Mexican brothers Luis and Mauricio Amodio prefer to avoid outbreaks. They do not appear on the Forbes lists or in the magazines of the heart to which part of the Mexican elite is assiduous. Neither are they visible in congresses and forums where businessmen and authorities rub shoulders to strengthen ties. But the days of discretion can be numbered. The brothers, specialized in luxury developments in the capital, have just stepped forward by announcing an offer to take control of OHL, one of the largest Spanish construction companies.
Caabsa, owned by Mexican entrepreneurs, would acquire between 31% and 35% of the shares in OHL, which has a portfolio that exceeds $ 5.5 billion. If the offer prospers, these brothers can become the main shareholders and thus unseat Juan Miguel Villar Mir, whose control of the construction company has been touched after a row of financial problems that have placed the company on the brink of bankruptcy. The offer is subject to the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV) allowing the purchase without launching a takeover bid.
The maneuver is the highlight of the business career of these two civil engineers, trained at private universities in the Mexican capital. In 1979 they founded Caabsa, the seed of a conglomerate dedicated to construction and real estate administration that encompasses 19 companies and 10 equity companies and which considers itself a “mandatory benchmark in national infrastructure”. The brothers share the roles; the first is Group President and the second is Development Director.
They are the unknown face behind some of the most emblematic spaces of the capital’s luxury. They were pioneers in the urban development of the Santa Fe neighborhood of Mexico City. They landed there in the early 1990s, just when the government decided to turn this old dump into an ultramodern Wall Street. Among the cement jewels they developed and now manage is the Santa Fe Shopping Center, completed in 1993 and considered the largest in the country. It has an ice rink, half a million square meters and 500 commercial spaces.
The consultant Luis Medina, from Softec, sees at the entrance to OHL an attempt by the Amodios to “expand and diversify” their products. “His specialty is not public infrastructure,” he says. Although the heart of the business remains brick, the brothers have already tried their luck in retail with the franchises of La Martina, an Argentine sportswear brand that has two polo players as its logo, and Just Juicy, a chain of juice shops.
Despite the expansion, Caabsa is an actor that goes unnoticed even within the sector. A ranking of the 100 largest construction companies in the country, prepared by the Center for Economic Studies of the Construction Sector (CEESCO) with data from 2017, shows OHL in the lead with sales of more than 1,200 million dollars (1,100 million euros) . The company of the Amodium, however, does not appear. “They have many subsidiaries, which makes it difficult to quantify the size,” explains analyst José Antonio Hernández Balbuena, from CEESCO. “It is their business strategy; not be seen and show your cards in a timely manner. ” This newspaper unsuccessfully requested an interview with the Caabsa leadership. “They are very reserved,” they apologize from the Group.
But the low profile of the brothers and their businesses – the group does not have an external communication department – has suffered cracks due to their participation in the failed work of the high-speed train between Mexico City and the city of Toluca. A consortium led by Caabsa won the award for a 17-kilometer section. This project of the previous Government of Enrique Peña Nieto has dragged delays and cost overruns – from the almost 2,000 million dollars budgeted to the approximately 4,800 million expected – to the point that the current Administration canceled the contract last August and announced that it would take over of the works.
That was not the only time that the brothers bid for juicy public works contracts during the Peña Nieto government (2012-2018). The company also competed to build the second runway of the new Mexico City airport, a project that was finally scrapped by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in 2018.
The merger with OHL, with a presence in a dozen countries – 43% of its construction business is in the United States, compared to 36% in Europe – will be the brothers’ first major international leap. Although Luis Amodio has already been listed as administrator of a holding company in the Madrid commercial register since 2010, the group still defines itself as “100% Mexican”.