Panama Canal Lures Bidders

Nov. 15 (Bloomberg) -- The Panama Canal Authority said four consortiums submitted papers indicating they plan to bid on a $3.2 billion contract to install new locks in the waterway.

The groups include 30 companies in 13 countries, the authority said today in an e-mailed statement. Participants include Germany's Bilfinger Berger AG, Mexico's Empresas ICA SAB, Japan's Mitsubishi Corp. and Bechtel Group Inc. of the U.S.

The locks construction project makes up 60 percent of the total cost of the authority's $5.25 billion expansion plan for the 93-year-old waterway. Widening and deepening the waterway will allow bigger ships to pass through the canal connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

The authority is now studying the proposals to determine which companies will be allowed to make formal bids for the work. That decision will be made within a month, the authority said today. The contract will be awarded by the end of 2008, and the decision will take into account price, methods of construction and estimate time for completion.

The winning bidder will build the locks on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the canal. The locks are enclosures with gates at each end that allow boats to be raised or lowered by either draining the locks of water or filling them up.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carlos Barletta in Mexico City at