Chinese, Cambodian firms sign $1.5 bln joint venture to build satellite city

PHNOM PENH, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Cambodian conglomerate LYP Group signed a $1.5 billion deal with Chinese property developer SRE Group on Thursday to build a satellite city outside Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh.

The deal is the latest sign of China expanding its footprint in the frontier market as the United States vies for influence in the region, where China is Cambodia’s closest ally.

Cambodia is one of the region’s poorest countries and few among its population of about 15 million people will have a chance to use the new complex.

The project includes a 5-star hotel, a television station and an 18-hole golf course, which have already been constructed, Seng Nhak, managing director of LYP Group, told reporters, adding that a stadium to host the 2023 Southeast Asian Games was under construction.

Seng Nhak said the two firms also plan to build a safari-style attraction.

“We join hands with the Chinese company to make this an international city,” Seng Nhak said. It will be named Cambodia-Chinese Friendship City.

At a Cambodia-China business forum on Thursday, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen said bilateral trade with China reached $4.3 billion in 2015, a 15 percent rise from 2014.

China’s investments in Cambodia were worth $4.9 billion last year, Hun Sen said, adding that he had made three-year, multiple entry visas available for Chinese investors.

“In terms of foreign investment over the past five years, 2011-2015, China was the biggest source of investment in Cambodia,” Hun Sen said. (Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Ruth Pitchford)