Mexico corporate earnings

By Pan Kwan Yuk and Jude Webber

América Móvil, the pan-American mobile phone operator controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim, is not done with Europe yet.

A day after reporting a near 50 per cent decline in quarterly profit and a 1.2bn pesos ($92m) hit related to its investment in Dutch telecoms group KPN, the company made it clear on Friday that it was keeping its options on KPN and Europe open. 

América Móvil on Thursday became the latest company to sound a sour note on the Mexican economy after it reported a near 50 per cent drop in third-quarter profit.

The pan-American mobile phone operator controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim saw profit for the three months to September 30 collapse to 16.4bn pesos ($1.2bn), compared with 30.4bn pesos in the same period a year ago and well below market expectations of 25.6bn pesos. The reasons? Soaring financing costs, currency headwinds and losses incurred from its ill-timed investment in KPN, the ailing Dutch telecoms group it tried to take over this year. 

If the performance of the Central and South American unit of Mexican cement giant Cemex is anything to go by, the biggest cement maker in the Americas should be looking at a bright earnings release on Thursday.

Cemex floated part of its Central and South American operations last year into Cemex Latam Holdings (CLH) which reported an 18 per cent rise in consolidated net sales, to $474m, in the third quarter, and EBITDA up 24 per cent to $168m. 

Mexico’s growth might not have been as bright as hoped for in May, according to figures out earlier but Walmex, the country’s biggest retailer by sales, reported its best month since March.

Wal-Mart de Mexico reported a 4.3 per cent rise in second quarter profit – pretty much in line with expecations – to 5.15bn pesos ($396.6m) and it posted a nearly 5 per cent rise in total sales across Mexico and Central America in June compared with June 2012. 

It was BT, the British phone company, that used the legendary advertising slogan “It’s good to talk” nearly 20 years ago.

But it’s a sentiment America Móvil, Latin America’s biggest phone company, will be celebrating after reporting better-than-expected second quarter profits – driven by chatterbox mobile callers in Mexico and South America. 

Shares in Grupo Bimbo rose on Wednesday after the Mexican company, one of the world’s biggest bread makers, boosted second quarter profits despite flat sales.

Revenue for the three months to end of June rose 0.3 per cent to 43.4bn pesos ($3.3bn). However, net profit rose were up 4.4 per cent at 922m pesos (US$70.8m), thanks to better operational efficiency. 

As news broke Tuesday that the Mexican government was postponing its long awaited banking-reform bill for political reasons, the country’s biggest domestically-owned bank was preparing to report a tidy 27 per cent rise in first-quarter profits.

Banorte, Mexico’s third-biggest lender and the largest domestic bank in a sector dominated by foreign names, said that profits climbed between January and the end of March to 3.1bn pesos ($253m). It didn’t give the peso figure for the comparable quarter of 2012. 

It is not often in the world of Carlos Slim that things go wrong. The Mexican businessman and the world’s richest man has built his huge fortune on astute decisions, calculated risk-taking and, above all, impeccable timing.

So it is hardly surprising that comments started flying on Wednesday when the share price of América Móvil tanked. The stock ended the day’s trading at 14.16 pesos in Mexico City, a loss of more than 10 per cent and the steepest one-day fall in at least four years. 

Grupo Modelo, Mexico’s leading brewer, whose $20.1bn acquisition by Anheuser-Busch InBev has hit a stumbling block in the United States, reported modest quarterly results as earnings were hit by a higher tax bill and the relative strength of the Mexican dollar to the US dollar. 

Carlos Slim has often been described as having a Midas touch but his very own gold mining company, Minera Frisco, didn’t make much money in the third quarter from producing the yellow metal.

Frisco did make a net profit of $89m, up from a loss that was almost twice as big a year earlier. But the net result would have been entirely flat had it not been for gains from financial instruments such as futures. 

Mexichem, the chemical industry conglomerate, on Friday reported a third-quarter net profit of $99m on Friday, up from $2.8m in the same period of last year, as earnings were buoyed by a wave of acquisitions.

And the buying spree shows no signs of halting. 

You have to go back as far as 2001 to come across the old Coca-Cola slogan “Life is good”. But that phrase must have been on the minds of Coca-Cola Femsa executives on Thursday as they reported impressive third-quarter results. 

It’s been quite a year for Wal-Mart de México, the US retailer’s Mexican arm. In April, the New York Times published an article alleging that the company paid bribes to local officials in return for permits to build new stores – prompting shares to tumble.

Against that backdrop, and given all the troubles – the company is still in the midst of investigations – Wednesday’s third-quarter results look solid. 

It’s been quite a week for Cemex. Just one day after the company announced that creditors holding 91.5 per cent of a US$7.3bn loan had accepted a refinancing offer that includes extending maturities by three years, the Mexican cement manufacturer said it planned to sell a minority stake in its Latin America operations.

Both pieces of news went down well: Cemex shares on Mexico’s stock exchange have jumped more than 4.5 per cent in the past five days and are now trading at levels about 50 per cent higher than at the start of the year. 

Even the world’s wealthiest tycoon must say at least “Ouch!” when the jewel in his business crown takes a $1.2bn hit.

The loss was incurred by Carlos Slim’s América Móvil during the second quarter, the company reported Thursday. The problem was a 4.1 per cent drop in the Mexican peso against the dollar and falls against other Latin American currencies.