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Chinese firm plans rival to Panama Canal

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Courtesy Wikimedia.

HONG KONG — Nicaragua has long attracted ambitious businessmen, politicians and governments hoping to cut a second channel between the Caribbean Sea and the waters of the Pacific.

Every last one of them has failed. But now, an upstart Chinese company is hoping to succeed where former U.S. President William McKinley and even shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt did not.

Lawmakers in Nicaragua granted a 50-year concession Thursday to privately held HKND Group, a Hong Kong-based company led by Chinese telecom executive Wang Jing.

No one could accuse HKND of lacking ambition. In addition to the canal, the group has won rights to build a railroad, two ports, an international airport and an oil pipeline.

“It is very early in a long process, and we have a lot of work ahead, but we want to be clear that we intend this to be a world-class effort,” Wang said in a statement.

Yet at this point, it would seem there are more questions than answers about the project.

It is not clear how the group intends to fund the canal’s construction, which carries a reported price tag of $40 billion. And while HKND says the canal will not follow the San Juan River, it has not announced a final route — which would in any event be three times as long as its Panamanian counterpart.

For more on this CNN Money story, click here.

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