Sri Lanka's Aitken Spence sells port stake to China Merchants

COLOMBO, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan conglomerate Aitken Spence on Monday said it is selling its 30 percent stake in a $500 million port expansion joint venture to Hong Kong-based China Merchants Holdings.

Earlier this month, Spence pulled out of the joint venture with the state-run Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) and China Merchants Holdings due to high costs and unreasonable demands, officials have said.

Aitken Spence in a statement to the Colombo Stock Exchange said Sri Lanka’s Board of Investment and the SLPA had approved the sale to China Merchant. The company did not disclose how much it was to be paid.

China Merchant upon completion of the transaction will own 85 percent of China International Container Terminal, the joint venture operating company set up to build the Colombo south terminal. SLPA will continue to hold 15 percent. ($1 = 113.9150 Sri Lanka rupees) (Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Bryson Hull)