Anhui Conch Cement, the mainland's largest cement producer, plans to spend 15 billion yuan (HK$16.73 billion) in the next three to five years to expand in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces to meet the reconstruction demand in the wake of the earthquake. 'We hope to reach 50 million tonnes in production capacity per year in western China in five years time,' director Guo Jingbin said. Shanghai and Hong Kong-listed Anhui Conch currently has no production facilities in western China. But the company will start building a plant in the second half of this year in Sichuan with an initial capacity of 5 million tonnes per year. 'The plant is expected to begin production by next year,' Mr Guo said. The company said on Tuesday it had sought approval to issue up to 200 million new A shares, to raise a maximum of 11.48 billion yuan. Mr Guo said the company had no intention to issue further new A or H shares. New capacity will be funded by internal resources and bank loans. Before the new plants are built in Sichuan and other areas, the company will transport cement products through the Yangtze River Delta. Mr Guo did not disclose operation costs for the water transportation. The company estimated that the western China market would contribute 20 per cent of total sales. Anhui Conch, which has a comparatively strong foothold in the eastern and southern markets, announced earlier that its first-quarter net profit surged 98.51 per cent to 449.6 million yuan, while revenue grew 27.46 per cent to 4.62 billion yuan. Mr Guo said cement prices in Sichuan and Chongqing were relatively higher at 400 yuan per tonne, although he did not provide a regional breakdown. 'Average prices in the first quarter were about 9.6 per cent higher than a year earlier, and we expect that the growth rate will be even higher for the rest of the year,' he said. The mainland's cement market is divided into five regions - the eastern coast as well as the southern, northern, western and central parts. Prices in different regions vary according to how many major cement companies are in the area. Where big companies dominate more of the market, the price is higher. The company said last month it would spend 20 billion yuan on production lines in the next three years.