Construction firms eye Peru as graft scandal leaves void -govt


Construction companies from around the world have expressed interest in operating in Peru after a vast graft scandal ensnared some of the country's biggest builders, the finance minister said on Thursday.

Dismissing concerns that a lack of qualified companies might complicate the government's promised infrastructure boom, Alfredo Thorne said more than two dozen companies have recently approached his ministry to discuss investment opportunities.

"We haven't had to do much to attract new companies, they've come to us," Thorne told a press conference where he announced plans to build 150,000 new public housing units.

Thorne declined to name any of the companies interested in bidding on projects in Peru.

"Many of these companies - unfortunately, due to corruption in public work projects - weren't able to take part in past public tenders," Thorne said. "Today we're clearing the way for them to participate."

Peru is one of Latin America's fastest-growing economies, but a graft scandal involving Brazilian companies has prompted the government to slash its 2017 growth forecast by one percentage point to 3.8 percent.

He said a new package of measures to stimulate growth, including an additional 5.5 billion soles ($1.67 billion) for public investments, might help the economy grow by more than 4 percent this year.

"We're absolutely certain we'll be able to get over this bump in the road, for us it's a great opportunity to fight corruption while bringing total transparency to the economy," Thorne said.

The government of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski barred Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht from participating in future public work bids after the company admitted in late December that it distributed $29 million in bribes in Peru. New bidding rules will also exclude other companies that have been found to be involved in corruption.

Odebrecht has promised to provide details on its kickback schemes in Peru as other Brazilian builders and Peru's biggest construction group, Grana y Montero, face allegations of involvement.

(Reporting By Mitra Taj; Editing by Andrew Hay)