Wednesday, July 29, 2009

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Auto Shipping Helps Canal Recovery Says Panama Canal CEO

By Andrea Jaramillo and Eric Sabo

July 23 (Bloomberg) -- The Panama Canal Authority has begun to see “signs of recovery” in shipping traffic, including from freighters transporting cars, said Alberto Aleman, the authority’s chief executive officer.

Aleman said he expects traffic in the fiscal year ending in September to total about 295 million tons, up from a previous range he had given of about 290 million to 295 million tons. Traffic in the 95-year-old canal totaled 310 million tons in 2008. Revenue this year will be “similar” to last year’s record $2 billion, Aleman said.

“Amid the crisis, amid the recession, this is good,” Aleman, who’s run the canal since 1996, said in a telephone interview from Panama City. Car shipments have “declined as was to be expected given the problems that we’ve seen in the automobile industry worldwide but we’ve seen signs of recovery in this segment.”

U.S. auto sales have run at an annual rate of fewer than 10 million vehicles for each month this year, after averaging 16.8 million from 2000 through 2007. Domestic sales through June slid 33 percent for Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, Michigan and 40 percent at Detroit-based General Motors Co., which emerged from a U.S.-backed bankruptcy reorganization this year.

The Panama Canal, which connects the Pacific Ocean with the Caribbean Sea, is undergoing a $5.25 billion expansion project through 2014 to handle larger vessels. The authority has secured $2.3 billion in funding from loans from overseas banks and plans to fund the rest with cash it generates from shipping fees, said Aleman.

‘Very Flat’

Shipping traffic through the canal between October and June dropped 3 percent compared with the year-earlier period, according to Aleman. Total transits from April to June fell 6.4 percent compared with a year ago, the authority said in a statement today.

Aleman predicted traffic will “stabilize” in 2010 near this year’s levels.

“I see a very flat year, a year very similar to this year,” Aleman said. “Maybe a little bit higher, but we’re being conservative in our analysis.”

The authority in June temporarily cut reservation fees for larger vessels and eased penalties for ships that arrive late in a bid to lure more shipping companies amid the recession. Aleman said he’ll review the measures at the end of September, the original deadline, before deciding whether to extend them.

Reduced Traffic

A May increase in what the canal charges for tolls helped compensate for lower income this year from reduced traffic and the temporary drop in fees, according to Aleman. He predicts income from tolls, which accounts for about 70 percent of the authority’s total revenue, will rise 9 percent this fiscal year to about $1.44 billion.

The Panama Canal Authority will transfer some $740 million in revenue this year to the Panamanian government, up from $700 million last year, said Aleman.

The U.S. is the largest customer for the waterway, representing about 70 percent of traffic, almost a decade after it handed over the canal authority to Panama. China is the canal’s No. 2 user, the authority has said. The canal, which shortens the route for Asian goods destined for the U.S. East Coast, handles about 5 percent of the world’s seaborne freight.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrea Jaramillo in Bogota at; Eric Sabo in Panama City at

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

U.S. Developers Find Haven from Recession in Panama Project

CHICAGO, July 14 /PRNewswire/ -- During a sluggish economy here in America, real estate developers are finding a growing number of intriguing opportunities overseas. With the Wall Street Journal recently reporting a rise in unemployment in all but two states last month -- and with economists predicting it to increase even further -- the sliding economy continues to severely cripple domestic real estate development.
"The reality of what's going on is that there is no private development going on in the U.S.," says Randy Johnson, AIA, Principal of 4240 Architecture Inc., an award-winning national design firm contracted by Amble Resorts for their new Panama resort project, The Resort at Isla Palenque. "At the same time however there are exciting prospects overseas."
Properties in Panama are emerging to present those prospects to American developers. Panama enjoys one of the fastest-growing and best-managed economies in Latin America. The expansion of the Panama Canal, combined with a blossoming free trade agreement with the United States, is expected to continue to boost economic expansion and real estate development.
Founder and President of Amble Resorts, Ben Loomis, has been well-aware of the growing economy in Panama compared to the slowing economy here at home. That's why in 2007 he selected a Panama real estate project for his newest venture: The Resort at Isla Palenque. The resort will be comprised of an ecologically and culturally sensitive hotel and string of environmentally sustainable vacation homes. Amble will break ground on the eco resort project in early 2010. Loomis said of Amble, "Although the economic climate is not the only reason we chose to build our property in Panama, we were definitely attracted to the growth and stability there."
And Amble Resorts is far from alone in this sentiment. American companies are flocking to Panamanian development projects in droves. Several top-tier U.S. firms have joined forces with Amble on this new eco-tourism-focused Panama resort project. In addition to 4240 Architecture, East Bay Group, Design Workshop, and RCLCO are also among the distinguished firms teaming with Amble to take advantage of Panama real estate.
"In the last couple of years, domestic projects have fallen off dramatically," says Rick Reikenis, P.E., Principal for East Bay Group, a renowned engineering firm. "We are very excited about the possibilities in Panama and our current projects there."
About Amble Resorts
Based in Chicago, Amble Resorts develops and owns distinctive upscale hotels and resorts focused on ecologically and culturally sensitive travel experiences. Their new Panama island resort project, The Resort at Isla Palenque, is designed to be a secluded and sustainable resort community with a unique boutique hotel, ingeniously designed residences, and sumptuous amenities. For more information about Amble Resorts or their new property, Isla Palenque, visit
Artist's rendition of The Resort at Isla Palenque provided by 4240 Architecture:
Media contact: Frances Limoncelli, Marketing Manager,

This release was issued through eReleases(TM). For more information, visit

Panama Advances at Gold Cup

Blas Perez scored his third goal of the Concacaf Gold Cup, and Luis Tejada added two in the second half to send Panama through to the quarterfinals with a 4-0 victory over 10-man Nicaragua in a game played in Glendale, Ariz.

Gabriel Gomez also scored for Panama, which finished Group C play with 4 points and ensured it would advance, even if it finishes third in the group.

¶Gerardo Torrado and Miguel Sabah each scored, and Mexico beat Guadeloupe, 2-0, to win Group C in the Gold Cup without the suspended coach Javier Aguirre. Mexico will face Haiti in the quarterfinals on July 19 in Arlington, Tex. Guadeloupe, the second-place Group C finisher, will take on Costa Rica on July 19, also in Arlington. Mexico

¶Sky Blue F.C. moved into a tie for third place in Women’s Professional Soccer by beating the Boston Breakers, 2-0. Natasha Kai and Rosana scored goals. Skyblue (NYT)

Monday, July 13, 2009

U.S.-Panama, Canada-Honduras in Gold Cup Quarterfinals

How cool! My two 'home' countries in the quarter finals.

With Mexico's 2-0 win over Guadeloupe and Panama's 4-0 rout of Nicaragua in yesterday's final Gold Cup first-round doubleheader at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., the quarterfinal doubleheaders are set.

At Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday night, the United States will meet Panama in the second game, following the Canada-Honduras opener.

But the crowd for those games should be significantly smaller than the one expected at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas the next day for the first sports event at that new 80,000-seat facility.

That's because Mexico will be playing a "home" game with Haiti, following the Costa Rica-Guadeloupe game.

Gerrado Torrado and Miguel Sabah scored Mexico's goals against Guadeloupe yesterday. Luis Tejeda had two goals and Blas Perez and Gabriel Gomez one each in Panama's win.

The U.S. had to rally on a goal by Stuart Holden in the third minute of added time to tie Haiti 2-2 Saturday night in Foxborough, Mass., to clinch first place in its first-round group. Holden also assisted on a first-half goal by Davy Arnaud.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

CONCACAF Gold Cup 2009: Mexico vs. Panama

The 12-team tournament for the championship of North and Central America and the Caribbean continues with a doubleheader tonight in Houston, Texas, with Guadeloupe facing Nicaragua and Mexico vs. Panama in the nightcap.

Despite Mexico’s 2-0 victory against Nicaragua on Sunday, the squad received bitter criticism because of their disappointing performance.

Tonight, El Tri will try to notch their second win of the tournament at the Reliant Stadium. Mexico and Panama have played a total of eight times and El Tri has won six and tied twice. Panama must at least squeeze a draw against the Mexicans to stay alive.

The match kicks-off at 10:00 p.m. EDT.

You can watch Mexico vs. Panama here (free live stream). You can also check out the live online coverage of the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup at the tournament’s official website.

Noriega Wants US Supreme Court to Stop Extradition

As reported by Curt Anderson on the AP wire -

Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop his extradition to France to face money-laundering charges.

Attorneys for Noriega filed papers Tuesday seeking a Supreme Court review. Three federal judges in Miami and a federal appeals court have refused to stop the extradition. The Supreme Court will likely decide whether to hear Noriega's case in the fall.

Noriega contends that the Geneva Conventions rules for prisoners of war require that he be returned home to Panama. Noriega was declared a POW by a federal judge after his 1992 conviction on U.S. drug racketeering charges. Noriega finished serving his prison sentence in 2007.

Noriega was ousted from power after the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama.

Safety tips for the adventure tourist visiting Panama

Safety tips for the adventure tourist visiting Panama

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Anselmo Moreno retains Bantamweight Title

Anselmo Moreno of Panama has retained his World Boxing Assn. bantamweight title in Poitiers, France, with a split decision over Mahyar Monshipour of France.

Moreno (26-1-1) kept his composure Saturday as Monshipour pressured strongly between the eighth and 10th rounds. Two of the judges scored the bout 116-113 and 116-112 in favor of Moreno, while the third gave the fight to Monshipour, 115-113.

Moreno, whose only loss was in 2002, started strongly, catching Monshipour with a left hook in the first round and several sharp jabs in the second.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Earthquake shakes Panama

WASHINGTON — An earthquake measuring magnitude six shocked Panama early Saturday. There were no reports of casualties or damage, said the US Geological Survey report.

The epicenter of the tremor, which occurred at 1:49 am (0649 GMT), was located 97 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of the capital Panama City.

The reading was based on the open-ended Moment Magnitude scale, now used by US seismologists, which measures the area of the fault that ruptured and the total energy released.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ousted Honduran President Travels to Panama

01 July 2009

Deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya traveled Wednesday to Panama, after he delayed plans to return to his own country, where he faces the threat of arrest.

Mr. Zelaya is to attend the inauguration of incoming Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli.

Ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya speaks during a news conference after a meeting of the OAS in Washington, 01 Jul 2009
Ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya speaks during a news conference after a meeting of the OAS in Washington, 01 Jul 2009
The Organization of American States early Wednesday threatened to suspend Honduras from the regional grouping if the coup leaders do not restore Mr. Zelaya to power within three days.

Mr. Zelaya was planning to return to Honduras Thursday, but postponed the trip to coincide with the OAS deadline.

Authorities in the interim Honduran government, led by Roberto Micheletti, have vowed to arrest Mr. Zelaya.

Soldiers forcibly expelled Mr. Zelaya from Honduras Sunday, the day he had planned to hold a referendum on reforming the country's constitution. Critics said he wanted to alter the constitution so he could run for another term - a charge he denies.

Mr. Zelaya says when he returns to Honduras, he will be accompanied by the presidents of Argentina and Ecuador, as well as the heads of the OAS and the U.N. General Assembly.

The interim government's attorney general, Luis Alberto Rubi, says Mr. Zelaya is accused of 18 offenses, including treason and abuse of power. Foreign Minister Enrique Ortez told CNN en Espanol that he would also be charged with drug trafficking.

In an address to the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, Mr. Zelaya called his ouster undemocratic and illegal. He said he intends to finish his term, which ends next January.

There have been protests this week in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa both for and against the coup. The city is under a night-time curfew.

The United States has joined other countries and the United Nations in condemning the coup, and calling for the Honduran president to be restored to power.

Spain announced it is withdrawing its ambassador from the Central American country in protest, adding to a list of countries that have recalled their envoys. Also, the United States announced it is suspending joint military activities with Honduras.

Interim President Roberto Micheletti, appointed to the post by parliament, says the only way Mr. Zelaya will return to power is by force.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

Pro-business president takes office in Panama

PANAMA CITY (AP) — Businessman Ricardo Martinelli was sworn in as Panama's new president on Wednesday, promising to start the biggest job-creation push ever in the country.

Martinelli said he wants to make the nation of 3.3 million inhabitants the best place to do business in Latin America.

"The people have given us a clear mandate to bring change to the government, from top to bottom, and that is what we will do," Martinelli said at the ceremony attended by various foreign leaders, including Honduras' ousted president, Manuel Zelaya.

Martinelli, 57, a conservative supermarket magnate, also expressed a desire to become "an active partner" with Colombia and Mexico in the fight against drug trafficking during his five-year term.

One of the new government's proposals is a billion-dollar plan to build a train system for the capital's metropolitan area.

Martinelli's predecessor, Martin Torrijos, launched a $5.25 billion project to increase the Panama Canal's capacity and allow it to accommodate larger ships.

The canal is Panama's economic motor and Martinelli supported its expansion, but the world's economic woes have generated uncertainty over the project, which is receiving $2.3 billion in international financing.

And the country's real-estate boom, another driving force of the economy, has also been affected by the international financial crisis and economic downturn.

Martinelli acknowledged "our administration will not have the resources the previous administration had."

Latin American Construction Might Be Down, But It's Not Out

Note: Latin American Construction Might Be Down, But It's Not Out," at 2:17 GMT June 29 and repeated at 11:36 GMT June 30, misstated the market to which Levy-Yeyati was referring, in the 13th paragraph. Levy-Yeyati intended to refer to Panama, not Brazil. The correct version follows:

By Joan R. Magee

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Not too long ago, real-estate development in Latin America was hot, foreign money was flowing in, and local companies were going public as the construction industry boomed.

The global credit crisis put the brakes on that euphoria, as seen in plummeting commercial and residential expansion, though not all countries in the region have been hit the same way.

One barometer of construction and development is cement output, which is set to decrease 4.1% this year in South America from the previous year. It will fall another 1.4% in 2010, according to a Portland Cement Association report released earlier this month.

The association predicted a 1.7% global decrease in cement consumption for 2009, with growth in China and India masking declines in both developed and developing markets.

Mexico, close to the U.S. both geographically and economically, is one of the worst-hit in the aftermath of the U.S. housing implosion. The country's growth decelerated to 1.3% in 2008 from 3.2% in 2007, and the economy is expected to contract by close to 6% this year.

Mexican Finance Minister Agustin Carstens recently said demand for housing this year will likely fall 7.1% from 2008, even though available financing will be up 2.5%.

The government's National Infrastructure Program calls for public and private investment of around $40 billion a year between 2007 and 2012. And while private investment is down sharply in the current recession, public investment has filled some of the gap, thanks to counter-cyclical government spending.

Public support for infrastructure has been such that shareholders of construction firm Empresas ICA (ICA) have approved a plan to sell up to $350 million in shares to finance infrastructure projects that are already under way or ones the company plans to bid on. And Desarrolladora Homex (HXM), one of the largest Mexican home-building companies, said it expects 8% to 10% revenue growth this year.

Panama, once hyped as a hot destination for U.S. and European retirees looking for second residences, has faltered. Overall construction activity plunged 25% to $97 million in April from $130 million in April 2008, government officials said.

The slowdown follows several years of solid economic growth, buoyed in large part by the Panama Canal widening project. Fast development had even led to concerns about overbuilding among some Panamanian policy makers.

Latin America's largest economy, Brazil, has taken measures to counter a first-quarter drop in construction, which fell 9.8% in year-on-year in the first quarter.

The government recently approved $15.2 billion for low-income housing over the next 15 years, which bodes well for an uptick in growth.

"Most other markets were buttressed not by mortgage credit, but by the incomes of the middle-upper class," said Eduardo Levy-Yeyati, a director and head of emerging markets strategy at Barclays Capital.

The Brazilian economy shrank for a second straight quarter in the first quarter of this year, although the government still has hopes for modest growth in all of 2009, following 5.1% expansion in 2008.

And the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament, though somewhat in the distance, will span 12 cities in Brazil and spur more development.

Brazil's government is already pouring money into World Cup infrastructure, from new hotels to stadiums, in preparation for the waves of tourists to come.

"Construction will weaken as in a typical recession, but will not tank as in the U.S., the U.K. or Spain," Barclays' Levy-Yeyati said.

Indeed, Portland Cement Association predicts cement output in South America will rise 6.9% from 2010 by 2011, auguring a turnaround in the near future.

-By Joan R. Magee, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2672;