Since winning the November 19 presidential election, Javier Milei, Argentina's president-elect, has shown two things: that he is more practical than his extreme ways and ideas appeared, and that he is a lion, as he likes to be called, whose roar does not frighten big business. At least to the Spanish multinationals present in the country, which, far from waving their arms at the radical nature of their economic recipes, are calmly waiting behind the barrier. Telefónica, Mapfre, Cabify, Grifols, Pescanova, Meliá, Amadeus, Prosegur, Roca, Soltec, construction companies, food distributors, industrial supply companies of all kinds..., the list of companies doing business in the country is extensive and begins with the big banks.
BBVA has 6,000 employees, 243 branches and around four million customers. Santander has almost 8,200 employees, 330 branches and 4.7 million customers. Their statements about the change of government are particularly cautious: that they are attentive to political proposals, that their commitment to the country remains firm, that they have a long history in that market... Other companies are more direct. Codere started operations in Argentina in 1992 and is now the largest operator of gaming halls in the province of Buenos Aires. It is also an official sponsor of River Plate. "After 30 years, we know the idiosyncrasies of the country. After Milei's investiture, we expect more macroeconomic stability and a greater focus on legal certainty," said a spokesperson.
The flamboyant Milei, the same one who smashed a piñata with the image of the Central Bank of Argentina on television, does not scare the fishing sector either. Nueva Pescanova obtains toothfish and its prized prawns and prawns in Argentine waters (through its subsidiary Argenova): "The fishing grounds are regulated and protected, we do not expect major changes", they analyze from the Galician fishing company. Javier Touza, president of the Vigo Shipowners' Cooperative, points out that the waters of Patagonia concentrate the Spanish presence in terms of fishing. "Milei has been well received by the markets, and that's a big deal. We want stability, tranquility, to be allowed to do what we want. We have always been known for collaborating with the fisheries administration and we will continue to do so with the new government," he reflects.
There is a week left for Javier Milei to unveil his new government, but he has already detailed his economic plans to the IMF and the United States after his visit to Washington this week. Thierry Larose of asset manager Vontobel said in a note to investors that he expects his announcements to please markets, "with aggressive fiscal consolidation and the removal of currency and capital controls as top priorities." From the Elcano Institute, its analyst Carlos Malamud supports these good business feelings. "The companies, worse off than they already were, are not going to be there. For years, Argentina has ceased to be an investor's paradise and has become more of a headache."
Madrid-based Cabify set its sights on the country when it began its international expansion more than 10 years ago. The company says that it has demonstrated its ability to integrate into the life and economy of that destination with financial management strategies that adapt to the enormous fluctuations (accumulated inflation up to October amounted to 142%). "We are confident that the new government will be able to make progress on the great challenges of mobility," they said.
The Spanish communication consultancy LLYC also looked to Argentina for a market to grow. Andrés Borenstein, a senior advisor, reflects on the other end of the phone from Buenos Aires that he does not see nervousness in foreign companies. "I would say it's more hope. The economy is totally broken, it hasn't grown for two years, there is a 43% poverty rate, importing is a headache..., the feeling that this has to change is relatively positive." He bases his expectations on the moderation of Milei's discourse on dollarization. But any adjustment in public spending that it practices will have a winner-loss scenario. "In the short term, there are groups that will be worse off with the foreseeable reduction in public spending. What remains to be seen is society's tolerance of treatment. For now, public opinion is very much in agreement that the state is oversized, but when it comes to cuts, we all prefer that the cuts do not reach us and go to others. In any case, it is perceived as a very business- and investment-friendly government."
Mapfre is one of those Spanish firms that have been in Argentina for decades, specifically since 1986. "We obtained insurance premiums of 200 million in 2022," the insurer details, but they are barely 2% of its revenues on the continent. The situation of hyperinflation that the country is experiencing obviously conditions our strategy there."
Meliá has also had a presence for a quarter of a century, and, despite different political and economic situations, they admit that they have achieved "successful hotel operations". That said, today they only retain three hotels, so the impact of any change is not really significant. "For us it is a very dear country, with great values as a destination and with great potential for tourism. That is why we hope that the priority that the new government has proposed, of stabilizing the economy and controlling inflation and the constant devaluations of the currency, can materialize." They also hope that he will carry out the important structural reforms that the country demands.
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