Mexican billionaire Slim eyes Guatemala's energy sector, trains
GUATEMALA CITY, July 11 (Reuters) - Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim is interested in investing in oil and natural gas exploration in Guatemala, a Guatemalan presidential spokesman said on Thursday.
Slim, who briefly visited the country on Wednesday, met with President Otto Perez to discuss investment options, which also include building a train line between southern Mexico and Guatemala, said spokesman Francisco Cuevas.
"He expressed interest in exploring for natural gas and oil as soon as possible," Cuevas told Reuters. "He also said that he would like to use public and private funds to build a rail line."
Slim, who owns telecoms company America Movil and topped Forbes magazine's March list of the world's richest people, runs his oil business through conglomerate Grupo Carso .
Carso has recently been ramping up activity in the oil industry, having finished drilling its first exploratory oil well in northeastern Colombia earlier this month.
In May, Grupo Carso signed a seven-year contract worth up to $415 million to rent a drilling platform to Mexico's state-run oil monopoly, Pemex.
Slim also has a long history in the rail sector. He used to own Ferrosur, the southernmost of Mexico's three rail freight concession-holders, which he sold to Mexican miner and infrastructure company Grupo Mexico in 2011.
Nonetheless, he retains a 25 percent stake in Grupo Mexico's rail business.
Guatemala's energy sector is small but the government hopes to expand it.
Last year the government announced plans to open up 795,859 hectares of land in seven new areas to oil exploration in hopes of boosting production to 51,000 barrels per day (bpd) by 2020.
Guatemala's Energy and Mining ministry awarded three-year exploration contracts for six of the seven areas to six small, foreign oil firms last week and said it will open the seventh for bidding at a later date.
Oil production peaked in Guatemala in 1998 at 25,000 bpd but had slid to 10,000 bpd by 2012. Mexico, by comparison, produces about 2.55 million bpd.
Lacking a major refinery, most of Guatemala's oil, which is heavy crude, is exported to the United States and Canada.
The Central American nation of roughly 15 million people does not produce natural gas and has little data on potential gas fields.