By Laurence Iliff / Wall Street Journal
Former Mexican finance minister Pedro Aspe has an unusual collection on the walls of his offices here: stock and bond certificates from some of the Mexican oil companies that existed before the industry was nationalized in 1938, creating the monopoly Petróleos Mexicanos.
“Many of these companies were subsidiaries of foreign capital, but there was a Mexican oil industry too. And that’s what we want to recreate,” said Aspe, a senior managing director of Evercore Partners Inc. and head of the U.S. investment-banking advisory firm’s Mexican unit.
Now, as Mexico opens its oil industry to competition for the first time in nearly 80 years, Aspe is one of several Mexican businessmen who have financed or helped create homegrown oil companies.
The new companies hope to compete not only with Pemex, but also with global giants like Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC.
Mexico plans to hold three auctions of oil blocks this year—the first is Wednesday for 14 exploratory oil blocks in the Gulf of Mexico. The maiden auction is symbolically important to see if the oil companies are on the same page as the government on what the blocks are worth. The National Hydrocarbons Commission hopes to award at least four or five blocks.
For the moment, the fledging oil companies, including one controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim, will need the help of foreign partners in areas like offshore exploration and production, which is more complex than drilling onshore.
A few years from now, however, they could become significant players, much as they were a century ago.