Billionaire Carlos Slim Hel? recently sat down for a two-hour conversation with Mexico City Bureau Chief Geri Smith. Here are excerpts:
On whether he's a monopolist:
On the one hand, people in the government say I'm a monopolist, and on the other hand, people say the government is protecting me. Being a monopoly is different from being a dominant player. You're a monopoly if you're alone in the market. If there are five or six wireless competitors, you can't say we're a monopoly. There's always one dominant operator in a country. If people are going to say Am?rica M?vil [Slim's cellular carrier] is a horrific monopoly in Mexico, then they're just stupid. If you charged more than others, you'd never get to be dominant. We've simply done a better job than some international competitors.
On what to do about Mexican state oil company Pemex, which pays virtually all its revenues to the government:
Pemex should have operational autonomy and should be taken out of the government's budget. With oil prices as high as they are now, it would have all the money it needed [to replace its shrinking reserves]. I don't think Pemex needs to be privatized.
On opportunities for infrastructure investments in Latin America:
Billions of dollars of investment are needed. Mexico alone needs to invest $40 billion to $50 billion a year, including the oil sector, ports, water, and housing.
On whether Mexico should tax capital gains on stock investments:
I personally would not be averse to [a capital-gains tax].
On his sons' role in his businesses:
When you leave your children a company, you are leaving them a big responsibility and a commitment. You don't want to leave them money, you want to leave them with a commitment.