Blas González R

Blas González R

Cluster Manager Central America & the Caribbean, ABB S.A.
Nicanor Rivera

Nicanor Rivera

General Manager, ABB S.A.
ABB is optimistic about its prospects in the region, with many upcoming opportunities for the company to participate in.

How can ABB leverage on Panama to expand in the region?

Blas González R We based our headquarters for Central America and the Caribbean in Panama. One of our tasks is to develop those countries where we do not yet have offices, like Nicaragua. Part of our growth strategy is to increase post maintenance and preventative maintenance for our equipment. We currently have two servicing stations in Panama, but want to expand our capabilities in repair and maintenance as well as customer training both in Panama and the rest of the region. This is where we believe we will grow. Here in Panama we manufacture equipment for industry and utilities. The latter will continue to grow but industry will not be as strong in Panama. We have some small industries like cement plants, water plants, and some mines, but other countries like Trinidad & Tobago, which has a huge petrochemical complex, or the Dominican Republic, which has not only sugar but also nickel, have the advantage in industry. Panama is a country that supports the rest of the region more than its own industry.

Nicanor Rivera At the moment there are many opportunities for ABB to expand into the region. One of these is the proposed $200 million interconnection between Panama and Colombia, a project in which we would like to get involved. ABB has a presence in both countries, selling equipment to the engineering and construction companies that are carrying out projects. The problem is that we have to wait for the government to announce the project, open bids, and select contractors, and then we can approach those companies to see if we can supply them with the equipment.

How much progress has been made in the interconnection project between Panama and Colombia?

NR The project is currently in the environmental study stage. When this is finished, they will make the decision on whether to go ahead with it. Colombia is pushing to finalize the process by going across forested areas, but Panama wants to try going under the sea. We do not yet know which way it will go. We think the submarine cable will be the final decision, and I hope this is the case as it will be better for us.

BG ABB is a manufacturer of submarine cables, so that would be good for us. We are not in the transmission lines industry because we sold that division of the company eight years ago. We also want the forest to be preserved for environmental reasons. We do not carry out projects, but sell loose products and provide services to major players. Unless we go enter into a joint venture with another company for a specific project then we are an electrical automation company. It is important for us to work with local contractors who have good quality and knowledge of the market.

How has Panama performed over the last year compared to the rest of the world and how do you assess its future potential?

NR Panama is a country that is developing rapidly, and thus there are many new projects, such as the canal or airport expansion. The metro system is another opportunity for us and we believe we have a good chance of getting involved in that. In addition, there is the expansion of the harbor, the development of an airport for the Panama Pacific area, and many other opportunities.

BG In the long term there are major opportunities in Panama in the industrial electrical sector for a company like ours. Our performance this year was good but not as strong as we expected, simply because there were not as many government construction projects. The metro was supposed to have started in the first quarter of 2015 but was only awarded in October. Similarly, the expansion of Tocumen International Airport was delayed by a year. We are still waiting for the official opening of the bidding process for the airport expansion, which we expected in January or February. We are waiting on another $400m project. Though this year was not as good, in the long term Panama is the country to be in because it will continue to grow.