The Airport Authority is sounding out interest from bankers to arrange a syndicated loan in April to raise funds to refinance part of an existing loan facility that will mature in September. Finance and commercial director Raymond Lai Wing-cheung said the amount to be refinanced would be about $4 billion, but the authority would like to borrow more when market conditions permitted. Bankers said that, given the present environment, $4 billion to $5 billion could be a realistic size for a loan with a maturity of three to five years. Mr Lai said it would be premature to speculate on the ultimate terms of the deal but pointed out the authority had long-term plans to lengthen the maturity profile of its debts and have more variety in its markets and methods of raising funds. He said the authority would apply later for a credit rating which would enable it to raise medium-term funds by issuing fixed-rate debts in the United States market. Mr Lai expected that borrowing interest-rate spreads for quality borrowers would continue to decline this year, but, given the current positive real interest-rate situation, the authority would look into raising funds by issuing bonds. Bankers are expected to use rates in the Mass Transit Railway Corp $4.12 billion syndicated borrowing deal completed in November as the basis for pricing this Airport Authority transaction.