Cheung Kong (Holdings), venturing into the lucrative biotechnology sector, has set up a research laboratory at Tai Po Industrial Estate. The property company wanted to focus on research in agriculture, pharmaceuticals and environmental protection, according to industry sources. The Li Ka-shing-controlled company, viewed mainly as a holding vehicle for Hutchison Whampoa, has long been urged by analysts to expand into new business areas. The new business, though tiny in scale compared with the rest of Cheung Kong's businesses, will help position the company in a lucrative sector. The move could prove especially profitable for the firm after China joins the World Trade Organisation. CK Technology Laboratory was registered in September at the Company Registry with the same address as Cheung Kong, and it had started initial research into fertilisers and environmentally-friendly energy, the sources said. A Cheung Kong spokesman refused to comment yesterday. Online television station ETvision has reported the four-storey laboratory at Tai Po has cold-storage and incubator facilities. CK Technologies moved to Tai Po last December, the sources said. The laboratory has at least 30 staff. Alan Yu, previously head of Johnson & Johnson in Hong Kong, was managing director of the project, the sources added. CK Technology's registered capital was increased to HK$100 million from less than HK$10 million in December last year, according to documents at the Company Registry. The sources said CK Technology had intentionally kept a low profile, but Mr Li and his son Victor Li Tzar-kuoi were often seen visiting the site. Analysts said the move was positive for Cheung Kong because of the diversification it would bring. Terry Ip, of BNP Paribas Peregrine, said that having seen the successful diversification of Hutchison, Cheung Kong was already planning to enhance its investment portfolio without overlapping Hutchison's businesses. But he said the investment was insignificant compared with Cheung Kong's size, adding that it could be seen as the company just dipping its toe into the water. Mr Ip said it was too early to determine how much Cheung Kong could expand these projects into China. But he said it was likely the company would make a push into the mainland's agricultural sector. In meetings with analysts, Cheung Kong executives have said its biotechnology business would be operated on a global basis, and that it would not overlap with any Hutchison business. Hutchison was not involved in Cheung Kong's biotechnology venture, the sources said. Hutchison is involved in a joint venture with Beijing Tong Ren Tang which develops naturally-grown Chinese-medicine products. The company also is involved in a rice-farming project in Heilongjiang province.