SINGAPORE'S Changi International Airport Services (CIAS) and Singapore Airport Terminal Services (SATS) plan a joint bid to break Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals' (HACTL) monopoly on air-cargo handling in Hong Kong. The two, which had led rival consortiums seeking air-cargo terminal licences from the Provisional Airport Authority (PAA) for Hong Kong's new airport at Chek Lap Kok, believe they have a better chance of success with a unified front. After signing a memorandum of understanding yesterday, they informed the PAA their separate pre-qualified bids would be replaced by a single bid. SATS chief executive Sim Way Kee said the initial response from the PAA had been encouraging. The new team includes new faces intended to giving the bid a more international appearance. HACTL criticised previous SATS and CIAS consortiums for being too heavily loaded with Singapore companies and lacking a Hong Kong link. The new players are China Merchants Holdings (Hong Kong) and Kerry Holdings of Hong Kong, which have agreed to take 20 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively, in the new consortium, being tentatively called Hong Kong Airport Services (HAS). Kerry Holdings, which enters the consortium solely as an investor, has no previous experience in the freight forwarding business, but has valuable local knowledge and a wealth of contacts both in Hong Kong and on the mainland. However, China Merchants, which also has strong links with Beijing, has knowledge of the freight trade from its involvement in ports and has been diversifying into aviation. SATS and CIAS will each take 25 per cent stakes in HAS, and share total managerial control of its day-to-day operations. The other partners in the consortium will be Steamers Maritime Holdings of Singapore (10 per cent) and Federal Express of the US (five per cent) - both of which were involved in original two bid groups. Asia Pacific Logistic Services from Singapore, which had played a minor part in the CIAS-led consortium as an investor, has been dropped. CIAS managing director Suen Tian Hing said: ''The merger will result in a stronger group, capable of providing the highest standards of cargo handling service to the benefit of airlines and other air-freight terminal users at Chek Lap Kok airport.'' Yesterday's announcement means there are now just three pre-qualified contenders for air cargo handling licences remaining - HACTL, HAS and DHL, with the latter expressing an interested only in a licence to provide express cargo services. With the PAA under pressure to grant more than one licence for each of its concessions, the Singaporeans are now confident they have a strong chance. The PAA is expected to request detailed business plans from all bidders early in the new year and award any licences in August, politics permitting. The air freight terminal proposed by the HAS consortium would occupy 22,000 sq metres and would be capable of handling up to 340,000 tonnes of cargo a year. The HAS consortium also announced yesterday it would make a separate unified bid to provide ramp-handling services at Chek Lap Kok.