Chinese Investor Behind Nicaragua Canal Is a Billionaire

The Chinese investor behind a $40 billion project to cut a canal through Nicaragua owns a $1.1 billion stake in the telecommunications company that he runs, according to data compiled by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Wang Jing, 40, is the chairman and biggest shareholder of Beijing Xinwei Telecom Technology Co., holding a 37 percent stake as of May 23, according to government filings. State-owned Datang Telecom Technology & Industry Holdings Co. offered to sell a 0.858 percent stake in Xinwei for 158.4 million yuan ($25.8 million), according to a Sept. 28, 2012, notice. That values the entire company at $2.95 billion.

Nicaragua’s Congress earlier this month granted a 50-year concession to Wang’s Hong Kong-based HKND Group for rights to construct an inter-oceanic canal in the Central American country. Nicaragua’s government estimates the project will cost $40 billion, or more than four times the country’s 2011 gross domestic product.

“Facing unprecedented challenges, we confidently head forward,” Wang said at a June 14 ceremony in Managua with President Daniel Ortega, according to a transcript on Xinwei’s website. “Let us join hands to the great trumpet sound of human self-improvement.”

The closely held company, founded in 1995, makes wireless phone gear. Wang said the company’s goal is to become one of the world’s top three telecommunications companies in five to 10 years, according to the company’s website. Xinwei signed a contract last year worth as much as $300 million to set up a phone network in Nicaragua.

Project Financing

Wang’s closely held HKND has hired Ronald MacLean-Abaroa, the former mayor of La Paz, Bolivia, and member of the advisory board to Transparency International and a consultant with the World Bank.

Bill Wild, HKND’s chief project adviser, said in a June 19 telephone interview that Wang plans to finance the initial part of the project and then seek international investors.

“He has said this will be solely private investment and the plan is aimed at getting international funding,” Wild said. “Shipping companies have indicated to us very clearly that it is a very positive project from their point of view.”

MacLean-Abaroa, in a telephone interview, said Wang’s company would be funding the project itself. He didn’t provide further details. Efforts to contact Wang through MacLean-Abaroa and Xinwei in Beijing were routed to Kekst and Co., a New York-based public relations firm.

While Xinwei is a private company, a coterie of China’s top leaders, including President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang and top anti-corruption official Wang Qishan have visited the company, according to its website.

Wang has never appeared on an international wealth ranking. He has business interests in infrastructure, mining, aviation and telecommunications. He controls or serves as board chairman of more than 20 companies in 35 countries around the world, according to HKND’s website.

— With assistance by Michael Wei, and Michael Forsythe

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