New canal a lifeline for energy

Updated: 2013-06-26 01:23

By WEI TIAN and XING ZHIGANG (China Daily)

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On June 13, Nicaragua's Congress granted HKND Group exclusive rights in developing and managing the Nicaragua Canal and other potential projects, including port projects, free trade zones, airports and other infrastructure projects for up to 100 years.

Wang said he was given "a lot of guarantees and a lot of benefits" by the Nicaraguan government in land use and tax incentives.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said last week the canal development was the "independent behavior of a company", after the Ministry of Commerce warned of the potential risks of getting involved in local political disputes.

"We're grateful for the warning of the Ministry of Commerce — this is what a responsible government should do," Wang said, adding that the original blueprint of the canal has been altered to avoid potential territorial disputes.

But Liu Hui, an expert of American studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the investment in the Latin American country should pay attention to local legal and political risks.

He gave an example of China's oil and railway investment in Venezuela, which met strong resistance from local unions.

Wang admitted that the project has political, financing and engineering risks, but said the fact that HKND Group stands out from other competitors was evidence of its thorough preparation.

HKND Group is working on the feasibility report with leading firms such as US-based McKinsey & Co, UK-based environmental consulting services provider ERM Group Inc and China Railway Construction Corp, China's biggest construction company.

"Legal papers are also being formulated, and there are no risks of violation at this stage," Wang said.

Besides his 40 percent stake in the Beijing Xinwei Telecom Technology Co, Wang said he also has mining investments with 100-ton gold reserves worth about $5 billion in two Southeast Asian countries. Wang's investment also involves an aerospace company, which is expected to be a future partner in the canal project.

Wang's canal investment may fulfill a century-old dream for Nicaragua, which has attempted to construct an inter-oceanic channel on several occasions since the mid-1800s.

Wang said the canal project will create more than 40,000 local jobs, and a job-training program has already begun.

"It is no longer a pure investment, it has become a milestone," Wang told reporters. "So I don't want it to become an international joke or an example of a failed overseas Chinese enterprise."

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