HKND Group

Nicaragua canal builder heads off risks with army of consultants

HKND chief Wang Jing will spend US$900m in feasibility studies for the Nicaragua project

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 June, 2013, 9:45am

The man whose Hong Kong firm plans a canal across Nicaragua to rival the one in Panama admits the project faces many obstacles, but he says US$900 million of feasibility studies will help reduce the risks and ensure success.

Wang Jing, chairman of HKND, which won a 50-year concession earlier this month to design, build and manage the canal, said the feasibility studies would be completed by the middle of next year. More than 3,000 consultant engineers and analysts would conduct studies on the canal's design, construction and future operations and make commercial and financial assessments, he said.

"We will include almost all the possibilities that we can think of in the studies," Wang told the South China Morning Post yesterday. "There will be a lot of obstacles, but no risks requiring the project to be called off."

The worst scenario would only be a delay in completion or higher costs, Wang said.

"It will not become an international joke," he promised.

Building of the canal, which will be up to 286km long, is scheduled to start at the end of next year and finish in six years. Given the project's duration, Wang said the firm would also build cement and steel factories to control costs. The provision of other support facilities was also included in the studies, he said.

Video: Wang Jing, chairman of the Hong Kong-based HKND, has won a concession to design, build and manage a canal to rival Panama's at a huge cost -- yet claims, he is but an 'ordinary' man.

Since HKND announced the US$40 billion project, local and foreign media have described Wang as a "mysterious businessman".

Wang, 41, said he was not even a successful businessman.

"I am just an ordinary Chinese citizen who hasn't been exposed to the public before," he said. "In Hong Kong, Li Ka-shing is successful. I don't think I am."

Wang said his investments in various businesses, including Chinese telecommunications firm Xinwei and the canal, were "historic opportunities".

Wang, who is also the chairman of Xinwei, said he knew the firm was about to go bankrupt three years ago when he stepped in to rescue it. "Xinwei has developed good telecommunications technologies. I didn't want these technologies to be acquired by foreign companies," he said.

The firm has invested US$300 million in a telecommunications venture in Nicaragua, Wang's first investment in the country.