Panama 2017 | ENERGY | B2B

TBY talks to Nicanor Rivera, General Manager, Sucursal Panamá de ABB SA, and Blas González R., Cluster Manager Central America & Caribbean, ABB SA.

Blas González R.
Cluster Manager Central America & Caribbean
Nicanor Rivera
General Manager
Sucursal Panamá de ABB SA

What is the importance of Panama for ABB?

BLAS GONZALEZ R. The main reason Panama is ABB's headquarters for Central America and the Caribbean is due to the country's central location. The second reason is due to the laws for multinationals, under which we can bring in as many foreigners as we need. In this office, about 35-40% of our employees are from overseas. In addition, Panama has grown the most in the last five to six years amongst other Central American and Caribbean countries. Panama has great new projects such as the canal expansion, the second and third lines of the metro, the bridge over the canal, and the airport, which are great opportunities for industrial infrastructure companies such as ABB.

How did ABB perform in Panama in 2016 and what are the main highlights?

NICANOR RIVERA We expected a little more in regard to the economy of Panama. The government handles ABB projects and some of our projects have taken too long to start. The metro project started with great traction; however, the business is complicated at the moment as there are many companies that have come to Panama seeking opportunities. Four years ago, we only had two competitors; now there are 25, which makes it difficult to participate in projects with others. Some smaller companies are keen to participate and it is easy for these companies to handle all the issues and items of the project. We need to cooperate and follow many rules and it is tough to handle many of these projects and compete with these engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) companies.

What main projects is ABB currently working on?

NR At the moment, our main project is the Panama Metro. The new niche is ports and in 2016 we won a tender for a new port at the entrance of the canal, which is a great opportunity. We try to go after such projects. Another is a transmission line and complementary to this line are sub-stations, which we will bid for. The connection between Panama and Colombia is one of the main projects as it is a USD160 million project, which would be great for ABB, though it is still in the pipeline.

How is ABB positioned to improve energy efficiency and introduce new technology in the energy market?

BGR ABB has a great deal of developments in improving energy efficiency. Panama is not a country with huge industry. We produce robots that are efficient and we work in renewables; however, our efforts here are mainly with the government and energy generation. There, we have many new developments in micro grids, which are areas that are not connected to the main country grid and transmission lines though there are diesel generator units, small solar devices, and certain wind devices. We can connect them all to create a micro grid, where we can produce stable energy.

What are your priorities and targets for 2017?

NR We want to have two sub stations. For ABB, there are USD15 million in business opportunities and that is our key focus for 2017. The idea is to participate in upcoming bids. There are many competitors but we try to make the best bid for this opportunity.

BGR We will invest more in Panama and will take advantage of the developments at Tocumen Airport. We want to take advantage of that and not only for Central America and the Caribbean but for all of Latin America. We will invest in Panama because of all the advantages the country has compared to the rest of the region. Regarding the region, Central America and the Caribbean are the best-kept secrets for ABB. ABB needs to discover more of the region's potential. We are a European company and all people imagine about the region is crime and corruption; we need to demonstrate the opportunities here for ABB to take advantage of.