INTERVIEW-Australia's Macquarie eyes investment in Mexican water
MEXICO CITY, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Australian investment bank Macquarie Group Ltd is eyeing potential investment in water treatment in Mexico as the country's new government pushes ahead with private sector infrastructure partnerships, a senior executive said on Tuesday.
Mark Ramsey, head of Latin America for Macquarie Capital, said the bank was also considering new investments in energy projects in Peru, Colombia and Chile, and planning a trip to Brazil to look at opportunities in energy, roads and ports.
In Mexico, where Macquarie's funds division already has a $410 million infrastructure fund and a $1 billion Real Estate Investment Trust, the bank was on track for infrastructure investments worth $5 billion to $10 billion over the next five years through a mix of its own and outside capital, he said.
Mexico's new government has yet to release a detailed infrastructure plan, but Ramsey welcomed a commitment by major parties to improve the country's water management system.
"(Mexico) is overwhelmingly a country where you can't drink the water; you can't rely on the cleanliness of the water; where water-borne diseases are a big health problem and the extent of those health problems is exacerbated in poor indigenous communities," Ramsey said in an interview.
"From a Macquarie perspective, we have money available for investing in water treatment plants ... we have a lot of experience in those areas and we'd be very anxious to participate in those processes."
Macquarie-led Kemble Water Holdings bought Thames Water, which supplies water and sewerage services to London and some surrounding areas, in 2006.
Ramsey hoped Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office on Dec. 1, would continue to expand infrastructure as he did when he was the governor of the State of Mexico, when he used private-public partnerships (PPPs).
"There's a general expectation or hope that he'll be able to continue that efficiency into the new federal government regime and we'll see a lot more of the original infrastructure plan executed on and a lot more of his improvements and changes to that plan," he said.
He expected the new government to promise spending levels similar to those in the 2007-2012 infrastructure plan, about $200 billion over six years. Analysts have said the new plan could top $400 billion, with the greater use of PPPs.
A report released by the Inter-American Development Bank on Tuesday found that Chile, Brazil and Peru were the Latin American countries best equipped to partner with the private sector to develop infrastructure. Mexico was in fourth place.
Macquarie was already looking at possible projects, including wind power in Peru, solar power in Colombia and energy generation for mines in northern Chile, the world's top copper producer, Ramsey said.
"We see quite a lot of opportunities for principal investment, so for Macquarie Bank's balance sheet to actually invest in opportunities, particularly in Peru and Colombia at the moment," he said.
"We're looking at a number of energy projects in those countries where we will think seriously about deploying the balance sheet over the next year or two."
Macquarie Capital advises corporate clients and also invests in projects on its own behalf.
(Reporting by Krista Hughes.; Additional reporting by Armando Tovar. Editing by Andre Grenon)