“Economically, a country is largely represented by its brands, because in the global world, brands have become true engines of growth and the competitiveness of a country.” This idea was the basis for the proceedings of the morning of 24 April in Barcelona at the ceremony celebrating the 15th Anniversary of the Leading Brands of Spain Forum, a business organisation that brings together more than 100 major Spanish companies with leading brands in their respective sectors and it was precisely there in Barcelona where it was founded in 1999 by 17 companies. The chairman, José Luis Bonet, who is also the chairman of Freixenet, said during his speech that “if we want to be a competitive country, we must make internationalisation with brands a key priority of our economic policy.”
The Leading Brands of Spain Forum brought together 300 companies and executives at the Palau de Congressos in the Fira de Barcelona and was attended by the President of the Generalitat de Catalunya, Artur Mas, the Mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias, and was closed by the Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy. During his speech, Artur Mas said that “creating an outwardly-oriented economy is the way, and the only way.”
Therefore, the president of the Generalitat said “Catalunya has 15,000 regular exporters and nearly 45,000 companies that export, and Catalan exports represent 25% of Spanish exports.” “This effort has to be broadened at the base, and all the better if it is with a brand,” Mas emphasised. In addition, the Catalan President stressed that “Barcelona is a major international brand, and before it was not even one at a European level, so many Catalan companies use the image of Barcelona associated with their own brands.” “Spain’s most powerful brand is called Barcelona,” Mas concluded. The Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, valued the Leading Brands of Spain Forum project as a public-private alliance, noting that “we get much further working on projects of mutual interest.” “There is a clear drag effect of large companies towards smaller companies, the leading brands are true ambassadors of our products and services and our country, and we must take advantage of this,” said Rajoy. “International presence is very important for the government, withdrawing into yourself and not reacting to changes is a sure-fire failure. We must do the opposite, as it is attitude that leads to success,” said the Prime Minister, who concluded saying that “we must commit to internationalisation, competitiveness and country image.”
Also during the meeting there was a speech by Wilbur Ross, the CEO and chairman of WL Ross & Co. a leading global venture capital management company, who explained his vision on how to compete globally. Wilbur Ross is one of the most important international financial investors, selected by Bloomberg as one of the 50 most influential people in the financial sector globally, and the Leading Brands of Spain Forum is working with him to establish a fund that invests in Spanish companies.
During the day, a round table was held for Catalan business professionals with international brands, such as Manuel Puig, VIce-President of Puig, Josep Pont, CEO of Borges, Nuria Basi, Armand Chairwoman of Basi, Xavier Torra, CEO of Simon and Antonio Gassó, CEO of Gaes. “The decision to go international must be part of the culture of the company “Antonio Gassó pointed out. Nuria Basi emphasised the need to “take advantage of the strength of tourism, as it allows you to create loyalty among customers with brands, who then consume them in their countries of origin.” “Internationalisation is not easy and it isn’t an easy path, you must always be well prepared” stressed Josep Pont, who also added that “becoming international is not the same as exporting, and this is what we must aspire to.” We must combine the brand and the product, and the product must be excellent for the brand to be excellent, too,” said Manuel Puig.
The Mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias, said that: “Barcelona is a brand linked to Mediterranean culture, innovation, welfare, quality, and is in a constant quest for excellence.” During his speech, José Luis Bonet noted that “for a country to be competitive and respected internationally, it needs to have companies and recognised brands worldwide.” He said that Catalonia is “a leader in its commitment to internationalisation. Proof of this is that Catalan exports represent 25% of Spanish exports and that the Leading Brands Forum was born precisely in Barcelona.” He also added that “it is necessary to implement fiscal and financial stimulus measures for internationalisation as international companies grow more, are more sustainable, and create more jobs, as we saw in the video prior to my speech.” Not surprisingly, the turnover of the members of the Leading Brands of Spain Forum has grown an average of 220% since 1999, the average international business has increased from 32% to 55%, the number of employees has grown by 42.6% and on average they have gone from 40 to the more than 70 countries currently involved. Today, they employ 1.5 million people and their aggregate turnover is equivalent to 40% of Spanish GDP.
Precisely to promote the internationalisation of Spanish brands, that very day COFIDES and the Leading Brands of Spain Forum signed an agreement to launch FINMARCA, a new line of venture capital financing amounting to 50 million euros, to encourage the foreign expansion of companies in the Forum. It is a public-private financing line whose shares in the capital of companies are minority and whose reference limits will be between 2 million and 30 million euros per transaction.