The Mexico Fund Inc., which was created to invest for Americans in blue-chip Mexican stocks, confirmed yesterday that its outlook remains bleak following a recent easing of foreign exchange controls by the Mexican central bank.
The controls, which were imposed last September in response to Mexico's financial crisis, virtually barred the export of dollars. Traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the Mexico Fund promised its investors dividends in dollars.
Mexico Fund went public at $12 a share in June 1981, and the stock was acquired mainly by institutional buyers, according to a person familiar with the fund. "Because of Mexico's foreign currency laws, it was the only way of making an investment in Mexican business," he said.
The fund raised $120 million, and, after commissions and other payments, invested $112 million in Mexican businesses. The stock closed at about $3 a share yesterday.
An executive with Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith, the lead underwriter, estimated that the assets now may be worth $32 million. But because of the impact of the country's economic woes on industry, Mexico Fund shares "may be worth a hell of a lot less than $3," said another person familiar with the fund.
Internal Revenue Service regulations require the fund to pay its net earnings to stockholders. However, in yesterday's statement, Mexico Fund said that the payment of a dividend at this time could threaten its survival.
"Depending upon the exchange rate available to convert the dividend into dollars, payment of the dividend may require liquidation of a substantial percentage of the fund's portfolio securities," the fund said. "Because the Mexican securities market has limited liquidity at present, a sale of a significant portion of the fund's assets could lower the prices received for those assets and further depress the value of its remaining securities."