Mexico Said Set to Announce New Capital Airport Due in 2018

Aug 28, 2014 4:57 pm ET

(Updates with analyst’s comment in fourth paragraph.)

Aug. 28 (Bloomberg) -- President Enrique Pena Nieto is poised to announce a new, larger airport for Mexico City that would open in 2018 to end persistent delays at Latin America’s busiest hub, people with direct knowledge of the plan said.

The project may be unveiled next week, possibly as soon as Pena Nieto’s Sept. 2 state of the nation speech, said three people, who asked not to be identified because details aren’t public. They said it initially would have at least three runways, one more than the current Benito Juarez International.

Pena Nieto’s commitment to the plan, with its promise of more passenger capacity, would cap months of deliberations on how to ease air-traffic congestion in the capital. The new airport probably will be the biggest public-works effort of his six-year term, with a previous government estimate of an investment of 120 billion pesos ($9.2 billion).

“The airport is urgent,” said Bernardo Velez, an analyst at brokerage Corporativo GBM SAB in Mexico City. “It’s very positive that it would only take four years. That’s very quick.”

The site is within a few kilometers of Benito Juarez International, east of Mexico City’s center, according to two people, who said the project eventually would force the closing of the existing airport. The land between Mexico City and the nearby city of Texcoco would have room for expansion, and the runways eventually may double to six, two people said.

ICA, Slim

The 2018 target date would be Pena Nieto’s last year in office. Empresas ICA SAB, Mexico’s largest construction company, and Grupo Carso SAB, which is controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim, are standing by to vie for the work, according to the Mexican Construction Industry Chamber trade group.

Rodolfo Gonzalez, a spokesman for the Communications and Transportation Ministry, declined to comment about the government’s airport planning. Messages left for comment with Mexico City-based ICA and a spokesman for Slim weren’t immediately returned.

The construction plan is being spurred by congestion at Benito Juarez International, which led Latin American airports in takeoffs and landings and handled a record 31.5 million passengers last year.

After months of planning, Mexico abandoned an attempt to build a $3 billion airport near the location of the proposed new facility in 2002 when farmers seeking to protect their land staged machete-wielding demonstrations.

Focus Elsewhere

The current project has languished until now as the 48- year-old Pena Nieto focused on opening up the oil and gas industry to more private investment, boosting competition among telecommunications companies and overhauling the nation’s education system.

ICA and Grupo Carso are among nine Mexican companies set to present a joint bid to build the new airport, said Angel Macias, executive vice president of the Mexican Construction Industry Chamber. The project would include three runways and two stages of construction, Macias said in a telephone interview.

Cemex SAB is among companies that have signed on to the memorandum of understanding as providers to the main bidders, Macias said. A spokesman for the Monterrey, Mexico-based cement maker didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.