Spain's Crown Prince Felipe on Thursday backed his country's investments in Mexico in a meeting here with the heads of the large Spanish companies doing business in the Aztec nation.

The luncheon marked the start of the prince's official visit to Mexico, where he will represent Spain at the inauguration of Enrique Peña Nieto as the new Mexican head of state.

Attending the meeting at the residence of the Spanish ambassador were executives from Spanish corporate heavyweights such as Telefonica, BBVA-Bancomer, Banco Santander, OHL, ACS, Iberdrola, Gas Natural-Fenosa, Repsol, Acciona and Mapfre, among others.

While Spain remains mired in recession, the Mexican economy is continuing to expand and the incoming Peña Nieto administration has moved forward on several projects that are of interest to Spanish companies.

It is expected, for example, that there will be a change in the rules that will open state-owned oil company Pemex to foreign investment, a reform that could offer significant opportunities to firms like Spanish energy giant Repsol.

Prince Felipe wanted to demonstrate to the businessmen his support for their work abroad, support that Telefonica Mexico CEO Juan Antonio Abellan called "very important."

Spain is the main European investor in Mexico and the second-biggest on the global scale, after the United States.

Some figures that show the weight of Spanish business in the Mexican economy are that BBVA-Bancomar is, for example, the country's largest bank, while Santander is in second place.

The crown prince will meet on Friday with outgoing President Felipe Calderon and will attend the dinner for dignitaries here for the inauguration. EFE