Mexican billionaire Slim vows to invest in Mexico, touting economic prospects

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By Julia Love and Daina Beth Solomon

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim said on Wednesday that he expects to invest up to $5 billion in Mexican infrastructure during the current administration as he delivered a full-throated endorsement of the economy despite investor jitters.

Speaking at a news conference in Mexico City, Slim said he is “100% in agreement” with the goals of leftist Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, whose economic policies have spooked ratings agencies and investors since his six-year term began in December.

Slim and Lopez Obrador, who have collaborated since the politician’s time as Mexico City mayor in the early 2000s, appeared to be at odds after Lopez Obrador pulled the plug on a $13 billion new airport project in which Slim was heavily involved.

But Slim, in remarks delivered in the offices of his Grupo Financiero Inbursa, gave no hint of animosity.

Amid calls from Lopez Obrador to improve connectivity in rural Mexico, Slim said his telecom companies have already ratcheted up investment. Telecom investments in the country will total 40 billion pesos ($2.08 billion) per year, Slim said.

Slim’s telecoms giant, America Movil (MX:), has also been in touch with the governments of Guatemala and El Salvador about boosting investment there, the businessman said.

Slim also offered a glimpse of investments in other parts of his business portfolio, saying he plans to spend 20 billion pesos per year on energy and 12 billion pesos per year on real estate. Infrastructure investments will total more than 100 billion pesos if the company is awarded contracts on the administration’s major projects, he added.

He singled out the planned Mayan Train, which would connect tourist hotspots in southeastern Mexico, as one attractive target.

“We will compete, but we don’t know what we will win and what we will lose,” Slim said.

Although he predicted that the Mexican economy would not grow this year, Slim was bullish on the investment climate in his home country, predicting that gains in the minimum wage and social aid programs would boost consumption.

“There is no slowdown, not just for us but for the market,” he said. “There’s lots of projects and lots of money.”

Despite his supportive words for Lopez Obrador, the 79-year-old magnate demurred when asked what grade he would give the politician for the start of his administration.

“I’m not a rater of presidents,” he quipped.

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