Chinese bid for UK carrier fails

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Britain has rejected a 5 million pound (US$8 million) bid for a junked aircraft carrier from a UK-based Chinese businessman.

The offer was more than double the expected price but Lam Kin-bong, from south China's Guangdong Province, said yesterday he was told he had "failed to provide all the necessary information."

The light aircraft carrier HMS Invincible was decommissioned in 2005 and stripped of engines and weapons.

The 17,000-ton hull was sold by the Disposal Services Agency, an online auction platform under the UK Ministry of Defence.

A Turkish ship recycling factory won the bid at a price Lin said was far lower than his. The auction website has yet to publish the final price, but Chinese media quoted estimates of around 2 million pounds.

"I feel quite disappointed because I planned to turn the warship into a floating international school off the coast of Guangdong," Lam, 48, told the Hong Kong-based Wen Wei Po newspaper.

He said he had organized a professional team, including a British lawyer, accountant and consultant to prepare all the necessary material for the bid, the Zhuhai Evening News in Lam's hometown said.

Lam, who moved to London nearly 20 years ago and runs a restaurant chain in Birmingham, said he would continue bidding for other decommissioned warships on the online platform.

The Wen Wei Po report said there were suspicions that Lam's bid failed for "political reasons."

The British authorities might suspect that the Chinese government or military authority was behind Lam's bid, the newspaper said.

Lam had said previously that his bid had the support of the Chinese embassy in the UK.

But Lam said his intention was purely commercial and had nothing to do with the military.

"We wanted to convert it into an international school to help foster communication and cultural ties between China and Britain," he told the newspaper. He said that if permission to tow the vessel to China had been withheld, he would dock it in Liverpool.

Military analysts said it was unlikely that the warship could go back into service.

The hull would have no military use, Song Xiaojun, a defense analyst in Beijing, told the Zhuhai newspaper.

The carrier had served for 28 years in naval campaigns including conflicts in the Falklands, Iraq and the Balkans. It could carry 22 warplanes and nearly 1,100 sailors.

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