The Guoco Group and subsidiaries, Dao Heng Bank and Guoco Land, say they have agreed to buy nine floors of The Centre, in Central, for $2.56 billion. The Centre is the new 73-storey retail and office development by Cheung Kong (Holdings). The sale also involves space on two other floors. Guoco Group, which has interests in a range of financial services, will act as an intermediary, first purchasing the floors and then reselling them to its subsidiaries. Dao Heng Bank, of which the Guoco Group owns 70 per cent, will buy the banking hall formimg parts of the ground floor and upper ground floor, and the ninth, 10th and 73rd floors of the development for $1.35 billion. Guoco Land, also 70 per cent owned by Guoco Group, will buy the six other full floors of office space for $1.21 billion. The Centre, jointly developed by Cheung Kong and the Land Development Corporation, is located at the corner of Jubilee Street and Queen's Road Central. Details of the proposed purchase by the Guoco Group were reported last year but the total amount then mooted was a figure just in excess of $1 billion. Analysts had speculated that, because the office property market was softening, Cheung Kong might have problems selling all floors of the development. Dao Heng Bank said it made the purchase to establish a new headquarters and principal banking hall in the Central area. It said an added benefit from the purchase would be the opportunity to further rationalise management functions and centralise selected business divisions. Guoco Land said it was buying the floors as an investment, in line with its aim of buying and holding development properties in Hong Kong and China. The consideration will be payable in four instalments and Guoco Group said it would fund the payment by external borrowings. Last month, Guoco posted a 30.5 per cent increase in net profits to $1.05 billion for the six months to December. Dao Heng Bank said its profit rose 62.7 per cent to $1.09 billion for the same period. Guoco executive director James Eng late last year said that the company was planning to increase its exposure to the territory's property market.