Moving mountains is not cheap. Flattening an island and building an airport also costs a pretty penny - $49.8 billion (for phase one) to be exact. As syndications director for HSBC Investment Bank Asia, it is Eleanor Li's job to be exact. 'The first loan to the Airport Authority, for $8.2 billion, was signed in January 1996. The second, for $4 billion, was signed in September,' she said. 'The first loan covered general work and the first runway, it's fixed and they can't go beyond that. The second, for the second runway and working capital, started at $3 billion but the market response was so positive that we increased it to $4 billion.' In more ways than one, Ms Li seems willing to give credit where credit is due. 'The Airport Authority are high profile borrowers, sovereign risk, and, aside from the MTRC, you cannot find another such body in Hong Kong. The authority is superbly run and organised,' she said. The loans were put together long before Asian currencies took a 'baht turn' for the worse and their timing was all important. 'Really, their timing in seeking the loans was excellent, the liquidity was still there. It's not that they would have a problem today, their name is very good, they have excellent management and banks want to get their portfolios into infrastructure and transport. But what may have changed is the size of the facilities or the number of banks able to join,' Ms Li said. 'Because of market turmoil, the interest rates have changed substantially, especially for the Hong Kong dollar. We had 48 banks involved in the $8.2 billion loan and 32 banks in the $4 billion phase. At the time that was the largest number of banks ever involved in such a loan.' With such sums at its disposal, the authority is still being cautions. 'No money from the $8.2 billion loan has yet been drawn, they are using money from the Government first and they haven't yet needed to draw on the loan. As soon as they do, interest payments kick in. It's more cost-effective to leave it for the moment,' she said. However, the deadline for full repayment is not far off. 'By September 2001, the first loan will be repaid, whereas the second one, a revolving facility, will be repaid in three years from September 1997.' Ms Li describes the bank's role as book runners. 'We invite other banks to join in the loan facility on behalf of the borrower,' she said. The establishment and execution of the loans have attracted widespread praise. 'Euro-Week selected them as the best public sector loans in Asia for 1996 and Euro-Money reported they were the loans put to best use in Asia in 1996,' Ms Li said.