Colombia extended the bid-submission deadline for the first projects in its 47 trillion peso ($23 billion) road-building program, after builders struggled to line up financial backers.

The government infrastructure agency ANI said in an e-mail yesterday it will extend next week’s deadline by four weeks to March 7, after banks said they needed more time to evaluate bidders’ requests for loans. The ANI had earlier set a Feb. 7 deadline for proposals on the first project, a road from Puerto Salgar to Girardot in central Colombia that’s estimated to cost about 1.5 trillion pesos including construction, operation and maintenance.

Builders are trying to adjust to Colombia’s new rules for awarding and financing road projects, after the country stopped its prior practice of making upfront payments that had led to allegations of corruption and inefficiency. The government has said the new program’s first nine projects totaling about 11 trillion pesos ($5.5 billion) will be awarded in the first half of this year.

“The financing was always going to complicate it given the enormity of the projects,” Rupert Stebbings, managing director of equities and research at Bancolombia SA, said in an e-mailed reply to questions. “Investors in the companies in the sector as well as the wider population will perhaps feel a little exasperated at yet another delay.”

The Colombian banking association Asobancaria requested the delay about 10 days ago, Economic Vice President Daniel Castellanos said in an interview yesterday in Bogota. Without the extension, some bidders may have been unable to complete their proposals, which require a financing plan, he said.

Development Bank

“We knew there were a significant amount of bidders that at the last minute had been going to the banks and asking for credit lines,” Castellanos said. “They only found out the terms of the contracts a short time before, and some potential bidders had been waiting to see the conditions.”

Colombian construction company Conconcreto SA (CONCONC) has gained 4.5 percent this year in Bogota, leading gains among builders in Colombia’s 40-member Coleqty index, which has fallen 9.7 percent. Construcciones El Condor SA (ELCONDOR), which is one of 10 builders approved to bid for the Puerto Salgar-Girardot project, has gained 1.5 percent. Brazil’s Constructora Andrade Gutierrez SA also is on the list.

Under Colombia’s new program, road builders would have to bear 20 percent to 25 percent of the cost of projects, much of that in the “pre-building phase” including land purchases, Clemente del Valle, president of the Colombian development bank Fondo de Desarrollo Nacional, said yesterday in an interview.

Multilateral Agencies

Banks that in the past lent directly to builders now probably will lend against the projects, del Valle said. The development bank, known as FDN, plans to provide subordinated loans to the projects — for as much as 15 percent of the total cost — to alleviate the builders’ equity burden while giving banks a bigger cushion against any losses, he said.

“Our role is to help mobilize the funds,” del Valle said. The development bank’s contribution will “enhance” the attractiveness of the projects to senior lenders.

The development bank is in talks with multilateral agencies including CAF, a Latin American development bank, and the World Bank’s International Finance Corp. to provide additional financing, del Valle said.

FDN, created last year, has about $200 million of government-contributed funds and hopes to get about $160 million this year from CAF and IFC, he said. Next year FDN expects $300 million to $400 million more from the government and multilateral agencies, he said.

The agencies also might provide direct dollar-based loans to the builders, he said.