Small organisations will find it difficult to invest in port development projects which need large cash injections and equity because of regional economic problems, an executive says. Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH) group managing director John Meredith said the whole industry would probably analyse the present economic conditions and make adjustments. 'We are a strong group financially and we are going to get the maximum benefit for shareholders,' he said, adding that it was possible to get good deals in times such as these. If a port development required a large injection of cash and equity, few groups around the world could provide that right now. The group recently announced its purchase of Thamesport container port owner MTS Holdings for GBP112 million (about HK$1.42 billion), one of Britain's fastest growing deep-water container terminals, estimated to have handled 240,000 containers last year. This will add to the Port of Felixstowe, in which Hutchison has committed GBP100 million towards an expansion programme, increasing capacity by 500,000 teus (20 foot equivalent units), installing 11 of the largest cranes in the world and enabling it to handle containers 18 ft wide. This deal will make the Hutchison group one of the dominant players in the British port facilities industry. Asked about impact of the Asian financial crisis on the region, Mr Meredith said it depended on what happened in the United States in the next three to six months. He said the group was interested in investing in Argentina, Peru, Chile, Mexico, Africa, Middle East, India, Spain and Asia. The group, which has interests in 15 ports that handle about 10 per cent of the global container traffic, has turned down more offers than acceptances of port development and management projects. Ports in which the group has interests include Hong Kong, Yantian, Shanghai, six Chinese delta ports, Burma, Indonesia, Britain, the Bahamas and Panama. Regarding the group's investment in the Bahamas, Mr Meredith said it involved a joint-venture project between HPH and the Grand Bahama Development Co - part of the Bahama Port Authority group of companies - and the Grand Bahama Sea/Air Business Centre. The joint-venture project involves a new industrial park located within a tax-free trade zone, between a deep-sea port and an airport. The Bahamas is promoting the 786-acre industrial park as a centre for bringing in low-cost raw materials by sea, breaking them down into final destination packages, and/or adding value to the products before shipping them out by air or sea. The sea-air business centre is located in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island, which is a free trade zone and the main industrial centre of the Bahamas. Phase one of the two-berth port facility, backed by a 10,000-teu expansion, was completed in March. The authorities want to proceed with the phase two development, details of which have not yet been finalised. The group is also involved in operating the airport, which has a 11,000-ft runway capable of handling all sizes of aircraft. The group, through subsidiary Hutchison Ports Properties, is also involved in hotel resorts construction, which are due to open at the end of 1999. Mr Meredith said the group was also looking at San Francisco, where the local government had asked HPH to study whether it could improve the port services. The group is still studying this project and no decision has been made yet. Regarding HPH's investment in the two Panamanian ports, Mr Meredith said the refurbishment of Cristobal would be completed in a year, while Balboa's expansion would take a couple of years. Asked about HPH's plan to invest in Chinese ports, Mr Meredith declined to name the ports the firm was going to invest in.