Infrastructure and services conglomerate NWS Holdings has prepared a war chest of HK$4 billion for acquisitions and investments in the first half this year, including further investment in Beijing Capital International Airport, the Hong Kong-listed firm's executive director, Tsang Yam-pui, said yesterday. NWS wanted to increase its interest in Beijing airport to a substantial minority stake this year, but it would be less than 50 per cent, Tsang told a media conference. "We continue to acquire more shares of Beijing airport in the open market. We will invest a bit more in Beijing airport," he said. By Monday, NWS had invested a total of HK$2.7 billion for 23 per cent of the H shares of Beijing airport, or 9.98 per cent of its entire share capital, making it the second-largest shareholder in the capital's airport operator, Tsang said. That is an increase from the company's HK$2.36 billion investment in 20.38 per cent of the H shares of Beijing airport, or 8.84 per cent of its total share capital, announced by NWS on December 20. Beijing airport would start producing recurring earnings contributions to NWS in the second half of this year, Tsang said. "Our investment priorities are still infrastructure projects," he said. "We will continue to look for quality expressway projects in China. Geographically, we will focus on China because that is the market we know best." NWS would also consider investing in water, waste and sludge treatment projects on the mainland, Tsang added. But the company would not rule out investing in Europe or other developed markets this year, possibly in water and toll-road projects, he said. "We know little about the European and US markets," Tsang said. "If we invest in these regions, the size will be smaller and we will invest with local partners." Gleneagles Hong Kong Hospital, a joint venture between NWS and Parkway Pantai, would start operation in 2017, Tsang said. At the end of last year, NWS had total cash of HK$8.8 billion, net debt of HK$9.3 billion and a net gearing ratio of 21 per cent, down from 24 per cent on June 30. For the six months to December 31, NWS's revenue surged 27 per cent to HK$10.1 billion, while net profit rose 24 per cent to HK$2.6 billion. The company will pay an interim dividend of 36 HK cents per share.