CHAIRMAN OF CORPORACIÓN AMÉRICA
Argentina 2018 I Economy I Leader
BIOGRAPHY Born in 1932 in Buenos Aires, son of Armenian immigrants in Argentina, he is one of the most successful businessmen in Latin America. Mr Eurnekian has been honoured by Italy with the “Leonardo Award”, granted the Business for Peace Award in Oslo, Norway, decorated by the Brazilian Government with the Orden de Rio Branco, and named National Hero of Armenia for his philanthropic endeavours and investments in that country.
“GETTING INTO THE AIRPORT SECTOR WAS A GREAT SUCCESS WITH THE MOST ROOM FOR GROWTH. TODAY, THE NUMBER OF PASSENGERS IS INCREASING AT DOUBLE THE RATE OF GDP AND IN SOME REGIONS AS MUCH AS THREE TIMES.”
CORPORACIÓN AMÉRICA HAS GROWN TO BECOME ONE OF THE LEADING COMPANY GROUPS IN ARGENTINA. CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT ITS BACKGROUND?
As a holding that was born in Argentina, Corporación América has thrived on its dynamism and versatility to successfully develop diverse enterprises in different markets and parts of the world. We have invested and grown largely in Latin America but we have as well developed businesses in very interesting and challenging markets such as Armenia, Italy and Australia, which, by the way, are key crossroads in Eurasia, the Mediterranean and the IndoPacific. We are of course considering further opportunities in India and Africa.
Our holding’s history started out in the textile industry and in the late 70s, we diversified into communications and media by taking over “Cablevision” (a local cable TV station) and turning it into the largest TV cable operator in South America. We then continued investing in the communications sector, creating a modern multimedia network that included radio stations, newspapers and broadcast television. The year 1998 marked a turning point for our group. After winning the bid for the concession to manage and control 33 airports in Argentina and various cargo terminals under the brand Aeropuertos Argentina 2000, we expanded overseas and now run 53 airports in 6 other countries: Brazil, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, Italy and Armenia. As for today, we have diversified and are active in the infrastructure, agribusiness, services, oil and gas, technology and finance sectors.
THE RECENT IPO OF CORPORACIÓN AMÉRICA AIRPORTS HAS BEEN AN IMPORTANT MILESTONE IN THE GROUP’S HISTORY. WHAT WERE THE MAIN REASONS FOR GOING PUBLIC?
Corporación América Airports’ had its IPO in February this year. Getting listed was an essential step in our company’s history, being its main objective the professionalization of our operations and not the raise of capital. It is a commitment that not only the management but all our employees have taken to our investors from all over the world. It is a natural step for every company, and I wish that more companies in Argentina would do the same. I believe that Argentine companies will benefit from becoming more internationalized, which will consequently attract investments and increase the growth possibilities of the country. We are focused on doing things well and are always reviewing opportunities for investments and growth. The world is changing rapidly, and we have to adapt faster than ever before as technology has reduced distances and time for decisions. We are living in times of immediacy.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE SOME TRICKS OF THE TRADE WITH THE AIRPORT BUSINESS?
The airport business is very much the story of this century – in the previous one I started off in the textile industry which is traditionally run by Armenians, but there is no doubt that getting into the airport sector was a great success with the most room for growth. Today, the number of air passengers is growing at double the rate of GDP and in some regions as much as three times.
ARGENTINA’S BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT HAS CONSIDERABLY IMPROVED WITH THE GOVERNMENT OF PRESIDENT MACRI. WHAT IS YOUR PERSPECTIVE FOR THE COUNTRY’S ECONOMY?
I think we are on the right path (even if President Macri’s reforms could be bolder) although obviously he cannot correct eight decades of misrule in a single term. In the last 80 years, Argentina chose the wrong turn for its development and today is paying the consequences for these historical mistakes. With the Macri administration the country is moving in the right direction, trying to be part of the world once again. The focus is now set on improving competitiveness as the current administration understands that challenges are now globalized and irreversible. Our Group’s companies continue to participate in those projects that will improve the infrastructure grid of Argentina. We businessmen have a key role in riding together the same train towards the development of our country. If there is a willingness, not of a government but of our local society as a whole, there is nothing that can stop the direction Argentina is taking. I am very optimistic about the future of our country and I believe this is the best time to do business. At the same time, it is not easy for all Argentine companies to be competitive at an international level vis-à-vis the advantage in trade skills and logistics other countries have achieved. The key issue is to identify and focus on niches for exporting our products. Our company has been thoroughly successful with its investments in Europe although it is easier to do business in neighbouring countries - such as Brazil, Uruguay, Ecuador and Peru - as we share a similar culture and business mentality, being the latter a competitive advantage.
Argentina´s internationalization process should be done in two ways. First, we have to continue to approach multilateral organizations and secondly, a domestic serious work is mandatory. We need to improve the quality of our public institutions with good and effective governance, so as to make sure that our system is trustworthy, providing institutional stability, accountability and transparency for investors. And finally, we need to be integrated. Integration and partnership is the trend in the world today: we have to move towards a continentally-integrated Americas, with all its countries team-working in one trade bloc. If we really believe in integration, our actions have to go in that direction. The Mercosur was a milestone in the 90´s but it has proved to be essentially a politically-minded organization while it needs to be more focused on adjusting its trade rules in order to partner with other trading blocs such as the Pacific Alliance, the TPP and the European Union.