(CDPQ in talks with ICA, background)
By Alexandra Alper and Christine Murray
MEXICO CITY, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Mexico’s ICA has sold its stake in an environmental waste firm for around 1.2 billion pesos ($69.69 million), two people close to the negotiations said, as the embattled construction company scrambles for cash after declaring it would default.
ICA sold its 49 percent stake in Proactiva Medio Ambiente Mexico to a trust run by prominent Mexican businessman Fernando Chico Pardo, one of the people told Reuters. ICA jointly owned Proactiva with French water and waste group Veolia.
Gabriel Ibarra, an advisor to ICA Chairman Bernardo Quintana, confirmed the company had sold Proactiva but added that it was more focused on helping cash flow by finishing projects than by selling assets.
ICA is also in talks with Canada’s second largest pension fund, Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec over possible asset sales, a third person said. ICA declined to comment on this.
The three people declined to be named as the negotiations were not public. Veolia, Proactiva and Caisse declined to comment.
Chico Pardo, board president of airport operator Asur and head of financial investment company Promecap, closed the deal with ICA in the last few days, the people said. Chico Pardo did not respond to requests for comment.
ICA had already sharpened its focus on asset sales before saying on Friday it would not pay $31 million due on an interest payment at the end of November, and that it aimed to draw up an initial restructuring plan by mid-February.
But it is unclear if the sales will be enough to right the company, whose net debt reached 51.147 billion pesos ($2.97 billion) at the close of the third quarter - almost nine times its earnings before interest depreciation and amortization.
ICA has interest payments due of $6 million on Jan 24 and $22.25 million on Feb 4. It also risks so-called cross-default, since missing some payments could allow banks to demand immediate payment on loans, according to a company filing.
The company has been reluctant to let prized assets go.
Co-Chief Executive Alonso Quintana said ICA was not planning to sell more of its 33.35 percent stake in airport operator OMA after offloading 2.9 percent in August. He has vowed to sell 5 billion pesos of assets in 2016, as in 2015.
In April, Caisse said it would pay 3 billion pesos for a 49 percent stake in Mexican infrastructure joint ventures with ICA.
ICA is also pressuring the government for payment. ICA executives have met with finance ministry officials to ask for payment on accounts receivable of about 20 billion pesos, though some is for work not yet completed, two sources said. ($1 = 17.1944 Mexican pesos) ($1 = 1.3845 Canadian dollars) (Additional reporting by Gabriela Lopez, Elinor Comlay, and Tomas Sarmiento; Editing by Dave Graham and Andrew Hay)