China Merchants Holdings (International) defied the global economic downturn to lift mainland throughput 24 per cent and Hong Kong's 3 per cent in the first 11 months of the year. Deputy managing director To Wing-sing of the ports and toll-road manager-to-manufacturer conglomerate said that while the Kwai Chung container terminal had seen a fall in throughput this year, its 22.1 per cent-held Modern Terminals had seen growth. He was speaking after yesterday's extraordinary shareholders meeting, during which shareholders approved the company's acquisition of various port assets from its parent China Merchants Holdings. The company's five ports in Shekou, western Shenzhen, reported throughput growth of 24 per cent in the 11 months despite China's slowing export growth. Mainland exports rose only 6.3 per cent in the first 11 months of this year, down sharply from a 27.8 per cent surge last year. However, analysts said that while slowing export growth would have a dampening effect on the ports' operations, China Merchants had succeeded in taking business from its Hong Kong rivals. Daiwa Securities analyst Keith Li said handling fees charged by China Merchants' ports were at least 20 per cent to 30 per cent lower than their Hong Kong rivals. 'In tough economic times, more companies are under pressure to use cheaper ports,' he said, adding they would be more willing to use smaller ports in Shenzhen despite the fact that they had less-frequent shipping schedules.