Exclusive: Slim in talks with Spanish firms for bid on $3.5 billion Mexico airport terminal - sources

MEXICO CITY/MADRID (Reuters) - Tycoon Carlos Slim’s construction arm is in talks with his majority-owned construction firm FCC and rival Spanish builder Acciona to jointly bid on a coveted $3.5 billion (2.87 billion pounds) Mexico City airport terminal project, five people familiar with the matter said.

Workers are seen at the construction site of a new International airport at Texcoco, on the outskirts of Mexico City, Mexico October 25, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Carso Infraestructura y Construccion, part of Slim’s Grupo Carso, is hashing out a deal to form the consortium, which would include three other Mexican companies - all its partners from a winning bid for one of the airport’s runways, four of the people said in recent days, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The bid for the terminal, hot on the heels of Carso’s runway bid, shows how Slim, Mexico’s wealthiest man, is aggressively moving to boost his construction business as his telecoms arm America Movil is squeezed by increased competition and regulation.

The futuristic airport building was designed by Slim’s son-in-law Fernando Romero and British architect Norman Foster.

It would anchor a $13 billion airport aimed at turning Mexico City into a regional hub, expected to serve 68 million passengers a year when it begins operating in 2020.

Carso, together with the construction unit of Mexico’s Grupo Hermes and builders Constructora Y Edificadora GIA+A (GIA), and Promotora y Desarrolladora Mexicana, S.A. de C.V. (Prodemex), clinched the runway project last month with a bid worth 7.36 billion pesos ($396 million).

One of the sources said the Carso-led bidding consortium was close to being finalised. Proposals are due next month. Another source said that the companies were eyeing equal stakes for the members of the consortium.

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An Acciona spokesman said the Spanish builder was analyzing the operation, adding that the bidding consortiums were still being formed.

FCC and Carso declined to comment.

Hermes, Prodemex, GIA did not respond to requests for comment.

In June, Spanish regulators approved Slim’s takeover of FCC, which has been dealing with high debts following a 2008 property market crash that sent thousands of the country’s developers to the wall and brought the firm close to bankruptcy.

Clinching the project is far from certain. Reuters reported in August that debt-laden Mexican builder ICA is in final talks to bid with Spanish firms Ferrovial, Dragados, a unit of Spain’s Grupo ACS and GP Construccion, a Monterrey-based company, to build the terminal.

Ferrovial is well placed to make the winning bid after clinching a 2010 contract to build a terminal at London’s Heathrow Airport for around 800 million pounds.

Ferrovial’s Spanish rivals also have experience; Sacyr, FCC, Acciona, Ferrovial and Dragados completed construction of the Madrid-Barajas Airport Terminal 4 in 2006 for more than 4 billion euros.

The bidding groups remain in flux, with two sources saying ICA could join the Carso-led consortium in a decision that could be reached by next week.

The Mexican airport project has survived steep budget cuts to confront declining oil revenues, including the cancellation of two passenger train projects last year.

One of the train projects, won by a Chinese-led consortium that included Gia and Prodemex, became a major scandal for Pena Nieto after it emerged that another consortium member, Grupo Higa, owned a luxury home the first lady was acquiring.

Additional reporting by Robert Hetz in Madrid; Editing by Christian Plumb and Lisa Shumaker