May 7, 2018 / 6:25 PM / 18 days ago

Mexican leftist candidate has 'affable' meeting with BlackRock's Fink

NEW YORK/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s presidential front-runner met BlackRock Inc Chief Executive Larry Fink on Monday, part of a push by the left-wing politician to reassure investors about his policies ahead of the July vote, and his team said the men clicked personally.

FILE PHOTO - Larry Fink, Chief Executive Officer of BlackRock, takes part in the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in New York, U.S., February 8, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is ahead by double digits in most major polls, has been openly fighting with some Mexican business leaders, and said he would review major energy contracts and a $13 billion airport project.

His campaign has met with multiple foreign fund managers in recent months to try and calm concerns about his policies, with aides telling investors that he is not opposed to foreign investment and markets.

“They asked to speak with us and I accepted so we could get to know each other,” Lopez Obrador said in a local TV interview later on Monday.

He said that he told Fink that he would uphold the rule of law and fight corruption, and not expropriate private property.

“They have lots of information ... they’re intelligent,” Lopez Obrador added.

BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, is heavily invested in Mexico and in November announced it would acquire the local asset management business of a Citigroup Inc subsidiary.

Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) presidential candidate Jose Antonio Meade speaks during the "Dialogue for Peace and Justice" at the Museum of Memory and Tolerance in Mexico City, Mexico May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Gustavo Graf

Fink met Lopez Obrador on Monday morning in Mexico City, the candidate’s adviser Carlos Urzua said, praising Fink’s understanding of the country.

“It was a very affable meeting. ... There was an immediate click between them. They both left the meeting charmed,” said Urzua, who is Lopez Obrador’s pick for finance minister. BlackRock declined to comment on the content of the encounter.

The meeting follows a change in tone from Lopez Obrador in recent days after a series of clashes with business leaders over what he calls influence trafficking. On Monday, he said a private concession could salvage the $13 billion airport project he has previously threatened to scrap.

Markets have not reacted strongly to Lopez Obrador’s lead in the polls.

The peso has weakened more than 7 percent against the dollar since mid-April, but the fall is mostly in line with other emerging market currencies. Fund managers and companies warn the next few months could be more volatile, partly on concerns over Lopez Obrador’s economic policy.

Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) presidential candidate Jose Antonio Meade attends the "Dialogue for Peace and Justice" at the Museum of Memory and Tolerance in Mexico City, Mexico May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Gustavo Graf

BlackRock, which has $6.3 trillion in assets under management, engages with governments “irrespective of party affiliations,” the company said in a statement. Fink was a vocal supporter of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s economic reforms.

Fink was due to meet with the management of clients, business partners and three other presidential campaigns - those of second-placed Ricardo Anaya, ruling party candidate Jose Antonio Meade and independent Margarita Zavala.

The Anaya campaign confirmed they had met. A spokesman for Zavala said she was due to meet Fink on Monday afternoon.

The campaign for Meade, who was finance minister before he became the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), said the two met for about half an hour in the afternoon.

Describing the talks as “great” and “cordial”, Vanessa Rubio, a senior Meade campaign official, noted the two had known each other for years and that relations were “very close” with BlackRock while the PRI candidate was finance minister.

According to a recent poll, less than two months before Mexicans vote, Lopez Obrador’s support grew to 39 percent from 38 percent in the previous poll at the end of March, but his lead narrowed to 14 points from 18.

Fink has been consistently optimistic about the country’s prospects. In 2014, he said if he was starting his career, he might try his luck in Mexico.

In recent years, BlackRock took a $900 million stake in the second phase of the Los Ramones pipeline project with private equity firm First Reserve. Marco Antonio Slim, a son of the country’s richest man, Carlos Slim, is a BlackRock board member.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in New York and Ana Isabel Martinez in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Adriana Barrera, Christine Murray and Dave Graham in Mexico City; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Leslie Adler

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