PREPARATION work for the sale of Shanghai's famous riverside promenade, the Bund, is nearing completion and Hong Kong property companies are poised to play a major role in the marketing and valuation tenders for the historic buildings. Built on the Huangpu River, the Bund consists of 140 buildings, most of which were designed by British architects Palmer and Turner. Before 1949, the buildings were home to some of the world's leading financial institutions, including the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, and it was largely their presence that earned Shanghai its reputation as Asia's finance capital. Unlike the original owners, the post-1949 government tenants were not kind to the buildings and, while their external facades are still intact, little internal maintenance has been carried out. In the first part of the sale, the Shanghai government plans to sell 37 of the buildings. The Hong Kong branch of Richard Ellis is among the local companies keen to secure valuation and marketing work. According to Richard Ellis director Alan Lee, a lot of sale preparation work had already been done by the authorities. ''The authorities are still collecting valuation reports and will soon be ready to set marketing plans,'' he said ''The first batch will probably be used to test the market. If there is not a good response, the authorities may wait until there is a better sales atmosphere.'' With price tags expected to be in the US$150 million (HK$1.16 billion) price range, and with strict guidelines to ensure that their original character is preserved, the buildings will certainly test the market. ''It's quite possible that Hong Kong buyers will want to have a presence on the Bund,'' said Mr Lee, ''but we are also expecting a lot of interest from overseas.'' Hongkong Bank has already confirmed that it is keen to tender for its former building, which has a prime location on the Bund. One agent who did not wish to be named said competition between Hong Kong property companies to secure contracts with the Shanghai authorities for the project was fierce. Property company Brooke Hillier Parker (BHP) has also registered its interest in obtaining valuation work on the old buildings. BHP partner William Wong said the prime targets to buy the buildings would be the former owners but added that, in most cases, it would be a symbolic, goodwill purchase. ''Even once restored, the building's will not lend themselves to modern office requirements,'' he said.