* Miner interested in Riviera Maya airport, Pacific port
* Company started as construction firm, moved into mining
* New investments at largest Mexico mine stalled by strike
By Mica Rosenberg
MEXICO CITY, May 25 Grupo Mexico is pushing to
expand its construction business by eyeing a bid for a new
international airport near Cancun and a major Pacific ocean
port, reaching beyond its core mining and railroad operations.
Billions of dollars of investment at Cananea, Grupo
Mexico's largest copper mine in Mexico, have been put on hold
by a nearly 3-year long strike.
The company (GMEXICOB.MX), which runs copper mines in
Mexico, Peru and the United States, is choosing to funnel new
investments to other mining projects while planning to grow its
construction arm, company executives told Reuters recently.
"We are interested in expanding our infrastructure and
construction business in areas of ports, airports and all the
types of infrastructure that is linked to our principal
businesses: the railroad and the mines," Juan Rebolledo, vice
president of international relations, said in an interview.
In a big departure from previous projects, Grupo Mexico is
considering involvement in the construction and operation of a
new international airport south of the tourist hot spot of
Cancun, on Mexico's Caribbean ocean.
"Yes, of course (we're interested), but there is nothing
defined yet," Rebolledo said of the airport project.
The government in mid-November will start to accept bids
for the "Riviera Maya" airport, which will be located in Tulum,
popular for white sand beaches and Mayan ruins.
"We will not necessarily do it alone, we will probably do
it with others," he said without naming partners.
Airport operators Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste
(ASURB.MX), Grupo Aeroportuario del Centro Norte (OMAB.MX) and
Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico (GAPB.MX) (PAC.N) have
expressed interest in the project and the winner could be
announced in December, Deputy Transport Minister Humberto
Trevino told local media this month.
Grupo Mexico has experience building dams, hydro-electric
plants, railroads, tunnels and mining installations through
four fully-owned subsidiaries, although the division is still
small compared to the mining and transportation arms.
"The capital expenditures between Grupo Mexico's divisions
are not comparable. The mining division alone will spend $2.8
billion in the coming years, while the airport project on the
Riviera Maya is estimated at less than $250 million," Pablo
Peregrina, an analyst at BBVA Bancomer, said.
Peregrina said given Grupo Mexico's relative inexperience
with airports it is unlikely to win the Riviera Maya bid.
But the airport is not the company's only major target.
Grupo Mexico is also looking at a large container port project,
said Jorge Pulido, head of Grupo Mexico's investor relations.
The port, planned for Punta Colonet on the Baja California
peninsula near the U.S. border, would handle up to 6 million
containers per year and is considered one of President Felipe
Calderon's top infrastructure proposals, but it has been long
postponed as the government decides how to launch the tender.
Pulido said Grupo Mexico is currently building just one
public-works project: two tunnels to help prevent flooding
along the Grijalva River in southeastern Mexico for the Federal
The tunnels, which cost $569.4 million pesos ($43.75
million), were set to be completed in July of this year.
Grupo Mexico started out as a construction company in 1942
and began focusing on specialized projects for the mining
industry around 1960 before buying outright the mines where it
was working. The company also operates railroads in Mexico.
"The possible participation of Grupo Mexico in
infrastructure projects we think responds to a need to find
other sources of income, rather than replacing the (lost) sales
from Cananea," Peregrina said.
(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Richard Chang)