Three of Hong Kong's blue chips - New World Development, Hutchison Whampoa and Cheung Kong (Holdings) - are set to buy a strategic stake in mainland listing candidate China Southern Airlines. New World managing director Henry Cheng Kar-shun confirmed it was evaluating the possibility of buying a stake in the airline. A New World spokesman said the company had yet to finalise the shareholding, pricing and lock-up period, but expected the deal would be concluded after the handover. 'We plan to further our development in the aviation industry, especially in airport management, as we have already an interest in the Wuhan airport,' the spokesman said. The company owns 30 per cent of Wuhan airport. New World and Hutchison Whampoa - which owns a 25 per cent stake in Guangzhou Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Co - and other strategic investors are said to be buying a combined 9.9 per cent stake in China Southern. They will be committed to holding the stake for at least two years after listing. China Southern's flotation has been delayed for about three years but is now gathering steam with the issue of about a billion new shares in Hong Kong and New York. Hutchison Whampoa and Cheung Kong - controlled by billionaire property entrepreneur Li Ka-shing - declined to comment. It is understood Hutchison and Cheung Kong will each buy a 3 per cent stake, leaving 3.9 per cent available to New World and any other potential investors. If the proposed deal goes ahead, it will mark the first purchase of a strategic stake in an H share by the Cheung Kong group. New World Group has already bought into four companies including Beijing Datang Power Generation, Beijing North Star, Jiangsu Expressway and Beijing Yanhua Petrochemical. China Southern had its listing passed by the stock exchange last month after a series of delays. The last occurred after one of its aircraft crashed in southern China. China Southern, together with China Eastern Airlines, was selected from the second batch of overseas listing candidates in 1994.