Lai Sun Development Co is making up lost ground in gaining access to mainland infrastructure development projects with its strategic alliance with Cosco (Hong Kong) Group, the local arm of China's biggest shipping company, China Ocean Shipping (Group). Kam Kin-yat, senior vice-president of Lai Sun's China division, said: 'Cosco has good relations with different authorities in China, particularly in port cities such as Tianjin. 'An alliance with Cosco will speed up Lai Sun's infrastructure expansion in cities where the company has neither investment experience or strong connections.' The plan to establish a 50-50 venture was announced at the end of last month. The two companies said the venture - called Cosco Lai Sun Infrastructure (China) - would include investments in projects such as toll roads, bridges and power plants. So far, investment opportunities in about seven projects are being studied, including a power plant in Henan Province already owned by Cosco. Infrastructure investment is part of Lai Sun's mainland expansion plans, leading up to a proposed spin-off in Hong Kong of its China property subsidiary, Lai Fung Co, by the end of the year. It is not the first alliance between Lai Sun and Cosco. The marriage of the two companies, arranged by ING Barings, started at the beginning of last month, when Cosco paid $610 million for a 20 per cent stake in Lai Sun's hotel unit Lai Sun Hotels International, making Cosco the second-largest shareholder in the hotel unit. The company hopes the deal will help Lai Sun Hotels win contracts to manage some of Cosco's six hotels in China. Cosco can benefit from Lai Sun's hotel management experience. Last month, Lai Sun also announced it would buy a 2.25 per cent stake in Cosco's listed vehicle, Cosco Pacific. Are there more co-operation plans in the pipeline? The assistant to the president of Cosco (Hong Kong), Kelvin Wong Tin-yau, said he could not rule out the possibility but there were no substantial co-operation plans at present. Analysts said they expected to see more co-operation between the two companies and added that Lai Sun would benefit from them in the short and long term. In the past month, Lai Sun's share price has risen about 28 per cent, from $7.90 on April 3 to Friday's close of $10.15 per share. Analysts said news of the infrastructure alliance was yet to be fully reflected in Lai Sun's share price. DBS Securities property analyst Winnie Chiu said the rebound was partly boosted by the recovery of investors' confidence in Hong Kong property stocks. Ms Chiu said estimated earnings at Lai Sun for the year ending July would be $918 million, a 19.8 per cent increase on the $766.4 million achieved in 1996. She said the shares should continue to climb when more substantial investment projects between Cosco and Lai Sun are announced.