INTERVIEW-Mexico's ICA upbeat on prospects for infrastructure boom
* ICA expects to actively bid for new projects
* Company working to pay down debt, improve cash flow
* May consider partnerships for new projects
MEXICO CITY, July 4 (Reuters) - Mexican construction company ICA, facing heavy debt and a weak cash position, will still take part in an expected windfall of up to $70 billion annually in new government infrastructure projects, Chief Executive Alonso Quintana told Reuters.
The company, which was downgraded further into junk status in May as some of its existing projects have been slow to start running, has even started pitching the government for some projects, Quintana said in an interview late on Wednesday.
"We believe we can be very active in the new infrastructure plan," said Quintana.
Mexico's government, which has already announced some new road and railway plans, could auction off between $60 billion and $70 billion in public works each year until the president's term ends in 2018, Quintana estimated.
ICA can participate in the auction processes in partnership with other companies so that it would have to put up less financing. The company is also working on paying down debt and improving cash flow to free up money to invest in new projects, he said.
"The downgrades have obliged us to hurry up with this a bit more, we're getting there, obviously we're listening to the market," he said.
ICA, whose shares have fallen more than 20 percent this year, in June said it would raise almost $400 million by selling its stake in a highway concession. Quintana said more such deals may be possible in the future.
"Our business model is focusing on greenfield projects," he said. "Once they're mature, we then have companies that operate highways, airports, water, prisons, and that's where a partner could come in."
In construction, greenfield refers to developing projects from scratch.
But a planned sale of its housing business, ViveICA, fell through in May after ICA failed to reach an agreement with private developer Javer for the unit.
ICA is currently working on selling shares it holds in airport operator Grupo Aeroportuario del Centro Norte (OMA) for up to $375 million, but that deal has also been postponed.
"We are certain of the value of our assets and we prefer to wait than to sell them cheaply," Quintana said, adding however the stock sale could still go ahead next month depending on market conditions.
The government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office in December, has been slow to announce a big infrastructure plan for his six-year term, but Quintana said he believes it will be unveiled in coming weeks.
Projects for port expansions, roads, railways and possibly a new airport in Mexico City could be up for grabs once the plan is announced.
Still, Quintana said ICA is being proactive and also pitching the government while it waits for the announcement.
"We don't have our arms crossed, we're generating projects, expansions that we think are necessary," he said.
Planned energy reform, which could open up state oil monopoly Pemex to greater private investment, would also be a boost to ICA which builds platforms and other structures through a joint venture with U.S. engineering construction company Fluor Corp.
Energy sector projects could make up a big chunk of public and private infrastructure spending, Quintana said, noting that if the reform does not go ahead, the outlay will likely be closer to $40 billion to $50 billion annually.
(Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)