THE SPANISH PATIENT

For many years the patient was in intensive care. We were all warned that the condition may be terminal and we should not expect too much.  If there was a recovery, it would be slow and painful and what we would be left with at the end,  nobody could predict.  That has been Spain for the past 8 years.  A critically ill patient with an indeterminable future.  Now, the patient is sitting up in bed and we feel confident there will be a full recovery.  How can we be so sure, well, you always judge the recovery of any country from recession by the confidence shown by those outside the country to start to invest in it.  After a long period of recession, recovery can only come from within to a certain degree.  Getting things up and moving more quickly requires an injection of foreign  confidence and foreign cash.

What we know for sure is that foreign investors are snapping up shares in Spanish companies.  In fact the pundits tell us that 43% of Spanish shares are now under overseas control.  That shows a massive commitment to Spain for the future and it is the highest level of foreign investment since our crisis began in 2007.  The current share holding is double what it was 20 years ago.  Sadly, all this bright news does not stop Sanlucar de Barrameda having the dubios title of the town with the  highest unemployment  in Spain, the current figure standing at 49%.

Investment in Spain´s tourism is racing ahead especially in the hotel sector with high levels of interest from buyers in the Middle East, Asia and US.  These countries investment has reached a record level.  In 2006 1.6 billion was invested in to Spain´s hotels but this year´s figures are set to smash that..

Adam Tan an executive director of the Chinese business group HNA, told The Financial Times “I am focused on deals outside of China because after the financial crisis some companies were hurt and where there is distress you can get something cheap”.  Perhaps not a view to be applauded but they have acquired shares in the NH chain of hotels and the Chinese market has forged alliances with chains such as Melia and Barcelo. HNA first showed interest in the NH group in 2011.  In the past  couple of years, China alone has invested in excess of 870 million euros in Spanish hotel chains.  With HNA investing 420 million euros to become the major share holder in the NH chain.  Originally their investment was 234 million representing a 20% stake but they then picked up the shares owned by Amancio Ortega, the owner of the textile group Inditex who’s umbrella covers the retail outlets Zara and Massimo Dutti.

Dalian Wanda,  based in Hong Kong is China’ s largest property developer and the world’s largest cinema chain owner have purchased the Edificio España in Madrid where they intend to create a residential, retail and luxury hotel complex.  Likewise, Platinum Estates owned by Harry Mohinani has invested in the old Telefonica headquarters in Barcelona for 56 million and the Hotel Asturias in the gran Via, Madrid,  for 35 million both with the intention of developing them in to luxury apartments.  You may be saying about now, “why all the sudden interest” well, don’t forget we have this little gift from the Spanish government called a golden visa.  Buy a property for 500,000 euros and get a residents visa.  That teamed with the revaluation of the Yuan against the euro and the blessing of the Chinese government to go forth and invest in overseas countries.

Perhaps the Chinese business view that you go for long term survival over short term profit fits well with surviving an economic crisis.  Many Chinese companies have done well over the past 8 years in Spain.  It is estimated that Chinese convenience stores alone bring in over 785 million not to mention the Chinese owned fashion chains,  import export businesses, law firms and media groups all now operating in here.

One of the most respected Chinese business men, Mr Meodong Chen who owns the Don Pin group said “the Spaniards looked at us like they looked at the other migrants, like people who do the dirty work. Now when you go to a department store, they have signs in Chinese and staff who speak Chinese.  They know, ´here are people who have money´.

While foreign investment in Spain will help us back on our feet, a fair bit of work has been done at home to help ease the pain everyone who has worked through this crisis has felt.  This year demand and consumption is rising, the property market has turned the corner, both foreign and domestic investment is up and even the beleaguered construction industry is showing signs of recovery. The government intend to create 3 million new jobs over the coming 5 years and our annual growth should be up 2.5 – 3% on previous years.

What else is contributing to the patients recovery?  Well, oil prices have fallen which for a country who imports large amounts of energy, is a definite help and is predicted to add .5% to the Spanish GDP this year which will encourage household spending

I think we can say not only is the patient sitting up in bed but he is sending out for takeaways and DVD´s.  Long may it continue!

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