Top Mexican chemical companies that have formed a consortium to bid for a privatized Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) petrochemical complex are close to agreeing on which plants to bid on. But the consortium, formed last year, still may grow to include at least one interested foreign chemical company to offer the venture state-of-the-art technology still unavailable in Mexico, said Thomas Mohr, new chief executive officer of Celanese Mex-icana SA de CV (Celmex), which is a consortium member.
He said talks held between the Mexican consortium and some foreign companies already have resulted in letters of intent being signed. But he did not name the foreign firms involved.
Mohr, interviewed in Mexico City, confirmed that the Mexican consortium members include Monterrey-based industrial giant Grupo Alfa SA de CV, Grupo Cydsa, Grupo Idesa Petroqu¡mica SA, Celmex and another industrial firm, Desc.
``The latest information that I have received is that [the consortium is] pretty well ahead in definition of our individual interests,'' he said, adding that this phase could be completed in May. ``We have not yet addressed financial issues, and values.''
Mohr said that Celmex has two basic interests in bidding for the Pemex plants: to secure supply of raw materials for the long-term growth of its polyester business, which includes PET bottle-grade resin production, and to guarantee raw material supply for its chemicals division.
According to Mohr, the consortium's interest is focused specifically on the major Pemex complexes of La Cangrejera and Morelos on the Gulf of Mexico coast. The joint venture would want to buy a complete complex, he said.
Mohr expects constant contact between the Mexican firms and government officials and some clarification on timing of the sale of the two complexes is likely by the end of May.
Mohr acknowledged that the government's recent decision to exercise its right under NAFTA to favor national bidders for some of the petrochemical complexes must have caused resentment among foreign bidders.
But the chief executive of Celmex, a subsidiary of Ger-many's giant chemical firm Hoechst AG and a long-time Mexican company, defended the right of firms with ``30, 40 or 50 years actively involved in the Mexican economic process'' to be given priority in areas such as raw material access.
Hoechst employs 9,000 south of the border and its Mexican subsidiaries have sales of US$1.5 billion, he said.
Mohr, who took over at Celmex in October, said that he was in no way disturbed at the latest government delay in proceeding with the petrochemical complex privatization.
It is understandable that the government should be cautious in such a major sell-off, which involves complex issues, Mohr said.
Celmex, in common with other Hoechst subsidiaries, is in the process of redefining its long-term strategy and core production areas.
With 15 separate companies in Mexico run by Celmex and Quimica Hoechst de Mexico SA de CV, the Mexican interests have been in need of reorganization, Mohr said.
A new common administrative and financial company was formed in March to serve both Celmex and Quimica Hoechst.
``We are defining how Hoechst itself sees its long-term presence in Mexico,'' he said.
While chemical groups worldwide have been concentrating their efforts in today's big growth markets of Asia, in China and India, said Mohr, key Latin American growth centers such as Mexico, Brazil and Argentina should not be neglected.
He predicted that the Hoechst review process should be completed by midyear.