Media Partners International Holdings (MPI) is bidding to become the advertising agency for several mainland railways, after securing two major contracts so far this year. The outdoor advertising company is applying with the central government for an advertising licence for the Beijing Light Rail, which will pass through the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games village, according to MPI chief executive Winnie To Pik-shan. The Hong Kong-listed firm is also negotiating with Chongqing metro officials after being shortlisted for the railway's advertising agency contract. MPI has already secured an 18-year contract as agent for the Nanjing metro line that starts operating in September. 'We expect our operation in the metro line to break even in two years,' said Ms To. The project involves investing about $35 million in 3,000 advertising panels this year, according to Stephen Law, MPI chief financial officer and company secretary. MPI also has a contract for 1,000 advertising panels along a new Shanghai metro line that will start operating at the end of the year. Railway advertising panel occupancy in Shanghai stood at 90 per cent, said Ms To. She added that MPI had raised its prices 8 per cent to 10 per cent this year. The overall occupancy for MPI's mainland bus panels was expected to drop from 70 per cent to about 50 per cent this year because the company included 5,000 Shanghai vehicles recently in its mainland bus advertising network. She said the company aimed to raise advertising on Shanghai buses from about 20 per cent to 30 per cent this year. MPI's bus advertising network involves more than 18,000 buses in Shanghai, Nanjing, Chongqing and Chengdu. The group's net profit was $2.4 million in the first quarter this year, up 70 per cent from $1.4 million in the same period last year, while turnover rose 10 per cent to $75.6 million in the first quarter. MPI had $208.9 million cash on hand at the end of March.