November 4, 2015 / 2:16 AM / 4 years ago

Cuba seeks $8.2 billion in foreign investment for 326 projects

HAVANA, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Cuba is seeking $8.2 billion of foreign investment in 326 projects ranging from the production of rum to an entirely new venture creating high definition, pay-per-view television.

Foreign Trade Minister Rodrigo Malmierca unveiled the ready-made investment opportunities, officially called the portfolio, at the 33rd annual Havana International Fair (FIHAV).

Forty of the 246 projects advertised on last year’s wish list are in “advanced negotiations” and have been removed from this year’s portfolio, Malmierca said.

This year’s catalogue has 80 more projects than last year’s, but the total value is $500 million less.

The projects form part of Cuba’s attempt to bring in at least $2 billion in foreign direct investment a year. Malmierca reported Cuba has signed 36 deals since a new foreign investment law was approved last year, including six at the special development zone around the port of Mariel, but did not say how much they were worth.

While most of the newly signed projects are joint ventures with the Cuban state, an unspecified number were financed with 100 percent foreign capital, Malmierca said.

He also promoted Communist Cuba’s small but growing private sector in an effort to show the country was modernizing.

“We realize, I repeat, that the private sector, cooperatives, and other forms of property and management, have a space within our future development model,” Malmierca said.

The portfolio includes new opportunities in healthcare, tourism, transportation, construction, agriculture and renewable energy.

Also added to the list were two projects to make and distribute rum, one of Cuba’s signature products.

One is a $27 million joint venture for the obscure Perla del Norte brand for export and national consumption. The other is a similar $44 million joint venture for the more common Cuban brand.

There’s also a $6 million project for installing high-definition paid television channels on the national broadcaster.

Five high-end hotel and villa construction joint ventures and 59 lodging management contracts are available, as well as the construction or expansion of seven marinas.

Cuba once relied heavily on trade with the Soviet bloc, which later collapsed. Even though Cuba trades with 75 countries and trade has tripled in the last decade, it relies heavily on socialist ally Venezuela, which is struggling with an economic crisis.

Malmierca stressed Cuba’s desire to diversify.

“Under no circumstance, even without the embargo, do we want to go back to being dependent on one market,” he said. (Reporting by Jaime Hamre; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Ken Wills)

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