New doubts have arisen over the funding of Nicaragua’s $50bn interoceanic canal after the billionaire behind the scheme, Wang Jing, had nearly 85% of his fortune wiped out by China’s stock market crisis.
Wang (pictured), a Chinese telecoms tycoon, has seen his net worth plummet from $10.2bn in June to $1.1bn amid his country’s stock market meltdown, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
I would expect, given this year’s financial gyrations in China, that the government is also asking itself whether the canal is a viable proposition– Daniel Wagner, Country Risk Solutions
Bloomberg called the 42-year-old the world’s worst performing billionaire in 2015, and one analyst said his personal disaster could affect the ability of his company, HKND, to push ahead with building the canal, which is planned to rival the Panama Canal.
"The turn of fortune in … Wang’s financial resources will impact how and whether the canal can and will be built," Daniel Wagner, the head of US-based consultancy Country Risk Solutions, told Bloomberg.
"I would expect, given this year’s financial gyrations in China, that the government is also asking itself whether the canal is a viable proposition."
But officials at HKND – which won a 50-year concession to build and operate the canal in 2013 – denied that Wang’s personal troubles would hamper the canal scheme.
"I have no doubt that appropriate financial arrangements will be in place before construction commences," Bill Wild, HKND’s chief project adviser for the canal, told Bloomberg.
Speaking to China’s official news agency, Xinhua, last month, HKND’s vice-president Peng Guowei said HKND had so far invested more than 3bn yuan ($472m), all from Wang’s "own pocket".
Photograph: Chinese billionaire Wang Jing launching construction of the canal in December 2014 (HKND)