Mexico Group With Slim, ICA Said to Drop Joint Airport Bid

A group of Mexican builders led by Empresas ICA SAB abandoned plans for a joint bid to work on Mexico City’s new $11 billion airport as the government seeks to attract foreign contractors, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Some of the companies may pursue contracts on their own with the breakup of the team, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the details are private. The guidelines for the bidding process probably will be published in February, the person said.

In proposing to join forces on an airport intended to ease the capital’s chronic delays, the group amassed some of Mexico’s biggest names in building. ICA is the nation’s largest construction company, and one of the other participants was Grupo Carso SAB, which is controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim.

Since the team initially came together in December 2013, Mexico’s government has signaled interest in participants from abroad as well as local contractors. Communications and Transportation Minister Gerardo Ruiz Esparza touched on that theme in September after the government committed to the project, saying he wanted to see bidders with experience on airports of the same scope as Mexico City’s.

‘International Stature’

“There will surely be companies of international stature because we require that those who carry it out, especially the key projects, give us certainty and guarantees of their technical capacity,” Esparza told newspaper El Universal.

A lack of government support for the all-Mexico consortium helped spur the dissolution of the group, the two people said.

Rodolfo Gonzalez, a spokesman for the Communications and Transportation Ministry, declined to comment when asked about the collapse of the bidding group. Grupo Carso also declined in a statement to discuss the issue, as did ICA, which also said by e-mail that it’s interested in participating in the airport project.

The airport is a rare bright spot for Mexican construction companies with the government’s announcement Friday that it’s pulling the plug on Mexico’s first high-speed rail line and a Yucatan passenger train. Work on the airport will continue, Finance Minister Luis Videgaray said at a press conference.

ICA rose 2.1 percent to 15.57 pesos at the close in Mexico City, reversing an earlier decline. Grupo Carso fell 2.8 percent to 65.57 pesos.

Team’s Origins

The Mexican builders group originally consisted of nine companies that signed a memorandum of understanding about a joint airport bid in 2013 and made it public last year. ICA’s initial stake in the group was 18 percent, while Grupo Carso’s portion was 11 percent. Some smaller companies joined after the team’s creation.

Also holding 11 percent was Grupo Higa’s Constructora Teya unit, one of the bidders in a China-led group that won a $4 billion contract last year to build the high speed rail line. The government later canceled the award, and Mexican news outlets then disclosed that Grupo Higa had built a home for the wife of President Enrique Pena Nieto.

The new airport is being designed by London-based architect Norman Foster and Slim’s son-in-law, Fernando Romero. The facility is to be built east of the current airport and operator Grupo Aeroportuario de la Ciudad de Mexico has said it should be ready in 2020.

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