The northeast province of Liaoning, home to 10 per cent of the mainland's state-owned companies, has launched its biggest domestic roadshow in an effort to sell 1,500 of them. The roadshow, which began on April 12 in Shenzhen, would go on to Xiamen and Nanjing, a provincial government spokesman said. The firms, which have work forces ranging from 1,000 to 5,000, come from 14 cities and make petrochemicals, machinery, metallurgical products, electronics, construction materials, pharmaceuticals and textiles. Half the firms are profitable. The spokesman said this was the first time the province had mounted such an effort to market its companies outside Liaoning. Buyers did not have to accept all the workers, he said. That depended on each company. 'We will offer many preferential policies to make it attractive. The purchase price does not have to include all the health and pension obligations of the workforce. 'Of our state companies, 78 per cent have joined the state social welfare system,' the spokesman said. Liaoning is one of the most important heavy industrial bases in China, with 26,000 companies, of which 926 are large and medium-size state firms, making up 10 per cent of all the state firms in the country. The province's share of the national market has fallen during 20 years of reform, with new domestic and foreign investment concentrated in the coastal areas of east and southeast China. The roadshow reflects the provincial government's need to reduce its huge financial burden of state firms and the increasing pressure from Beijing, angry at the slow progress of reforms in the northeast. The first visit outside Beijing by Zhu Rongji after being elected prime minister was to Changchun, capital of neighbouring Jilin province, where he stressed the need to accelerate reform of state companies in the three northeast provinces. The Liaoning spokesman said reform of state enterprises had entered a critical stage. The whole reform process depends on the success or failure of reforming the state firms. Unofficial reports say there have been frequent demonstrations and sit-ins by workers in the northeast demanding payment of wages or pensions.