H share Shenzhen Expressway has signed several letters of intent for toll-road projects outside Shenzhen, chairman Chen Chao said. Mr Chen said in order to enhance profitability, the company had been investigating investment opportunities in other prosperous regions. Company secretary Zhang Rongxing said Shenzhen Expressway would not go to provinces which had listed infrastructure vehicles in the SAR such as Jiangsu and Zhejiang. He said it would focus expansion in eastern and central China. Shenzhen Expressway plans to hold stakes of at least 51 per cent in the projects and is seeking annual returns of at least 18 per cent, he said. Mr Zhang said it was seeking to finalise at least one of the projects this year. Also this year, it plans to invest 150 million yuan (about HK$139.6 million) in Yanba Expressway and 450 million yuan in Jihe Expressway (West) which are under construction. It is also likely to take a 25 per cent stake in the Western Passage Bridge project linking Yuen Long to Shekou, with three billion yuan investment. Chief accountant Tao Hong said Shenzhen Expressway had about 1.2 billion yuan in cash and cash equivalent, including about 600 million yuan in treasury bonds. With a gearing of 4 per cent, she said the company was able to make up for any investment shortfall through domestic bank borrowings. The company would raise its gearing to 50 per cent, providing room to borrow a further two billion yuan, she said. Ms Tao said the company's turnover surged 50 to 60 per cent in the first quarter compared with the previous year, thanks to rises in toll rates and operation of the newly opened Jihe Expressway (East). Last year, net profit soared 1.8 times to 211.8 million yuan, bolstered by more than 40 million yuan in investment profit from treasury bonds and 57 million yuan in net interest income.