BOGOTA Oct 18 Two companies connected to
Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim have declared an interest in
taking over a majority stake in Colombia's $857 million effort
to make the Magdalena River navigable, the Colombian government
said on Tuesday.
The river project, valued at 2.5 trillion Colombian pesos,
is set to increase cargo transport on the river to some 10
million tonnes by 2029, in a bid to reduce freight costs and aid
exports by commodities producers and agricultural companies.
But the project has been beset with problems. Brazilian
construction conglomerate Odebrecht said in May it would
relinquish 50 to 75 percent of its majority stake in the
Navelena consortium, which is carrying out the project, sending
the government scrambling for a replacement.
Companies IDEAL and FCC Americas, part of Slim's Carso
Group, have declared their interest in taking over a majority
stake in Navelena, Cormagdalena, the government agency
supervising the project, said in a statement.
"We have received a letter of interest from an alternative
majority group - two companies from the Carlos Slim group in
Mexico," Luis Fernando Andrade, interim director of
Cormagdalena, said in comments released by his office.
IDEAL and FCC Americas' interest has allowed Cormagdalena to
postpone a hearing on the suspension of Odebrecht's contract
until the end of the month. The Brazilian construction
conglomerate currently controls 87 percent of the consortium.
Cormagdalena did not say how much of the stake IDEAL and FCC
Americas were interested in taking over.
Navelena must compile a list of possible minority partners
in case Odebrecht eventually pulls out of the project
completely, as well as other information, by Oct. 28,
The consortium will also need a letter of commitment from
Goldman Sachs, which has previously said it would be interested
in financing the construction, the statement added.
Cormagdalena is in charge of approving or rejecting any
eventual formal bids to take over the stake.
Construction to deepen the river had been set to begin in
IDEAL, FCC Americas and the Carso Group could not
immediately be reached for comment.
FCC Americas recently built a new control tower for Bogota
airport and is also involved in road tunnel projects and the
dredging of the Bogota river.
($1 = 2,915.67 Colombian pesos)
(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb, Carlos Vargas and Luis Jaime
Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Leslie Adler)