July 31, 2018 / 4:17 PM / 4 months ago

Carlos Slim sees no threat to Mexican business from leftist's election

MADRID (Reuters) - Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim said on Tuesday he sees no risks to his telecoms-to-banking empire from the new left-wing government of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a self-styled radical who clashed with business leaders before his election this month.

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim looks on during a news conference in Mexico City, Mexico, April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Slim, whose America Movil owns Mexico’s largest telecommunications network, said he had not met with Lopez Obrador, whose landslide victory put him on a path to take office on Dec. 1.

Asked at an event in Madrid whether he thought Lopez Obrador, a social activist and economic nationalist, posed a risk to his business, Slim said, “No, risks, no.”

“He is proposing, planning important investments before he has even started, which is unusual,” Slim said, singling out expected projects in trains, roads and energy.

“Maybe he is looking to have a more sober and austere government, reducing costs substantially and focusing on the internal sector of the economy more.”

Slim played down a tussle over plans to build a $13-billion airport for Mexico City, a project for which Slim’s companies hold lucrative contracts but which Lopez Obrador has rejected as a waste of taxpayer money.

“It was a relative disagreement,” Slim said, adding the president-elect had proposed that the best option to finance the project might be through a concession.

The group overseeing the airport’s construction said last week that four contract tenders had been suspended while Lopez Obrador decides on the project’s future.

Slim called for more investment in Mexico and other Central American countries, suggesting that trade deals - such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), due for re-negotiation between the United States, Canada and Mexico - should include an investment pact.

A lack of investment and job opportunities was the reason for migration from Mexico, which has prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to call for a border wall, Slim said.

“The best wall is investment and creating opportunities in Mexico,” Slim said. “Mexicans don’t leave because they go to Disneyland or because they visit New York, they leave because they don’t find opportunities.”

Additional reporting by Miguel Gutierrez; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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