Expansion-dispute talks continue

The Panama Canal Authority continued informal talks with a Spanish-led consortium Monday, seeking to resolve a $1.6 billion cost-overrun dispute that has threatened to halt the biggest part of the project to expand the canal.

The consortium, led by Spain’s Sacyr Vallehermoso, had given a Sunday deadline for the authority to come up with funds or face a work stoppage. But the project continued at the same 25 to 30 percent activity level it has seen since the conflict arose in November, said Jorge Quijano, the canal administrator.

The canal authority rejected an offer by the European Union to mediate its dispute with the mostly European construction consortium, which is called United for the Canal.

The contract for completing the third set of locks includes mechanisms to resolve disputes, and none involve third parties, the authority wrote in an e-mail responding to questions from the Associated Press.

The canal-building group said in a brief statement Sunday that a stoppage “is not a scenario being considered at this moment.”

The Panama Canal Authority has said the contract allows the consortium to stop work only if the agreed monthly payments by the authority are not disbursed, which has not happened.

The project, three-fourths complete, would double the capacity of the 50-mile canal, which carries 5 to 6 percent of world commerce.

Many experts say the root of the conflict lies in the consortium’s underestimation of the project’s costs when it won the canal expansion contract in 2009 by submitting by far the lowest bid: $3.1 billion for its portion of the job, $1 billion less than a bid led by U.S. construction giant Bechtel.

— Associated Press

Anheuser to buy back Korean brewery

Anheuser-Busch InBev is re­acquiring Oriental Brewery, South Korea’s leading brewery, for $5.8 billion.

Belgium-based AB InBev sold the brewery in 2009 for $1.8 billion to cut its debt following its acquisition of St. Louis-based Anheuser Busch. Oriental Brewery, maker of Cass beer, has an exclusive license to distribute AB InBev brands, including Budweiser, Corona and Hoegaarden, in South Korea.

AB InBev said it will close on the purchase from private-equity firms KKR and Affinity Equity Partners in the first half of 2014.

“OB will strengthen our position in the fast-growing Asia Pacific region and will become a significant contributor to our Asia Pacific Zone,” AB InBev chief executive Carlos Brito said in a statement.

Beer volumes in South Korea grew 2 percent from 2009 to 2012, and premium beers grew 10 percent annually.

AB InBev’s purchase of Oriental Brewery is its largest acquisition since its $20.1 billion purchase last year of the half of Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo it didn’t already own.

— St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Coming Today