NWS Holdings, the services arm of New World Development, is in talks to invest in 10 mainland water-treatment projects as part of efforts to capitalise on the liberalised and fast-growing sector. Cyrus Wong Yau-cheong, vice-president of the company's mainland joint venture Sino French Water, said the projects included building water and sewage treatment plants and pipelines and supplying drinking water in the Yangtze River delta region and Fujian and Liaoning provinces. Each of the projects involved investments of about 150 million yuan (HK$139.3 million), Mr Wong said. The water treatment plants would have a daily capacity of about 150,000 tonnes, roughly equal to 60 per cent of Macau's daily capacity. Gerry Lam King-sang, a senior manager at NWS Infrastructure Management, said the group first saw the potential of the Greater China market in 1985 when it built a water project in Macau with Suez of France. 'The mainland market is where the potential is, [with] 1.2 billion people consuming drinking water, and the country is encouraging foreign investment,' Mr Lam said. 'So we are expanding our portfolio,' he added NWS Holdings runs 16 water plants on the mainland, mostly along affluent coastal regions such as Shandong, Shanghai and Guangdong. The utility services business generated decent returns and strong cash flow, with NWS Holdings achieving a return on cash of more than 10 per cent, Mr Wong said. To expand further, the company recently invested 1.2 billion yuan in two chemical waste-treatment projects in the Pudong area of Shanghai. One project, in which it holds a 25 per cent stake, involves treating waste water in Pudong's industrial and petrochemical park. The plant is due for completion next month. Another project, in which the company owns 10 per cent, will collect and burn hazardous chemical waste from the park. The incineration plant, which has a cost of 500 million yuan, is scheduled for completion in 2006. Mr Lam said NWS Holdings would focus on industrial waste-treatment projects. It considered that government policy on residential refuse treatment charges was lacking.