HKND Group

HKND outlines grand vision for US$40b Nicaraguan canal to rival Panama's

Cutting through Nicaragua, project bets on need for shale gas tankers too big for Panama Canal

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 4:22pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 June, 2013, 5:03pm

The man who piqued the interest of the world with his US$40 billion (HK$310 billion) plan to build a canal across Nicaragua met the media yesterday to outline his grand vision.

Wang Jing, chairman of the Hong Kong-based HKND, which has won a concession to design, build and manage a canal to rival Panama's, was upbeat about the project, despite its huge cost.

The company's bet on the canal is based on the US shale gas revolution, which will require bigger tankers than the Panama Canal will be able to handle.

Video by Simon Song

HKND was "open to investment from global companies" and was already talking to banks and financial institutions, Wang said. "We have had preliminary contact with large companies, including those from the energy sector," Wang said in Beijing.

HKND was responsible for raising money for the canal, he said, and the Nicaraguan government would not be investing. "But the government will provide preferential policies, such as tax relief to support the project."

Wang said HKND's stake in the project would change as others joined in, but he insisted its holding would be large enough to ensure he remained chairman and had a say in matters.

Wang also said the central government was not involved. "As the Foreign Ministry said earlier, this is a private investment," he said.

Wang played down his origins. "I'm just an ordinary Chinese citizen who was born in Beijing in December 1972."

Beside his investment in Xinwei, a telecommunications company, Wang said he had also invested in gold mines in Southeast Asia and had put money into the sports and aerospace sectors.

And while he leapt to prominence with the Nicaragua project, his original studies in Beijing were not business-related - he studied Chinese medicine. "It may disappoint you," he said.

Few details have emerged of the route of the canal, which is expected to be significantly longer than the 77-kilometre Panama Canal. Engineers have also said that the geography poses major challenges - not the least being a seven-metre tide differential between the two coasts.