COLOMBO/HONG KONG, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Hong Kong's Hutchison Whampoa Ltd <0013.HK> and Singapore's PSA International [PSA.UL] are the top contenders to win Sri Lanka's Colombo South Harbour terminal project, a ports official said on Wednesday.
Tenders to develop and expand the terminal, which will have a capacity of 2.4 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs), closed last week.
After reviewing proposals from four bidders, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) said the competition was between Hutchison Port Holding (HPH), the world's biggest port operator, and a consortium headed by No.2 ranked PSA and local partner Aitken Spence .
''Definitely the race is between the PSA and HPH. Others are out as their bids are very low,'' said Nalin Aponso, deputy chief manager for communication and PR at the SLPA, without revealing any bidding amounts.
Other bidders included Hayleys and John Keels .
The SLPA also denied claims by Aitken Spence on Friday that its consortium had submitted the highest bid for the project.
''They (Aitken Spence-PSA) can't claim as the highest bidder. Until the evaluation process is over, nobody could claim as the highest bidder,'' Aponso said.
''We will not give the project for anybody for just quoting highest amount in the bid, as there are other criteria also to be considered.'' The SLPA is considering a minimum throughput guarantee, income from container handling and other terms during the evaluation, which is to be finalised in three weeks.
Earlier, Hutchison denied a Sri Lanka newspaper report that HPH was the second-highest bidder, offering 2 million for the project.
''We want to point out HPH's bid price for the project being quoted as 2 million in the media was incorrect,'' it said in an e-mail reply to Reuters, without giving its bidding price.
Hutchison is the world's biggest port operator and its unit HPH has operating rights in 45 ports around the world, while PSA operates 26 port projects in 15 countries across Asia, Europe and the Americas, with a global capacity of 111 million TEUs over 66km of quay length. ((Reporting by Shihar Aneez, editing by Lincoln Feast; Colombo newsroom; Email:reuterscolombozgmail.com; Tel: +94-11-237-5903; editing by Lincoln Feast)) REUTERS SI DS1653