Mainland piped-gas supplier will only seal six projects this year as the best ones have already been snapped up Xinao Gas Holdings, one of the mainland's largest privately owned piped-gas suppliers, expects to slow the pace of its acquisitions now that the dust of a fierce battle for projects has settled. Announcing a 37.77 per cent jump in attributable profit to 252.25 million yuan for last year, deputy general manager Jin Yongsheng said the company aimed to seal six projects this year, compared with 11 last year. A key reason for the scaling back was the waning number of quality projects, which had been snapped up by rivals in the past few years, Mr Jin said. The changing market landscape prompted Xinao Gas to focus on boosting gas sales and consolidating newly commissioned projects, chairman Wang Yusuo said. 'Since 2001, we have concentrated on biting a market share as much as we can,' Mr Wang said. 'From this year, as the industry has entered a new stage, we will spend most efforts strengthening management of projects, boosting gas sales, cutting costs and maximising synergies of our existing projects.' This year, Xinao Gas expected to snap up projects in northeast China, Zhejiang, Guangdong and Guangxi, involving a total investment of about 400 million yuan, Mr Jin said. The group has 55 projects in hand. The new ones would provide access to bigger gas users, including industrial and commercial ones, he added. The strategy to boost sales of bigger users aimed to mitigate risks of over-reliance on lucrative connection fees, a one-off for subscribing to piped-gas services, he said. Connection fees remained the group's main earner, contributing 57.1 per cent of its 1.43 billion yuan turnover last year. Sales of piped gas accounted for only 29.8 per cent. Turnover was 63.99 per cent higher than in 2003. At the end of last year, the number of customers rose 66.5 per cent to 634,678 out of 9.7 million connectable households. Executive director and financial controller Wilson Cheng Chak-ngok said a cash outlay of 900 million yuan in projects was earmarked for this year on existing projects. Last year, spending was 950 million yuan. The group proposed for the first time a final dividend of 2.87 fen per share. Earnings per share were 19.75 per cent higher at 29.7 fen. Meanwhile, shares at mainland piped-gas supplier Panva Gas Holdings jumped 6.45 per cent to $3.30 yesterday on its decision to switch to the main board from the Growth Enterprise Market. The company said on Tuesday that it had hired Merrill Lynch (Asia Pacific) as its sponsor for the main-board listing. Panva, partly owned by Hutchison Whampoa, believed the listing would help its development in the mainland's rapidly growing but competitive piped-gas market.