The Hatchison Whampoa Co of Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing has acquired a 49 percent stake in the Ningbo Beilungang container port in east China's Zhejiang Province.
By an agreement signed on Friday, Hatchison Whampoa will form a joint venture with the Beilun Container Co. under the Ningbo port authority, namely, the Ningbo International Container Wharf Co.
The joint venture will be operating a 900-meter-long container wharf at the Ningbo port for a term of 50 years.
Hatchison Whampoa will be holding a 49 percent stake in the US$241 million deal, the Ningbo port authority the remaining 51 percent.
A small general purpose wharf built 10 years ago, the Beilungang container port has grown into a major container port in China. In 2000, it handled 900,000 TEUs (twenty-feet equivalent units), up 50 percent over the previous year.
Thanks to rapid growth of container business, Ningbo port's cargo volume exceeded 100 million tons for the first time in 2000, making it the second largest port in China next only to Shanghai.
The Beilungang port is also an important part of the emerging Shanghai International Shipping Center. Under the government plan, the port is to become a major transit center to the south of the Yangtze River delta.
Speaking at Friday's signing ceremony, Hatchison Whampoa president Ma De-fu said Ningbo port has been a dream for the group for many years, and that it is his hope that the two sides will work together to build it into a major international container port.
The Beilungang port is being further expanded. Under construction is an 1,238-meter container wharf that will be able to receive the world's largest container vessel in use.
According to port officials, part of the funds raised by the joint venture will be used to finance the new wharf.