Mexico to tender $1.6 bln in highway projects

HIDALGO, Mexico, June 15 (Reuters) - Mexico plans to tender five projects worth $1.6 billion this year to build hundreds of miles of highways, the government said on Monday, part of an infrastructure program meant to help counter a deep recession.

The projects along the Pacific coast and northwest Mexico could involve Mexican building companies ICA ICA.MX and Ideal IDEALB1.MX, which is controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim, Deputy Transport Minister Oscar de Buen told reporters.

“There are five tenders going,” he said during a tour of a new highway close to the capital. “Ideal is participating, ICA is participating.”

De Buen said the government has earmarked 50 billion pesos ($3.73 billion) this year for highway construction and maintenance, of which 16 billion pesos ($1.19 billion) has already been spent.

He said banks including Spain's Santander SAN.MC and Mexico's Banorte GFNORTEO.MX were involved in the projects.

Hit by slumping demand from U.S. consumers, Mexico’s economy is seen shrinking around 6 percent this year and the government has launched an infrastructure construction program to boost employment.

The deep economic slump and tight lending conditions have forced other infrastructure projects, like the plan to build the $5 billion Punta Colonet port on the Baja California peninsula, to be postponed or downsized.

Editing Bernard Orr $1 = 13.40 pesos