Grupo Mexico sees healthy uptick in global copper demand this year

MEXICO CITY, April 28 (Reuters) - Mexican mining and transport company Grupo Mexico forecast strong copper demand this year as global economic recovery boosts the red metal’s prospects, the firm’s mining boss said on Wednesday.

Leonardo Contreras, the mining division chief for the world’s fifth-biggest copper producer by volume, told analysts on a conference call the company expects global copper demand growth of between 3.5% and 5.5% in 2021.

He cited expectations of continued auto industry recovery as well as the recently proposed $2 trillion infrastructure spending plan in the United States as major factors.

The demand forecast comes a day after Grupo Mexico announced first-quarter results, including record revenue of $3.4 billion and a $1.1 billion net profit powered by a 50% jump in copper prices.

Grupo Mexico, also a major rail freight operator and infrastructure developer, will likely bring its so-called intermodal transportation terminal outside the key Pacific port of Manzanillo online by this year’s fourth quarter, transport division head Fernando Lopez said on the call.

Infrastructure chief Francisco Zinser added that two fuel storage terminals the company is building in Monterrey and Guadalajara, which have both suffered pandemic-related delays, should not be negatively impacted by a new hydrocarbons law expected to be passed by ruling party lawmakers.

Even though the legislation favors state-owned Pemex over private firms, Zinser said he does not believe the projects, which count U.S. refiner Valero as a partner, are at any risk of having permits revoked.

Meanwhile, when asked if Grupo Mexico might add a woman to its 15-member board at its shareholder meeting this Friday, Chief Finance Officer Marlene Finny ruled out the possibility, though she added improving diversity at the company is “very important,” hinting changes might come to the board next year.

“We are working toward that,” she said. (Reporting by David Alire Garcia and Noe Torres; Editing by Karishma Singh)