Interview in Economia Digital: “Companies have their plans ready to exit Catalonia if necessary”

The German manager who heads Adminex assures that “insecurity kills any business” 

Marc Ambrock is all sympathy and attention but he also values Germany punctuality. He has a complicated agenda, is constantly travelling and makes most of his time. He is a German entrepreneur who has his company in his genes, Ambrock, an industrial coating company with 125 years of experience behind it. Marc Ambrock, however, wanted to launch another company, Adminex, with offices in all of Europe, in Barcelona and Madrid, which helps small and medium businesses in their internationalization process.

It is his passion, because it allows him to see the peculiarities of each country, of each culture and draw different strategies. This enables him to touch his interlocutor’s arm, being fully aware that a German would not do it. But Ambrock lives in Barcelona, a city he considers as one of the best in quality of life.

And maybe for that reason, this German businessman, who is well connected with the Catalan economic and business world – he is a frequent participant in the events organized by the employers’ association Foment –, sees clearly that Catalonia’s process toward independence can be bad business for everyone. “States compete like companies and politicians need time to understand that”, claims Ambrock.

Exit strategies
First conclusion after this statement? Companies find their own ways and flee from situations of uncertainty. That is why this entrepreneur relies on his experience and assures that “many companies already have their plans to exit Catalonia if necessary; they have already developed exit strategies, even if they do it slowly”. And he adds that they are not just international companies but also Catalan ones with head offices in other parts of Spain.

Does, therefore, a real fear exist, as recently claimed by a group of German managers? Ambrock was not part of the group, who made public the so-called Declaration of Barcelona, but does support its reflections. If Catalonia becomes independent and exits the European Union, “this is a problem of great dimension which businesses cannot accept”.

France and Morocco

He adds with clarity that “insecurity kills any business”. “This is not a threat, it is a fact, and international companies will not accept to have their development capacities limited for political reasons”. Moreover, he explains, “we have all seen that the European Commission is taking more and more decisions, so we simply cannot opt out”.

In regard to the possibility of companies setting up their offices where the best opportunities are to be found, Ambrock mentions the case of France. He states that it produces fewer cars than Spain because the factories have moved to Morocco “which offers them the best conditions possible”. That is to say that there is nothing secure now, “and even more in situations of instability”.

The loss of the industry
But Marc Ambrock, very knowledgeable on Russia and the problems of Russian companies, does not want to appear as a pessimist or as opposed to just any independence movements without offering more arguments. For the CEO of Adminex the problem is that the independence ideal “is not backed by a very serious project”. And there he starts explaining his own experience at the forefront of Adminex. This entrepreneur understands that the reindustrialization plans, as described by the Minister of Business and Labor Felip Puig, will have little effect “because in this case we are late”.

Catalonia has not drawn a horizon for the future, pushing for those sectors in which it could indeed be a state-of-the-art country. He stresses that “the companies that currently show interest for Spain, the ones that we are orienting at Adminex, belong to very specific sectors such as bio-technology, medicine and information technology. They are in no way companies of the industrial world”.

Investment is coming back
He admits that Catalonia is receiving foreign investment, as the Government of Artur Mas has highlighted in the past months, but sees it as part of a recovery process of Spain as a whole. He explains, “it is true and we are noticing that investment is coming back to Spain, which is already in a process of economic recovery, and as a result, Catalonia also benefits from it”.

For Ambrock – a much-respected name in Germany for its weight in the German industry – Catalonia should take more advantage of a platform like Spain and Europe. “With dimension, by being part of something greater, you can be more competitive in global markets”, he claims. But in which sectors? He enumerates a few in which he firmly believes. “In medicine, in the aeronautical sector – with a center like Toulouse so close-by -, in bio-technology and in tourism, we should be able to be leaders”.

Yet, this entrepreneur who adores Catalonia, but whose ideal would be to have an ID “of the United States of Europe, because I am German”, warns that Catalonia’s main problem “is training”, no matter what its political future holds. Human capital is the key to compete, and in that aspect “improvement is necessary”, he concludes.

By Manel Manchón in Economia Digital ( 07/03/2014 )

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