The foreign capital interest in Spain it shot up as soon as the country presented its first symptoms of recovery, after the harsh adjustment to which it was subjected during the worst years of the crisis, imposed largely by the European Union.
One of the areas where more money came and still continues to come is Latin America; specifically, of Mexico, whose large investors envisioned the possibility of having good business here, taking advantage of the weaknesses of a highly touched business network.
One of the pioneers was Carlos Slim, the fifth richest man in the world in 2019, just ahead of Amancio Ortega, founder and first shareholder of Inditex. Slim has important interests in Spain today, where he controls FCC and Realia real estate, and is also a leading shareholder in the PRISA Group.
The last to arrive, however, have been Mauricio and Luis Amodio, who have just given the highly indebted Villar Mir a break, by buying them a controlling stake in another construction giant: OHL.
Between Slim’s landing and the arrival of the Amodios, numerous Mexican businessmen have put up a spike in Spain, without disgust any sector: from the financial sector (Popular, Sabadell) to the food sector (Campofrío), including transportation ( Avanza), catering (Zena, Vips) or entertainment (Yelmo Cines). Men like Antonio Del Valle, Juan Carlos Uriarte or David MartinezAlong with those already mentioned, they have carved out a niche for themselves in the country’s economy, although not all with the same fate.
These have been its most famous operations:
OHL. The group led so far by the Villar Mir family reported last week to the CNMV the sale of 19% of its shares to the companies Forjar Capital and Solid Rock Capital, controlled by Mauricio and Luis Amodio. The agreed price is 1.1 euros per title. Buyers agree to acquire another 9% before November 22 of this year at 1.20 euros, which raises the total amount of the operation above 81 million. The Amodios will thus become OHL’s benchmark partners, with 25% of the capital, while the Villar Mir’s share will drop to 6%.
FCC. Carlos Slim became a shareholder in the construction company at the end of 2014, led by Esther Koplowitz. After several acquisitions and the takeover bid he was forced to launch, the Mexican magnate controlled 61% of the capital in July of the following year. The participation of Esther Koplowitz, whose father had founded the company, was by then only 20%. In addition, three-quarters of that package was put in guarantee of a debt of 844 million euros with Bankia and BBVA, which Slim himself bought from banks in 2018 after getting a significant discount. The debt matures in 2020 and opens the door for Slim to take full control of the FCC.
Realia. Practically in parallel with his entry into FCC, Slim reached an agreement with Bankia to acquire 24.9% of the capital of this real estate company, whose best-known assets included the Torres Kio. That allowed him to be done in practice with the control of Realia, in which FCC had 36.9%. After a competitive takeover bid with another from Hispania, a real estate company owned by the Hungarian-born investor George Soros, the Mexican magnate managed to add 9% more and become owner and lord of Realia, by controlling (directly and indirectly) a higher percentage 70% of the voting rights.
RUSH. In September 2019, Carlos Slim declared to the CNMV that he was in possession of a significant participation (4.3%) of the PRISA Group, owner of El País, the SER and As chain, among other businesses related to communication. This package was acquired by Control Empresarial de Capitales, a company belonging to Carso, one of Slim’s investing arms. The latter had already become a prominent shareholder of PRISA in 2011, the year in which it acknowledged having 3.23%, although it gradually diluted its participation afterwards. Slim’s return came after Santander and Telefónica became saviors of the business conglomerate founded by the late Jesús de Polanco and which the management of Juan Luis Cebrián had plunged into a deep crisis.
Campofrío. The Ballvé family, one of the richest in Spain, released in 2017 the controls of the meat company that he had founded in 1952, owner of brands such as Oscar Mayer, Navidul or Revilla. However, its power has been greatly diminished since the Mexican multinational Sigma Alimentos took control of practically all capital in 2015, after buying the most significant packages and launching a takeover bid. Among those packages was 37% held by the Chinese group WH (formerly Shuangyui), as well as smaller ones from CaixaBank and Ballvé themselves. Campofrío has the Mexican Ricardo Doehner as CEO.
get moving. The first bus operator in Spain, the result of the union of Auto Res, Vitrasa, Transportes Urbanos de Zaragoza and La Sepulvedana, was acquired in 2013 by the ADO Mexican group, the second most important in his country in this activity. Until the transaction took place, Avanza had as maximum shareholder the British venture capital company Doughty Hanson, which in 2006 had taken control for about 600 million euros. ADO was, in turn, in the hands of Juan Carlos Uriarte Amann, one of the one hundred wealthiest entrepreneurs in Mexico.
Popular Bank. Antonio del Valle, an Asturian of origin and settled in Mexico, led a group of investors from his country in 2013 who took 4.16% of Banco Popular. Three years later, with the entity plunged into a rampant crisis, Del Valle would be one of the main promoters of the removal of its president, Angel Ron, and its replacement by Emilio Saracho, who spent a few months in office. In June 2017, Popular recognized itself as unable to solve its problems on its own and was acquired by Santander, with the mediation of the European Union. The Mexican group, like the rest of the shareholders, lost all its investment: more than 500 million euros.
Sabadell Bank. Another Mexican, David Martinez, is the entity’s first individual investor since 2014. Through its fund Fintech Europe, has come to own 3.5% of the capital, but in December last year it reduced its participation somewhat, with the sale of three million shares, taking advantage of the fact that the entity had recovered on the Stock Market. David Martínez is part of the Sabadell board of directors.
Vips Group. Alsea acquired in 2018 for 500 million euros the restaurant chain founded in 1969 by Plácido Arango. In this way, the Mexican company adds a thousand establishments in Spain and Portugal, making it the leading operator in the sector. In Latin America (Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Brazil and Uruguay) it has another 3,500. Alsea had already bought in 2006 the Grupo Zena, owner of brands such as Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, Foster’s Hollywood or Cañas y Tapas.
Helm Cinemas. The Mexican company Cinépolis acquired this chain in 2015, thus adding 414 rooms to the 3,934 it already had. Thanks to this, its presence in the Spanish territory expanded, so that since then it has been in all the autonomous communities and in cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Valencia, Malaga, La Coruña, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Alicante, Oviedo and Gijón.