Viewing cable 07PANAMA1899
Title: BIDDERS ON PANAMA CANAL DESIGN/BUILD CONTRACT FACE

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
07PANAMA18992007-12-21 12:23:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Panama
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DE RUEHZP #1899/01 3551223
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R 211223Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1583
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 0329
RHMFISS/COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC
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UNCLAS PANAMA 001899 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
FOR WHA/CEN - TELLO 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: EWWT ECON ETRD PM
SUBJECT: BIDDERS ON PANAMA CANAL DESIGN/BUILD CONTRACT FACE 
NEW HURDLES 
 
REF: PANAMA 1719 
 
¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY. On November 15, 2007, four consortia 
submitted Statements of Qualification in order to qualify to 
bid on the contract to design and build the Panama Canal's 
third set of locks and water recycling basins.  The Panama 
Canal Authority (ACP) is expected to announced the qualified 
bidders by the end of December 2007.  The Bechtel-led 
consortia is the only U.S.-led consortium.  Two of the 
consortia are led by Spanish firms and one by a French firm. 
Of the 28 companies, four are from the U.S. The value of the 
design/build contract is estimated at $3.7 billion, 
representing the largest chunk of work on the Panama Canal's 
$5.25 billion expansion project.  EmbOffs have heard numerous 
negative comments regarding Bechtel by ACP officials and 
people familiar with the ACP.  The ACP sought to limit 
participation of Chinese firms by requiring audited financial 
statement from the Big Three accounting firms.  The reality 
of inadequate infrastructure, labor shortages, the declining 
U.S. dollar, inflation, and potentially newfound seismic 
risks could have a substantial effect on the ACP's 
design/build budget.  END SUMMARY. 
 
-------------------------------------------- 
Four Consortia Bid to Design/Build New Locks 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
¶2. (U)   On November 15, 2007, four consortia, comprising 28 
companies from 13 countries, submitted Statements of 
Qualification in order to qualify to bid on the contract to 
design and build the Panama Canal's third set of locks and 
water recycling basins. 
 
¶3. (U) Only one consortium is led by a U.S. company; two are 
led by Spanish companies and one by a French company.  The 
four consortia are (i) Consortium Bechtel, Tasiei, Mitsubishi 
Corporation led by U.S. firm Bechtel International, Inc.; 
(ii) Consortium C.A.N.A.L by Spanish firm ACS Servicios, 
Comunicaciones y Energia, S.L.; (iii) Grupo Unidos por el 
Canal led by Spanish firm Sacyr Vallehermoso S.A.; and (iv) 
Consortium Atlantico-Pacifico de Panama led by French firm 
Bouygues Travaux Publics.  A complete list of participating 
companies is listed below in paragraph 20. 
 
¶4. (U) Of the 30 companies participating, Spain has the 
highest number with five, followed by the U.S. and Brazil 
with four, France with three, Germany, Netherlands and Japan 
with two, and Panama, Italy, Belgium, Mexico, the United 
Kingdom and China with one. 
 
¶5. (U) The Bechtel-led bid is being managed out of Bechtel's 
London office.  The Spanish Consortium C.A.N.A.L. is the only 
consortium without a U.S. company; it has four of the five 
participating Spanish companies. 
 
¶6. (U) By the end of December 2007, the ACP is expected to 
announced the consortia who have qualified to bid on the 
design/build contract.  The consortia will have until August 
2008 to submit their bids. The winner is expected to be 
announced sometime in December 2008.  It is anticipated that 
each consortia will spend between $18 and $22 million to 
prepare their bids. 
 
--------------------- 
Design/Build Contract 
--------------------- 
 
¶7. (U) The design/build contract would consist of the design 
and construction of the new third set of locks and water 
recycling basins on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The ACP 
estimated construction will take approximately five to six 
years and employ between 7,000 and 9,000 direct workers. 
 
¶8. (U) The ACP has budgeted $3.35 billion for this phase of 
the expansion project.  Within the $5.25 billion overall 
budget, $530 million is included to account for inflation at 
2% per annum over the estimated eight year life of the entire 
expansion project.  Allocating the design/build portion's 
pro-rata share of the inflation adjustment, the actual budget 
for the design/build contract is $3.726 billion. 
 
¶9. (U) Of the $3.726 billion design/build budget, $3.0 
 
billion is allocated to construction of the new locks (which 
includes $590 million for contingencies and $276 million in 
pro rata projected in inflation increases) and $693 million 
is allocated to construction of the water recycling basins 
(which includes $140 million for contingencies and $73 
million in pro rata projected inflation increases). 
 
---------------------------- 
Prospects for U.S. Companies 
---------------------------- 
 
¶10. (U)  Of the four U.S. companies (Bechtel International, 
Tetra Tech, Montgomery Watson Harza (MWH) and AECOM), Bechtel 
had a prior relationship with the ACP and MWH has an office 
in Panama.  The design/build contract would be Tetra Tech's 
and AECOM's first major project in Panama.  MWH was one of 
the companies the ACP touts as helping it prepare the 
expansion project budget. 
 
¶11. (SBU) EmbOffs have heard numerous negative comments 
regarding Bechtel by ACP officials and people familiar with 
the ACP.  Apparently, ACP's senior and middle level 
management view Bechtel personnel as arrogant and 
overbearing.  A former ACP consultant told EconOff in March 
2007 that the Bechtel is "disliked" within the ACP.  Bechtel 
executives told EconOff in October 2007 that they know that 
they "have work to do" in improving their image within the 
ACP. 
 
--------------------------------------------- - 
ACP Administrator Limits Chinese Participation 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
¶12. (U)  There is only one Chinese company, Wuchang Shipyard, 
participating in the design/build bidding process, despite 
the existence of a fair number of arguably qualified Chinese 
firms.  Wuchang is part of the Bechtel-led consortium. 
 
¶13. (SBU) On November 21, a current ACP consultant told 
EmbOffs that ACP Administrator Alberto Aleman Zubieta 
deliberately sought to exclude Chinese companies from 
bidding.  Aleman reportedly insisted, over the advice of some 
advisors, that every bidder must have financials audited by a 
a Big 3 accounting firm (Deloitte  & Touche, KPMG, 
Pricewaterhousecoopers or Ernst & Young).  This requirement 
apparently excluded virtually every potential Chinese 
company.  ACP officials separately confirmed that Aleman was 
concerned about perpetuating the myth that the Chinese run 
the canal and creating tensions with the USG. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
Bidders Face Infrastructure, Labor and Financial Hurdles 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
 
¶14. (SBU) A current ACP consultant told EmbOffs that he has 
serious concerns about the ability to complete the expansion 
projected within the current timeframe and budget.  He 
maintained that Panama's infrastructure is wholly inadequate 
to handle the movement of hundreds of heavy machinery and 
thousands of workers.  He noted that whoever wins the 
design/build contract will have to build numerous roads and 
worker housing units.  The consultant also noted that the 
ACP's plans make no provision for temporary worker housing. 
Without such housing, workers would likely have to commute 
over two hours each way to the work sites.  The consultant 
said such an arrangement appears unworkable.  To date, the 
GOP maintains that it will not allow temporary worker housing 
or tent cities along the canal. 
 
¶15.  (SBU) The ACP consultant said he believes the GOP and 
ACP will have no choice but to import thousands of skilled 
workers.  When told by EmbOffs of the requirement that 90% of 
all workers be Panamanians (with certain limited exceptions) 
he said that the GOP will have to amend the labor code to 
allow the vast numbers of foreign workers needed (reftel). 
(Comment: The GOP, labor unions, and industry leaders have 
mightily resisted revising Panama's labor code in relation to 
the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement.  It is unlikely 
they would relent to opening the labor market for foreign 
workers on the canal expansion project. End Comment.) 
 
¶16.  (U) Since the ACP announced the expansion project's 
 
price tag in April 2006, the U.S. dollar has declined 
approximately 23% against the Euro.  Accordingly, for the 
European and U.S. firms who operate in non-U.S. dollar 
denominated currencies, the value of the design/build 
contract has also declined.  The design/build contract would 
have to be at least at least $3.69 billion to make up for the 
U.S. dollar's decline versus the Euro. 
 
¶17. (U) Panama's inflation rate is far outpacing the 2% 
annual rate assumed by the ACP budget.  For the twelve month 
period ending November 30, 2007, the inflation rate in Panama 
was 6.5%.  Inflation for 2007 is expected to exceed 6% for 
the first time since the Comptroller General's office has 
been maintaining such statistics. This would also potentially 
increase the design/build contract's price tag. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
¶18. (U)  As noted by Bechtel executives in reftel, the U.S. 
participation in the design/build phase will be limited and 
possibly nonexistent if Consortium C.A.N.A.L wins.  The 
Spanish are already major investors in Panama in areas such 
as construction, tourism, hotels, and infrastructure projects. 
 
¶19. (SBU) As the bidders perform their due diligence, many of 
the challenges which heretofore were not examined will become 
prominent.  The labor shortage, inflation, and infrastructure 
needs could easily cause bids to come in well in excess of 
the ACP budgeted amount.  Moreover, newly emerging 
indications of potentially serious seismic risks in Central 
Panama (septel) could prompt the ACP to re-design the project 
to mitigate against potential earthquake damage, thereby 
increasing the project's price tag.  A significant deviation 
from the ACP budget could damage the ACP's and GOP's 
credibility. 
 
------------------------------- 
List of Participating Companies 
------------------------------- 
 
¶20. (U) 
 
Consortium Bechtel, Tasiei, Mitsubishi Corporation 
 
- Bechtel International, Inc - USA (leader) 
- Taisei Corporation - Japan 
- Mitsubishi Corporation - Japan 
- Wuchang Shipyard - China 
 
Consortium C.A.N.A.L 
- ACS Servicios, Comunicaciones y Energia, S.L. - Spain 
(leader) 
- Acciona Infraestructura, S.A. - Spain 
- Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas - Spain 
- Hochtief Constructions AG - Germany 
- Constructora ICA, S.A. de C.V. - Mexico 
- Sener Ingenieria y Sistems S.A. - Spain 
- Mott McDoanld Ltd - United Kingdom 
- Haskoning Nederalnd BV - Netherlands 
 
Grupo Unidos por el Canal 
- Sacyr Vallehermoso S.A. - Spain (leader) 
- Impregilo S.P.A. - Italy 
- Jan de Nul N.V. - Belgium 
- Constructora Urbana, S.A. - Panama 
- Montgomery Watson Harza - USA 
- IV-Groep - Netherlands 
- Tetra Tech - USA 
- Heerema Fabrication Group - Netherlands 
 
Consortium Atlantico-Pacifico de Panama 
- Bouygues Travaux Publics - France (leader) 
- Bilfinger Berger - Germany 
- VINCI Construction Grand Projets - France 
- Construcoes e Comercio Camargo Correa S.A. - Brazil 
- Construtora Andrade Gutierrez S.A. - Brazil 
- ALSTOM Hydro Energia Brasil - France 
- BARDELLA Industrias Mecanicas - Brazil 
- AECOM - USA 
ARREAGA