not say how far the 38-kilometre road project would be cut back. He said Guangzhou was prepared to offer Hopewell better terms in an effort to maintain its participation in the project. Hopewell would be entitled to all profits from the joint venture for the first 15 years of operation, instead of 10 years under the original agreement. The Guangzhou government was also willing to boost Hopewell's share of the profits for the remainder of the 30-year agreement from 40 per cent to 50 per cent, Mr Ou said. The government would take the other half. Work on the road has been suspended for about six months because Hopewell was negotiating to build an extension off the ring road into the city centre and to gain the right to develop land adjacent the road. Mr Ou said Hopewell already had invested between 800 million yuan and 900 million yuan on the ring road, and he expected work to resume after the Lunar New Year. He said that two key bridges were almost complete, and that the road could be finished within three years as planned. Hopewell managing director Gordon Wu Ying-sheung has envisioned the ring road as an elevated, eight-lane highway with 10 interchanges. As with his Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Zhuhai highway, Mr Wu plans to develop the space underneath the elevated sections into commercial and residential properties.