UPDATE 2-Mexico near energy reform deal but presentation delayed
(New throughout, updates with comments from lawmakers, negotiation sticking points)
MEXICO CITY Dec 6 (Reuters) - Mexican senators on Friday were near agreement on offering private companies lucrative contracts providing them a share of oil production, but presentation of the draft constitutional reform was delayed to allow details to be hammered out.
Officials said Senate committees could unveil the reform at the weekend and start debating one of the cornerstones of President Enrique Pena Nieto's economic reform drive on Monday.
State monopoly Pemex dominates Mexico's oil industry, which was nationalized in 1938. The government wants to attract private investment to revitalize crude output, down 25 percent from its peak in 2004. But any full-blown concessions to private companies would draw fierce opposition from many in Mexico, where the oil industry is a source of national pride.
The ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has been at loggerheads with the conservative National Action Party (PAN) on details of the reform, with the PAN pushing for contractual schemes including licenses and the production-sharing contracts favored by oil companies.
Lawmakers, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the meeting could be moved to the weekend.
PAN Senator Jose Rosas Aispuro, vice president of the upper chamber, told Reuters lawmakers were nearing positions on the idea of production-sharing licenses, and were still haggling over how deep the energy sector opening should be.
He said there were also differences over issues regarding union representation, which affects the autonomy of state oil monopoly Pemex.
An aide for a PRI senator also said discussions were leaning toward license-style contracts, and said lawmakers were also discussing to what extent national industry would be favored by the reform, as the PAN demands.
It was not clear how companies would be paid. PRI Chairman Cesar Camacho insists that payment in oil is off the table, and a senior PRI lawmaker who asked not to be named said negotiations aimed to create space for companies to participate across the chain of production and commercialization. It would also allow companies to book the monetary value of reserves without legally owning them.
However, PAN's Aispuro said that under the contracts companies would be paid not in money, but with "pure oil".
One PRI senate aide said that sticking point was still being worked out.
"We're working on what the proper scheme for contracts would be," the aide said on condition of anonymity, given sensitivity over the discussions. "Being as flexible as possible on the contracting side, without going all the way to concessions."
In July, the PAN proposed a constitutional reform that would allow more lucrative concessions but a month later President Enrique Pena Nieto proposed more limited profit-sharing contracts.
The leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) opposes opening the sector to private companies, and last week pulled out of talks over the reform. Many observers expect this decision to push Pena Nieto's party toward a more market-oriented bill to win support from the conservative opposition.
Pena Nieto says the overhaul is needed to lure more private investment to lift flagging oil output in Latin America's No. 2 economy.
Late on Thursday, Aispuro told Reuters his party was considering backing off its demand for full-blown concessions, which critics say is tantamount to privatization.
"We are not wed to the word (concession)," Aispuro said in a telephone interview. "We talked earlier about the possibility of concessions, but they can be partnership contracts or licenses. That's what we're negotiating."
"We feel the word concession is a more aggressive term and society could think it means something closer to privatization, which is not at all the idea," he added. "Licenses are a kind of permit the state gives out, and the state retains the power to cancel that kind of contract at any time."
Aispuro said that in legal terms the licenses, like concessions, would allow companies them to keep part of what they extract. The plan would also allow companies to book reserves, an important factor for oil companies which may not have been possible under the profit-sharing contracts Pena Nieto proposed in August.
Enrique Burgos, a PRI senator who leads the committee overseeing constitutional issues, said on Thursday the reform would encompass elements from all the parties' proposals before committees begin to debate it.
"I expect it to include the different options," he said.
Mexico's lower house on Thursday gave general approval to an electoral reform the PAN has demanded as a condition for its support in pushing through the energy bill.
Long the dominant force in Mexican politics, the PRI lacks a majority in Congress and needs PAN support to pass the energy bill. (Additional reporting by Miguel Gutierrez, Michael O'Boyle, David Alire Garcia and Ana Isabel Martinez; Editing by Simon Gardner and Doina Chiacu)