Shui On Land has formed a strategic partnership with a Dutch property giant by selling a 50 per cent stake in a proposed shopping centre in Wuhan for 750 million yuan (HK$850.8 million) in an effort to speed up the project's development. The joint venture with Redevco, an Amsterdam-based firm that owns Euro7.2 billion (HK$77.98 billion) worth of investment property in Europe, will develop a 100,000 square metre shopping centre. The investment cost of the project will be 1.5 billion yuan, while Shui On will invest an additional 500 million yuan to finish the 120,000 sq metre basement. The deal came after Shui On Land's partner Winnington Capital scrapped a plan to buy more shares in two of the company's projects, in Shanghai Rui Hongxin Cheng and Chongqing Tiandi, leaving the firm to fill an estimated 2 billion yuan funding gap in April. However, Shui On Land chairman Vincent Lo Hong-sui said the tie-up with Redevco was not because of a liquidity crunch but the international retail expertise the European firm would bring to the project. 'We are not seeking strategic partners just for investment but also to leverage on their expertise to enhance our project's quality. Now banks are more willing to lend, funding is not a question for us,' he said. Last month, the firm raised about HK$2 billion from a share sale to help broaden its shareholder and capital bases. Mr Lo said the company would accelerate project construction in Foshan and Chongqing in the face of a strong revival of buying interest. The firm would continue to seek partners, as it had a land bank of 13 million sq metres that would require large amounts of capital, he said. Shui On's shares rose 1.62 per cent to close at HK$5.02 yesterday. The Wuhan retail complex is Redevco's first investment on the mainland. Its construction is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of next year and to be completed in 2012. Redevco chairman Dominic Brenninkmeyer said this collaboration was the first step in a long-term commitment to the mainland market. 'In addition to our European portfolio, we aim to build an Asian retail property portfolio, in line with our strategy of geographical diversification,' he said. The shopping centre is part of the Wuhan Tiandi project, with a total gross floor area of 500,000 sq metres. The massive project will comprise grade A offices, a five-star hotel and high-end department stores.