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People's Daily Online>>China Business

China in talks on infrastructure projects

By Ding Qingfen (China Daily)

17:04, March 29, 2012

China is in talks with the Irish government on bids for infrastructure projects in the debt-stricken European nation, which plans to sell part of its publicly owned assets to pay off loans, said Barry O'Leary, chief executive officer of Investment and Development Agency Ireland.

"There are enough opportunities for Chinese companies to invest in infrastructure in Ireland. We have a lot of infrastructure that is publicly owned, and part of it is going to be sold in the next two to three years," said O'Leary.

"They (the assets) are valued at 3 billion euros ($4 billion), including energy, gas, electricity, ports, roads and water," he added.

O'Leary made the remarks in an exclusive interview with China Daily during his five-day visit to China on a delegation led by Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

He said meetings had been held with "a lot of Chinese institutions" on the sell-off plans.

"A few Chinese companies have shown their interest in bidding for the projects," he said, without elaborating.

Late last year, the Irish government was reported to be planning to sell some state assets as part of a European Union and International Monetary Fund bailout program worth 85 billion euros.

"The final decision was made three weeks ago," O'Leary said.

Owning the world's largest volume of foreign exchange reserves, China is encouraging qualified companies to make purchases overseas. And the European debt crisis is widely seen as an opportunity to buy up assets in the developed region.

In December, China's Three Gorges Corporation bought a 21 percent stake in Portuguese utility EDP.

China Investment Corporation said late last year that the wealth fund was expected to get involved in the infrastructure sector in the United Kingdom through partnerships, while its representatives also visited Dublin late last year to assess opportunities arising from the country's debt crisis.

"We don't have any restrictions on whom the investors are, but we are not prepared to sell every piece of the infrastructure, especially those that are core and strategic to the nation's economy," O'Leary said.

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