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Our maxim: “understanding before action”
Our purpose is to encourage the knowledge and the debate of issues connected with art and military science. Selection of articles attempts to reflect different opinions. Beyond any ideological ascription. In order to impulse critical thought amongst our readers.

martes, 6 de enero de 2015

Emergentes: de deudores a acreedores.

In Reversal of History, Emerging Countries Buy Up European Assets.

By Briefing

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi attended the signing of a deal between Italian steelmaker Lucchini and Algerian conglomerate Cevital, Rome, Italy, Dec. 9, 2014 (Photo from the office of the Italian Prime Minister).
In a reversal of historical trends, emerging countries are now going to great lengths to buy into portions of Europe’s sluggish industrial system. In the gloomy context of an old continent struggling to overcome the crisis that has been gripping its economies since 2007, businesses from developing nations are queuing to purchase valuable European assets, often in countries that were once their colonial rulers.

As a consequence of the growing importance that their own countries have gained on the world stage, private and public managers from China, India and the Persian Gulf countries are now familiar figures in the governing bodies and boardrooms of big as well as small- and medium-sized European enterprises. But what is most striking about the increasing relevance in Europe of emerging economy players is that not only these economic powerhouses, but also nations with a low geopolitical profile, such as Algeria, are criss-crossing Europe on an industrial shopping spree.

In a recent development, Cevital, Algeria’s largest private conglomerate, bought Italy’s steelmaker Lucchini, saving all 2,000 jobs at the company’s plant in the Tuscan port city of Piombino and announcing plans to increase employment over the next four years. The move came as a sharp rebuttal to accusations from populist politicians across Europe that immigrants from North Africa are stealing jobs from European nationals.

Italy is the second-biggest European steel producer after Germany, and Lucchini is the country’s second-largest steelmaker. Up until 2012, before it was placed under special administration after going bankrupt, the company was owned by the Russian steelmaker Severstal. It is worth noting that in a competition between two flagship members of the Non-Aligned Movement, the loose grouping of developing nations that in 1961 created a neutral bloc in the context of the Cold War, the Algerian group beat out India’s JSW Steel to secure Lucchini’s assets.

Cevital is the second most important company in Algeria after state energy firm Sonatrach, with businesses that include mining operations, food processing, auto distribution and a string of manufacturing activities in areas such as glass, cement and metalworking. And Lucchini is not the group’s first takeover in Europe. The Algerian conglomerate also has a wide range of interests in France, its former colonial master. In April, in an alleged attempt to escape Algeria’s state-driven economic environment and unfriendly business climate, Cevital acquired French home appliance manufacturer FagorBrandt for $30.6 million, preserving 1,225 jobs. It had already taken over the French company Oxxo, which specializes in doors and PVC windows for apartment buildings, for $14.7 million in June 2013, saving another 288 jobs.

By exploiting Europe’s ongoing economic woes, enterprises from developing countries are catching up on the know-how that European states and manufacturers have accumulated for centuries, Cevital chairman Isaad Rebrab remarked on Dec. 3.

It is a historical turnaround of sorts: Europe’s ex-colonies coming to the rescue of their former colonizers. For example, Angola has invested between $12.2 billion and $18.3 billion in debt-ridden Portugal through its own sovereign wealth fund, the Fundo Soberano de Angola, according to a report from The Guardian. Propelled by huge proceeds from its oil reserves, Luanda’s injection of liquidity in its former “motherland” affects sectors such as energy, media, banking, building and agriculture.

Oil revenues were also behind the raft of investments that the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), Libya’s sovereign wealth fund, made from 2006, when it was established, to 2011, when the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was toppled by a mass uprising backed by NATO airstrikes. During this period, LIA notably focused its attention on Italy, Tripoli’s former colonial ruler, taking stakes in UniCredit Bank, the aerospace and defense company Finmeccanica, the automaker Fiat and even the well-known Juventus soccer team. It also bought shares in the Belgian financial group Fortis and the British publisher Pearson. Some of LIA’s assets remain frozen by international resolutions imposed by the U.S., the United Nations and the European Union after the breakout of the first Libyan civil war in 2011.

Foreign direct investments channeled into Europe by Algeria’s Cevital and the sovereign wealth funds of Angola and Libya are hardly comparable to that of heavyweights such as China, India, Brazil and Singapore, whose combined assets in Europe were estimated by Eurostat at $348.6 billion in 2012. But these smaller national investors signal a new, and in many respects revolutionary, trend in the relations between a number of European countries in disarray and their former colonies.

With the exception of Beijing, New Delhi and Singapore, this influx of money from the developing world to Europe is typically driven by fossil fuel exports. As East Africa is poised to be the next frontier for the global energy industry, with reserves of gas being developed off the coast of Mozambique, offshore gas basins discovered in Tanzania and oil fields spotted in Kenya and Uganda, it is not completely unrealistic to forecast a new infusion of cash into Europe from these dynamic, though still unstable, emerging nations down the line.

A brand-new relationship is looming on the horizon as Europe and its former colonies find themselves treading convergent geopolitical paths, albeit in reversed roles this time around. On one hand, highly indebted European countries will inevitably have to remodel diplomatic relations with emerging economies if they want to continue drawing in these countries’ investments. On the other, developing nations will have a harder time “selling” a narrative of historical injustice when they are becoming well-acquainted with the very economic instruments that the West, in their opinion, wielded to perpetuate their condition of subjugation in the past.

Emanuele Scimia is an independent journalist and geopolitical analyst.

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