(Corrects headline and first paragraph after company spokesman clarifies 5 billion euros is potential project size, not size of Siemens investment)
By Luc Cohen
BUENOS AIRES, Sept 14 (Reuters) - German engineering group Siemens plans to help create projects worth up to 5 billion euros ($5.6 billion) in Argentina after agreeing to intensify cooperation with Buenos Aires, it said on Thursday.
A spokesman said Siemens would make investments and provide financing for infrastructure, mobility and energy management in Argentina in coming years, creating some 3,000 jobs and an estimated 4,000 further jobs indirectly.
Chief Executive Joe Kaeser said on Wednesday Siemens had agreed to supply about 5 gigawatts of energy over time, 4 gigawatts from modern gas-fired power plants and 600 megawatts from renewable energy, after he visited Argentina’s new market-friendly President Mauricio Macri.
“We are ready to go today because we also brought 3.1 billion euros committed financing so we not only can build the power stations and mobility management, we can also finance it,” Kaeser said at the Argentina Business & Investment Forum.
Siemens was the main commitment made public so far during the government’s investment forum that attracted nearly 2,000 executives from around the world.
The jobs would be created over a period of four or five years, Kaeser said, adding that Siemens could create more than 6,000 jobs indirectly. Other focuses of the investment would be trains and suburban connections, streetcars and rail automation, he said.
Macri won the presidency last year by promising to open Argentina’s economy to foreign investment. While companies generally speak enthusiastically about his policies, many are hesitant to invest because of Argentina’s notoriously volatile politics and economic crises.
Kaeser said Macri sold him on the reform effort during a previous visit six months ago.
“Those people (government) are all really reform-oriented, they’re very serious about what they want to do,” he said. “It’s a decisive moment in the history of the country to come back to what it used to be and to come back to what it deserves to be.”
Lack of infrastructure is a key bottleneck holding back economic growth in Argentina, which is now in recession after three consecutive quarters of negative growth. But Kaeser said the country’s future could be bright.
“There’s a big opportunity to take the lead in Latin America because Brazil is so busy with its own issues that they’re not looking to this kind of modernization,” he said.
$1 = 0.8896 euros Reporting by Luc Cohen; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Phil Berlowitz