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Policy bank eyes rail project stake
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China Development Bank (CDB), the country's largest policy lender, plans to buy a stake in the management company of the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway, sources said yesterday.


The unnamed sources confirmed a report by First Financial Daily that the bank is expected to pay 10 billion yuan for an 8.7 percent stake in Beijing-Shanghai High-speed Railway Co Ltd.


But the plan will be further discussed by and is subject to approval of the board of the newly established management company, the sources said.


Earlier reports had said three commercial banks - Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and China Construction Bank - were the possible strategic investors. However, the China Banking Regulatory Commission didn't support the commercial banks' bid to invest in the project and issued a notice to ban their investment.


"But as a policy bank, CDB is not confined by the regulation and has the obligation to support big infrastructure projects like the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway," said Wang Wanjin, a railway analyst with Southwest Securities.


The strategic investors in the project are the National Council for Social Security Fund and Ping An Asset Management Co Ltd, each with an investment of 10 billion yuan and 16 billion yuan in the project for an 8.7 percent and a 13.9 percent stake in the corporation.


Other investors are China Railways Investment Corp on behalf of the Ministry of Railways, and infrastructure investment companies of the local governments of Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjiin.


The Ministry of Railways previously estimated the cost of building the high-speed railway at about 150 billion yuan. But a source said the figure has been revised to 229 billion yuan because of surging real estate, material and labor prices.


"The investment for the project is huge, and the Ministry of Railways may invite more sponsors," Wang said.


The Ministry of Railways needs to spend 1.25 trillion yuan in the current Five-Year Plan period (2006-10), which means it is in bad need of capital, Wang said. "The high-speed railway project is attractive to investors because it is believed to have the potential to bring stable returns in the long term."


When the 1,318-km project is completed in 2013, it will take passengers only about five hours to travel between the two cities, compared with 10 hours now - with a peak speed of 350 km/h.


(China Daily January 9, 2008)

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