A Chinese company said it is delaying the start of construction on a US$50 billion inter-ocean canal across Nicaragua until late 2016. The Hong Kong-based developer, HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Group (HKND), got approval for environmental studies fir the canal earlier this month. But on Wednesday, a company statement said that “the construction of locks and the big excavations will start toward the end of 2016.” The company gave no reason for the delay, but said that “the canal's design is currently being fine-tuned". Wang Jing, chairman and chief executive of HKND Group, who is using his personal fortune to help fund the Nicaraguan challenger to the Panama Canal, has seen his net worth tumble following the equity market slump in China. The telecommunications entrepreneur was listed among the world’s 200 richest people with a net worth of US$10.2 billion at the peak of the Chinese markets in June, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. However, following the fall in the stock market his net worth has since fallen to only US$1.1 billion, Bloomberg reported in October. Wang’s 84 per cent drop so far in 2015 is the worst recorded by the index, which provides a daily ranking of the world’s 400 richest people. Some experts doubt the canal will ultimately be built due to financial, environmental and social concerns. But the canal, if finished, could give China a major foothold in Central America, a region long dominated by the United States. Nicaraguan authorities have already approved the proposed 278-km route for the canal. Crews broke ground on access roads for the project last December, but have yet to start digging the waterway itself. The plan has drawn protests from farmers who fear their land will be seized for the project. Environmentalists fear the project has not been adequately studied and worry about the possible effects on Lake Nicaragua and fresh water supplies.