China rail firms in joint deal to build U.S. high-speed rail

Mechanics check a high-speed train at Xi'an Electric Multiple Unit Maintenance Base
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A consortium of Chinese rail firms has teamed up with private U.S. company XpressWest to build a high-speed rail line in the United States, the latest push by Beijing to export its high-speed rail technology and tap lucrative offshore markets.

China Railway International USA and private rail venture XpressWest said in a joint statement on Thursday that they will form a joint venture to accelerate the launch of a high-speed rail linking the western cities of Las Vegas with Los Angeles.

The deal marks the latest attempt in China's increasingly aggressive pursuit of overseas high-speed rail deals after the country built the world's longest network in less than a decade. Beijing recently clinched contracts in Russia, although it has faced hurdles in Mexico and Indonesia due to bureaucratic flip-flops in those countries.

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XpressWest, a private venture by a Las Vegas-based hotel and casino developer, was given the green light in 2011 to construct and operate the 370 kilometre high-speed line, according to its website. The project has $100 million in initial capital, the firms said in the statement, released at a government-organized forum ahead of President Xi Jinping's upcoming visit to the United States.

China Railway International U.S.A is owned by a consortium made up of subsidiaries from state firms China Railway Group, CRRC
Corp, China State Construction Engineering Corporation and China Railway Signal & Communication Corporation.

Guotai Junan analyst Gary Wong, estimated the XpressWest project was worth $5 billion which he said would likely offer the many Chinese firms involvedlittle financial benefit, but was significant as a deal to help open the undeveloped U.S. high-speed rail market.

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"If this opens up the United States market for them, opportunities for future expansion will increase. And if (their technology) is used in the United States, it will be easier for them to sell to other countries," he said.

The firms did not elaborate on how the Chinese consortium would help accelerate the project. Additional regulatory approvals will be required before the construction begins, expected early as September 2016, they said.