The South Australian government has launched moves to open its state-owned railway business to international investors, including Li Ka-shing. South Australia Premier John Olsen said he had met senior management at Li Ka-shing's Cheung Kong Infrastructure and officials of provisional legislature member Timothy Fok Tsun-ting's HYT Fok Group. 'We had a fruitful discussion with both companies. They are asking for more information concerning the scope of the project and the rate of return,' he said. He said the management of Mr Li's Hutchison Whampoa had visited South Australia last month in relation to the privatisation. The privatisation programme involves construction of a railway from Alice Springs to Darwin in the Northern Territory, linking with an existing railway to Adelaide in South Australia. Mr Olsen said the railway would boost South Australia's exports to Southeast Asia, as products could be transported directly to the port of Darwin. The federal government and state funds would provide A$500 million (about HK$3 billion) for the construction, with the balance coming from the market. 'The internal rate of return is set at 21.6 per cent,' he said. He expected to strike a deal by the end of this year. When the railway was completed in 2002, the South Australian government would privatise part of it. The South Australian government has already privatised its water and waste water systems in Adelaide.