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A deal or a steal?
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Hefei-Chaohu-Wuhu highway was among the roads put up for sale. However, few companies were interested in it due to its low profitability.

In November 2002, the provincial government entrusted the Anhui Highway Company to solicit outside investments for the road.

"Public auction was one of the options we mulled over," said Liu of the Anhui Highway. "However, there was no precedent for public auctions of highways at that time. The auction house had the concern that the target was too big to attract any interested party."

At last, the Anhui Highway adopted selected bidding for the road. Five companies were invited.

"We also gave up on open bidding for lack of interested parties," Liu said.

On January 25, 2003, the day of the bidding, only three companies including the Oriental Holding Group were present. With an absolute advantage, the Oriental Holding Group won the 30-year managerial powers of the freeway for 1.9 billion yuan and it promised to invest another 600 million yuan for maintenance within five years.

According to the evaluation by the Anhui Guoxin Assets Valuation Company, the freeway was worth 1.936 billion yuan. A successful bid price can fluctuate within 10 percent of the assessed price, Liu said.

A person close to the deal said that many departments under the State Council came to investigate the merger but no outcome was made public.

US$100 for 40 million yuan (US$5.62 million)

There has been a mysterious person throughout the merger deal named Cheng Fusheng.

The new Hefei-Chaohu-Wuhu Expressway Company had only two shareholders when it was established on February 27, 2003. The Oriental Holding Group held a 75 percent stake and the Hong Kong Oriental Expressway Company held the remaining 25 percent.

An official from the Anhui expressway sector said Cheng Fusheng acted as an important go-between in the Oriental Holding Group's successful bid for the freeway.

Cheng used to be a cadre in the trade and economy setups and had strong maneuver capacities in the government, the official said. Jiang Xueming, Board Chairman of the Oriental Holding Group, promised a reward to Cheng if he won the bid for the expressway.

According to an official from the Anhui Highway Company, Cheng already got involved in the deal when the Oriental Holding Group submitted its tender. Later, he was appointed as the general manager of the new Hefei-Chaohu-Wuhu Expressway Company with an annual salary of 600,000 yuan.

Cheng, an Anhui native, was born in 1952 and graduated from Hefei No.7 Senior High School. He moved to Hong Kong afterward and became a permanent resident there.

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