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Friday December 6, 2013 MYT 12:20:13 AM
Friday December 6, 2013 MYT 12:21:12 AM
by adam rose AND pavel polityuk
BEIJING/KIEV (Reuters) - Wang Jing, a little known Chinese investor who has a concession to build a waterway in Nicaragua to rival the Panama Canal, announced he was also spearheading a $3 billion (1.8 billion pounds) project to build a deepwater port in Ukraine.
"The strategic and cooperative partnership between China and Ukraine has moved a step forward," Wang said at a press conference in Beijing on Thursday. "Even though this project is relatively big, you can say we fell in love at first sight."
A senior Ukrainian official told Reuters, however, that she had not heard about the project. "I can say that such project did not pass through our ministry," she said.
The 300 hectare port project is to be located about 60 kilometres north of Sevastopol on the Black Sea. Wang unveiled it at the same time that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was visiting China's capital.
China and Ukraine signed several agreements on airlines, new energy sources, coal and travel during Yanukovich's visit. No details or figures were provided.
In a joint statement, the two countries said they had signed a "treaty of friendly cooperation", which "marks a stride towards a higher level of development in relations between China and Ukraine".
Yanukovich is under pressure at home to show the success of his economic strategy amid public protests against his worsening relationship with the European Union.
"In this very difficult situation it is very important for Yanukovich to conclude large scale projects," said Volodymyr Fesenko of Ukraine's Penta think-tank.
"The implementation of these projects will depend on how the political crisis is resolved," he said.
Cheng Guoping, China's vice minister of foreign affairs, told journalists that Ukraine was in "flux".
"I believe the Ukrainian government has the ability to, within the scope of the law, safeguard Ukraine's stability in this situation and continue on its own path to development," he said.
A memorandum of understanding was signed earlier in the day between Wang's Beijing Interoceanic Canal Investment Management Co. and Kievgidroinvest, a little known hydrogeology research firm registered in Sevastopol, which does not have a website.
The port project, to be built on a dried-out lake on the Crimean coast, would require a $3 billion investment in its first phase, Wang said, providing few further details.
Ukraine already operates more than a dozen big ports.
Wang, who says his initial wealth came from a gold mine investment in Cambodia, grabbed headlines earlier this year when Nicaragua's Congress granted his Cayman Islands-registered company a 50-year concession to develop a $40 billion canal.
He is chairman of Beijing Xinwei Telecom Technology Co., a wireless equipment company that holds the patents on Chinese technology for 3G mobile telecommunications. That technology is now being superseded by next-generation networks.
Kievgidroinvest Chief Executive Alexsey Mayzuk said at the press conference that his company had preferred Wang's firm over a large-scale, state-owned enterprise.
"We want a partner who is not purely a construction partner," he said. "We need a partner who is also a strategic partner."
(Reporting by Adam Rose in Beijing and Pavel Polityuk in Kiev; Writing by Matthew Miller; Editing by Jane Baird)
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