Zhuhai eyes $934m facelift for airshow

The Zhuhai special economic zone plans to spend at least one billion yuan (about HK$934 million) to spruce up its infrastructure for China's second international airshow next year, organisers say.

The biennial event is expected to attract more foreign and domestic exhibitors than it did last year.

The projects include expansion of the airport apron to accommodate 200 passenger and military aircraft, construction of a 17-kilometre eight-lane airport expressway and a four-storey, 8,000-square metre press centre.

Airport car-parks will be expanded to provide space for up to 80,000 vehicles, Zhuhai vice-mayor Yu Rongai said.

He said the city expected to turn a profit at Airshow China '98 after it incurred an estimated $300 million deficit last year when it staged the country's first international airshow in Zhuhai's new airport.

Liu Diancheng, general manager of the Zhuhai Airshow Corp, said he expected to see up to 700 domestic and foreign exhibitors for next year's show, compared with about 400 last year.

He said the airshow would continue to focus on business talks, seminars, product displays and tourism.

Mr Yu said the city was stepping up efforts to sell 49 per cent of its four billion yuan airport to foreign investors.

He said the municipal government was in talks with three consortiums from the Middle East, the United States, and Europe on the sale of the stake.

He declined to give their identities.

Mr Yu did not say why the negotiations had taken so long since the city had put the airport stake up for sale for more than two years.

The Zhuhai airport, one of the most expensive in China, opened in 1995 but has been operating below capacity because of competition from nearby airports.

Mr Yu said the airport's business performance had improved, but declined to give any specific figures.