Public-private partnerships market in Chile
Canadian exports to Chile in 2020 totalled Can$950 million. Canadian direct investment in Chile during 2020 reached Can$5.15 billion. Chile’s pioneering concessions system has had huge success in attracting private investment in public infrastructure throughout Latin America. Since its system was launched, in 1992, Chile has awarded more than 98 projects (78 in operation) under the public-private partnership (P3) model, accumulating over Can$30.3 billion of private investment. Chile’s P3 system is managed by the Ministry of Public Works (MOP), Concessions Department (in Spanish only). Intercity and urban highways account for about 73% of the total; other projects include public transport infrastructure, prisons, hospitals and airports. As a result, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has consistently highlighted Chile’s ability to implement P3s for large-scale, public works projects.
Chile’s P3 agenda
The Chilean government is currently delivering its infrastructure plan for 2021-2025. The plan promotes infrastructure concessions with a combined value of Can$19 billion. The government’s concessions portfolio has 53 projects, including building:
- orbital roads
- cable cars
- public buildings
- a stadium
Canadian presence in Chile already accounts for more than Can$2.5 billion of materialised investment in local public infrastructure firms; projects include an urban highway, water utility and energy-related activity.
Upcoming projects for 2021-2025
In the MOP’s P3 project pipeline for 2021-2022 there are 28 projects:
- 14 interurban highways (7 new and 7 re-tenders)
- 6 hospitals
- 4 airports
- 1 dam
- 1 tramway
- 1 cable car, among others
For 2023-2025, 25 projects will be tendered for a total of Can$8.3 billion, including prison infrastructure, airports and dams.
As a result of delivering this concessions plan, infrastructure investment will increase 30% in 2021. Projections show an average investment of Can$4.4 billion per year for the next 5 years.
COVID-19 reactivation plan
To boost economic activity and job creation, President Sebastián Piñera announced and implemented in August 2020 a Can$5.7-billion additional investment plan for the next 2 years. MOP investments include:
- Can$1.9 billion for work on 7,500 km of roads
- Can$426 million for water infrastructure
- Can$391 million for 41 rural potable water systems
- Can$204 million for runway maintenance at 10 airports
- Can$102 million for 20 port projects
- Can$37 million for management plans for nine rivers
For details, see Chile's reactivation plan (in Spanish, only).
Since 2019, Chile’s MOP has been delivering a Can$13‑billion investment plan to develop hospital infrastructure. Of 75 hospital projects, 18 hospitals will be executed under a P3 model, requiring Can$3.2 billion in investments and expected to be under construction by 2022 or 2023.
In response to Chile’s transport infrastructure deficit, the government is delivering its public transport infrastructure plan, which comprises purchasing urban cable cars, building suburban railways and subway expansions. The Ministry of Transport continues to develop a Can$1.8‑billion investment in the new large-scale port in San Antonio. The forthcoming tender process to renovate 50% of Santiago’s bus system routes, the Plan Transporte Tercer Milenio (third millennium transport plan), will now have only 10 service units, with operators managing 300 buses each.
President Piñera’s government announced a plan to use a P3 model to build the Santiago-Valparaíso high-speed train, a Can$2‑billion private initiative. Chile’s railway company (EFE) is also advancing a Can$7‑billion Chile Sobre Rieles (Chile on rails) program, which is considered key for the country’s post-pandemic recovery.
The MOP’s spending program provides timely and tangible opportunities for Canadian companies interested in exploring P3 opportunities in Chile. Interested Canadian engineering design and consulting firms, general contractors, operating and maintenance companies, urban planners and architects, institutional investors and private equity firms may all pursue these projects (including brownfield investments for those that are looking for stable and long-term profits).
Unsolicited proposal (UP) projects are growing steadily as a way to develop public infrastructure in Chile. Since 1992, 23 projects have been successfully tendered. Between 2019 and 2021, at least 25 new UPs were submitted to MOP for public interest assessment.
The main challenge facing Canadians interested in entering Chile’s market is the strong competition for large projects from local and other foreign companies. There has been a growing interest in Chile from Chinese consortiums, who are commercially aggressive and successful in Latin America. The Chilean government promotes competition as part of their mandate; therefore, Canadian participants should know that they will be competing against at least 5 to 10 other consortiums (particularly during the prequalification phase). Canadian firms should offer long-term financing capabilities as part of their package.
Canadian companies interested in participating in Chile’s public infrastructure market will need to find reliable and competitive local partners (which may include Canadian engineering companies already established in Chile and active in the mining sector). Interested companies should have a good track record, proven experience and tangible financial capabilities (that is, equity and credit worthiness). International experience and local presence are also desirable. As well, international joint ventures can facilitate third-country market opportunities.
The MOP continues to improve Chile’s concession system. The objective is to reduce the costs involved (risk distribution) in obtaining environmental permits (known as RCAs) and to speed up preliminary studies (particularly for UPs). For additional information, please contact Patricio Canete, Patricio.Canete@international.gc.ca.
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