March 5, 2020 / 2:59 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 2-Mexico's president says new energy plan could be ready in March

(Adds background about oil exploration auctions, Pemex)

MEXICO CITY, March 5 (Reuters) - Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Thursday the country's new energy plan could be ready within 10 days, and the government was analysing proposals by the private sector for joint energy investments.

Mexico has pursued a more state-led approach to the energy sector under Lopez Obrador, but some members of his administration believe attracting more private capital is vital for lifting growth in a sputtering economy.

Reuters revealed on Wednesday that Mexico's private sector had drawn up a broad package of proposed energy investments for the government worth almost $92 billion.

It was not clear if the proposals being analysed by the government will include oil exploration since the private sector plans reviewed by Reuters mostly focused on power generation, storage and transportation of energy, as well as exploration and production of natural gas.

Lopez Obrador said he was meeting later in the day with top cabinet figures and the head of national oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos, also known as Pemex, to see "to see what can be done in conjunction with private enterprises in the energy sector."

But companies interested in investing will be reviewed by Mexico's financial intelligence unit to see if they have a history of corruption or money laundering, said Lopez Obrador, who came to power in 2018 on an anti-corruption platform.

Lopez Obrador took office vowing to revive state-owned Pemex and put the brakes on foreign investment to give the public a bigger cut of the country's oil wealth.

But analysts say the move sent a negative signal, dampening business sentiment and Mexico's appeal to investors.

The leftist oil nationalist's ambitions include building a new $8 billion refinery, refurbishing existing refineries and reversing a steady decline in crude production.

Dragged down by tepid investment and concern over the government's economic policies, the economy slipped into a mild recession last year, undermining support for Lopez Obrador, who pledged to speed up growth when he took office in December 2018. (Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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