How Mexico’s Carlos Slim Has Expanded His Oil Interests During AMLO’s Term

The Mexican billionaire has bought a stake in oil company Talos, which has a participation in the country’s most controversial oil block

Carlos Slim Helú (left) during a meeting with Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Photo: lopezobrador.org).
May 26, 2023 | 12:30 PM

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Mexico City — Carlos Slim Helú, Mexico’s richest person, has increased his oil business portfolio during the six-year term of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, which ends in 2024.

The most recent move was Carso Energy’s agreement to purchase 49.9% of the Mexican subsidiary of oil company Talos Energy, a shareholder in the Zama offshore mega-field - and which had previously been disputed with state-owned oil company Pemex - on May 25.

Once the Mexican authorities approve the purchase, the Grupo Carso subsidiary will pay $124.7 million in two parts to the company led by Timothy S. Duncan, with the possibility of increasing the stake up to $262 million if certain targets are met.

Grupo Carso’s participation in the most controversial asset of Mexico’s oil sector will be added to the broad portfolio of oil businesses of Slim, whose fortune totals $90.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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What oil businesses does Slim have?

Slim started his first oil business outside Mexico in March 2011 with the purchase of 70% of the shares of Tabasco Oil Company in Colombia, where Grupo Carso operates two blocks. Ten days later, he incorporated the company Carso Energy, whose main activity is as the holding of a group of companies operating in the energy sector.

The subsidiary carries out activities of exploration, localization, production, transportation, purchase and sale of oil, gas and minerals, in addition to geothermal energy and the operation of hydroelectric plants.

In 2017, Carso Energy, through Carso Oil and Gas, won two oil contracts in an oil auction for the exploration and exploitation of gas and oil as part of the 2013 energy reform of Mexico’s former President Enrique Peña Nieto.

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With the arrival of AMLO to the presidency, Slim Helú was one of the main protagonists in a tense negotiation over gas pipelines and gas transportation tariffs between state-owned power utility CFE and Carso Energy, US-based Sempra Energy (which owns Mexican energy company IEnova) and TC Energy, which was resolved with the extension of contracts and leveled tariffs in August 2019.

Two months later, subsidiary Operadora Carso Infraestructura y Construcción (Cicsa) won a contract from Pemex to build two offshore platforms.

Two years later, the subsidiary GSM-Bronco was awarded a contract to drill and complete wells in Pemex’s onshore fields for $196 million.

Now Carlos Slim’s Zamajal subsidiary is set to partner with Talos in the largest oilfield discovered in the past decade with an estimated $31 billion in oil revenues for Mexico, but it will first have to receive approval from the antitrust regulator, the Federal Economic Competition Commission (Cofece).

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Talos’ CEO said in a statement that Grupo Carso’s investment is a sign of Zama’s economic potential, and the partnership will also benefit from the company’s presence in Mexico and its global commercial experience.

“Carso is the right partner at the right time,” Duncan said.

Pemex, with a 50.4% stake in the Zama field, will be the operator of the oil project after a complex unification process with its private partners led by Talos, which claimed majority ownership (60%) and operation of the field.

Mexico oil-and-gas-sector regulator, the National Hydrocarbons Commission (CNH), received this year the development plan for the offshore field in shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where a production peak of 151,000 barrels of crude oil per day is expected by 2032.