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September 2018

Sustainability,

The Netherlands and Sustainability: Leader or Laggard?

By | Economic Activities, Economic Analysis | No Comments
Vivian Hendrikse
 
A country with more than a thousand windmills. A very eco-friendly way of transportation deeply embedded in its culture: travelling by bike, which leads to an average of 1.3 bikes per inhabitant. Three million solar panels on roofs of buildings and houses and increasing usage and developments of solar bike paths. Next to that, ample recycling initiatives and a strong reputation in the area of innovation [1,4]. However, a very low ranking as 26th compared to fellow EU member states when it comes to the share of renewable energy in the country’s energy mix. What is more, a 50% higher average of CO2 emissions per capita than the average of EU countries. Exotic fruits in supermarkets in every season and worldwide the 10th biggest importer, which, considering the country’s size of roughly 40 thousand square kilometers, is extremely high [3,4]. The Netherlands: sustainability leader or laggard?
 

Shortcomings of the Netherlands

The numbers and statistics of several researches agree: the Netherlands is not exactly first in class in terms of sustainable performances compared to other European countries, and even the world in general. Looking at the developments of the carbon emissions per capita over the past decades, the Netherlands has always had a higher CO2 emission per capita than the average of the entire EU [4]. Moreover, this gap does not seem to be declining any time soon, as the carbon footprint of the EU appears to lessen even more than the one of the Netherlands (see graph below). Of course, the high population density of the country makes it hard to plant renewable energy sources, and the lack of variety of the available countryside diminishes the options of renewable resources for the Netherlands to choose from. There are for example no hills and mountains, which means that hydropower and other options of renewable energy sources cannot be considered [4].
CO2 emissions per capita (source: CleanTechnica [4])
Why does the Netherlands, with its reputation of being “green”, have this relatively high CO2 emission level? The reason for this is driven by three factors. First, as already mentioned, the country has an extremely large population density which leads to a high percentage of the population living in urban areas (a total of 90%) [3]. Urbanization of a country threatens its sustainable development due to rising demand for food production and services based on any sort of energy [5]. Second, the Netherlands hosts Europe’s largest port (Rotterdam) and third largest airport (Schiphol Airport of Amsterdam) – both with large carbon footprints on its own, and an even larger impact on the environment when taking the industry that is built around it into account [3]. This brings me to the third factor, the Dutch industry: as previously stated, the Netherlands is listed 10th as the world’s largest importer. However, when it comes to exports, the Dutch are ranked even higher with, a for its size rather impressive, 8th ranking worldwide [3]. All in all, the country – as small as it is – clearly contributes heavily to usage of fossil fuels and thereby negatively impacts the environment.
 

Fields in which the Netherlands leads

Thankfully, the Netherlands is aware of its shortcomings. Acknowledging its high usage of energy and its large carbon footprint, the government has committed to improving the countries environmental and climate protection performances whilst working towards the Sustainable Developments goals [2]. The first results are visible: this year, the Netherlands has dropped out of the EU’s “group for greenhouse gas intensity concerns” – a very positive development [2]. Small adjustments are also made. Last year, for example, a new law was implemented that states that plastic bags are no longer allowed to be handed out for free in shops [3]. However, several adaptations take more time. If the Netherlands were to immediately decrease its international trade quantity and businesses operations to diminish its environmental impact, the country would lose its economic welfare. In order to have proceeds to invest in innovations and renewable energy, the Netherlands has to maintain its international position and foster its economic growth. This paradox forces the country to consider other, longer-term options, to slowly transform its industry into a more environmentally sustainable one. Therefore, the Dutch government invests heavily in innovative initiatives from citizens and entrepreneurs, as well as technical innovation studies at universities [4].
A typical view in Amsterdam: a large number of bikes next to the canals.
Though the results of these transformations are not yet noticeable, many transformations are being made. Schiphol airport, for example, has partnered with energy company Eneco to convert the airport to 100% wind energy by the end of this year [1]. The port of Rotterdam is in the process of building a waste-to-chemistry plant that will transform up to 360,000 tons of waste into 220,000 tons of green methanol. The facility is the first of its kind in Europe, and will eliminate over 300,000 tons of CO2 emissions [1]. The public transportation sector also contributes to these innovations: it has committed to “providing 100% emissions-free busses by 2025 and removing all gas and diesel vehicles from the road by 2030, positioning the country as a leader in sustainable regional and urban ground transport” [1]. Even in the biking sector, which seemed eco-friendly to start with, positive developments are made. The startup “SwapFiets” offers recycled, good-as-new bikes including a 24/7 reparation services for an attractive monthly fee, incentivizing people to join this circular economy initiative instead of simply buying a new bike once their old bike no longer works or is lost. Lastly, in the solar sector, the Netherlands installed 853 megawatts of solar in 2017, which was an increase of 60% in one year. That year, more than half a million homes ran on solar power – 40% more than in the previous year [1].
 

Leader or laggard?

When looking at the facts, it is obvious that the Netherlands has yet to lower its carbon footprint significantly and many improvements have to be made. However, this does not mean that the country is lagging in terms of sustainability. Quite the contrary: when it comes to sustainable developments and innovation, the Netherlands is a clear leader.
 
 

Sources:

[1] Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (20 April 2018), “How the Dutch lead in Sustainability”, Invest in Holland. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 19.09.2018]
[2] CBS (9 March 2018), “Netherlands closer to achieving Sustainability Goals”, Central Bureau for Statistics. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 20.09.2018]
[3] Marianne Chagnon (18 December 2016), “The Netherlands and Sustainability: Suprisingly not that good”, Dutchreview. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 19.09.2018]
[4] Rogier van Rooij (12 July 2017), “Netherlands One Of Least Sustainable EU Countries. How Did The Dutch Get Their Green Image?”, CleanTechnica. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 20.09.2018]
[5] Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2 July 2013), “Rapid urbanization threatens sustainable development”, United Nations. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 18.09.2018]

Ecommerce & retail in Spain

By | Economic Activities, Economic Analysis, Trade News | No Comments
Vivian Hendrikse
With online sales in Western Europe having increased by 15.6% from 2015 to 2016, and by another 14.2% in 2017, ecommerce is the fastest growing retail market of our time [3]. What is more, this growth, corresponding to online spending for retail, is not expected to cease to exist. Retail is defined as sales of merchandise to the final consumer, excluding cooked food, restaurants, automobiles and vehicle fuel. Ecommerce therefore captures all online purchases within the retail sector, meaning purchases that included a transaction made using the internet or at distance [3]. Being not just the fastest growing, but also the largest retail market makes ecommerce an important market to acknowledge and explore. In this blog, the Spanish online retail market is investigated and current trends and developments within the sector are identified.
 

Spanish retail market in past decade and the rise of ecommerce

As Spain was hit by the financial crisis in 2008 and had to deal with a tremendous unemployment wave in the years thereafter, the Spanish retail industry suffered from a large drop in both value and volume (see graph). Though an improvement of the market slowly appeared again in 2012/2013, value and volume of the Spanish retail industry have not reached the same levels as before the crisis [5]. Of course, the Spanish economy is still growing. However, analyses show that the improvement of the market as it is observed in the graph is mainly caused by the rise of ecommerce. In fact, the ecommerce industry was one of the few Spanish sectors that reflected a double digit-growth in 2011 and 2012 [1]. What is more, the impact of the growth of the ecommerce sector on the retail industry in general is magnified by a rise in the size of ecommerce relative to retail in general. The percentage of ecommerce of the total retail industry in Spain doubled in the period 2013 to 2018 (from 3.5% to more than 7%) [3].

Retail sales in Spain [5]

Spain’s current ecommerce environment

There are currently three main trends that drive the Spanish ecommerce market [4]: first, logistics are massively enhanced by offering products online, which increase (worldwide) sales for many Spanish sellers. Second, when it comes to the usage of smartphones, Spain is considered to have one of the highest smartphone penetration rates in Europe, enabling further ecommerce growth [4]. Third, the final trend that arises due to market progression is the integration of (big) data analytics, artificial intelligence, and chatterbots. This is now the most relevant trend for industry participants, as it is the most recent one and consequently leads to many innovative developments and jobs within the sector. In terms of market environment, there are about 23.6 million ecommerce users in Spain, approximately half of its population, and this number is expected to grow to 29.2 million in 2021 [1]. Of the online transactions, more than a third are made by using Credit cards (34%), followed by cash (32%), electronic bank transfer (20%) and eWallet (14%). The most significant payment option in Spain is 4B, which has 20 million cards circulating in the country. After that, credit and debit cards of Euro6000 are also commonly in use [1]. Of the online purchases, the majority is done via the most popular websites of Amazon, Carrefour, eBay, El Corte Ingles, Mediamarkt, PC Componentes, Vente-Privee.com, Zalando, and Zara [2,3].
 

Future outlook and possible investment opportunities

As a market is rising, investment opportunities rise with it. In the retail sector in general, more and more investments are made: the Spanish retail market alone received 3.9 billion euros of investments in 2017, which was the largest investment volume in any sector of that year and a rise of 31% of investments in the sector compared to the year before [2]. As for the ecommerce sector specifically, it is hard to assess the total investment made as investments in online payment, websites and online stores all fall within its scope. The opportunities per sector within ecommerce are summarized on several websites (one example: link), confirming the wide variety of options to invest in (B2B, ecommerce services, ecommerce intellectual property rights, cross-border ecommerce, etcetera) [4]. Next to that, 75% of all investors in the Spanish retail and ecommerce sector are international investors [2]. Thus, when considering ecommerce in Spain as a next investment move, many opportunities can be considered.
 
 

Sources:

[1] Ecommerce in Spain. Ecommerce news. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 11.09.2018]
[2] Retail: What does the future hold for a sector in transformation – Spain February 2018. JJL Spain. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 13.09.2018]
[3] Online Retailing: Britain, Europe, US and Canada 2017. Centre for retail research. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 12.09.2018]
[4] Spain – Ecommerce, update 12.07.2018. Export.gov. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 12.09.2018]
[5] Tobias Buck (May 16, 2016), Spanish Retail: Deep Cuts in Stores, Financial Times. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 13.09.2018]
busqueda de socios para empresas

Looking East: Innovation and Business in Singapore

By | Economic Activities, Economic Analysis, International Relations
Vivian Hendrikse
 
Of the 20 best global innovations of the year 2017, 3 initiatives originated from Singapore [6]. According to the Bloomberg Innovation Index, Singapore is ranked 3rd globally when it comes to innovation [7]. Next to that, Singapore is ranked as the number one smart city according to ABI’s and Juniper’s researches in 2018 [7]. If that is not enough, the world bank names Singapore as the “easiest place in the world to do business”, and Singapore was the main subject of a Michael Porter Harvard Business Innovation case study [3]. If there is one thing that these facts bear in common, it is their message that Singapore, as a city and country in one, is a successful hub for doing innovative business. What is the cause that led Singapore to be this successful when it comes to innovations?

Singapore’s “Home” strategy

 
According to Damian Chan, international director at the Singapore Economic Development Board – the leading governmental agency that decides on the nation’s strategy for innovation – the “success” of Singapore is not caused by just one factor, rather it is driven by a general “welcoming approach to business” as a basis for everything that Singapore does [3]. Singapore was formed a little more than 50 years ago, when it became independent from Malaysia. At the start of being a new nation, the Economic Development Board (EDB) was formed in order to create new jobs, attract international companies and enhance the development of export-oriented industries to lead Singapore, as small as it was and with the few resources it had, towards becoming an independent nation. In this process, the focus of the EDB slowly started to include a focus on innovation, motivated by the need to stay ahead of global competition [7]. The result: Singapore’s “Home” strategy: “Home for Business. Home for Innovation. Home for Talent” [3].

The attractiveness of doing business in Singapore

 
When it comes to attractiveness for businesses, Singapore already has the advantage of its unique characteristics: being a small, Western and developed country in Asia. These characteristics matter: new regulations can quickly be set and applied in a small country and offer, in combination with business efficiency and knowledge, a fast-growing, future-minded business environment [8]. What is more, Singapore is often seen as the gateway for the Western world to Southeast Asia, a region where resources are ample yet corruption reigns. Singapore is the rare exception of a non-corrupt nation in the region. Add English as the country’s official language to that and it quickly becomes clear that Singapore is an attractive investment for businesses that want to reach out to Southeast Asia [8].

Source: NCC Group [9]

The “Home” strategy applied

 
However favourable these business conditions of Singapore are, they would not sustain if the EDB had not recognised them and created the “Home” strategy. The strategy enables these conditions to further develop and even strengthen, placing Singapore far above other Southeast Asian countries when it comes to foreign investments [7]. The “Home” strategy is applied to all sectors related to innovation and business, for example the start-up scene, (digital) technologies, and education. This entails that Singapore is investing enormous budgets in these sectors, for the development of both enabling regulations as well as a stimulating environment. By creating laws that are favourable and even financially incentivising for start-ups or technology related firms, and developing multiple incubators, hubs, and open workspaces across the city, Singapore successfully pushes for innovation. Moreover, Singapore keeps investing in these sectors, even when results have already been seen: the nation recently created a new innovation fund of 1 billion Singaporean Dollars to drive enterprise growth [2]. The results are astonishing: Singapore doubled its number of start-ups from 22,000 in 2003 to 43,000 in 2016, and in the same time-span, the number of tech start-ups also roughly doubled (from 2,800 to 4,300) [1]. Next to that, it obtained the reputation of the number one smart city, a highly ranked innovation hub and the go-to place for start-ups, as mentioned in the introduction. All in all, it indeed seems as if the “Home” strategy works. Therefore, when it comes to innovation and business, it is of importance to keep Singapore high on the radar.
 

Sources:

[1] Enterprise Singapore (link)
[2] Rumi Hardasmalani (April 26, 2017), New S$1 billion Innovation Fund to Drive Enterprise Growth, TODAYonline. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 04.09.2018]
[3] Dominic Basulto (May 26, 2015), The Secrets to Singapore’s Track Record of Innovation Excellence, The Washington Post. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 06.09.2018]
[4] Monetary Authority of Singapore (link)
[5] Economic Development Board: Industries and Key Activities (link)
[6] Ministry of Finance: Innovation Initiatives (link)
[7] Economic Development Board: Innovation (link)
[8] Singapore Expats: A Brief History of Singapore (link)
[9] NCC Group: Infographic Facts about Singapore (link)

Spain’s wind energy success story

By | Economic Activities, Economic Analysis | No Comments
Vivian Hendrikse
In 2013, Spain became the first country in the world to have a renewable power as its primary source of energy. This renewable source was wind power, and provided 20.9 percent of the country’s energy needs of that year. Moreover, a total of 42.4 percent of all energy used originated from renewable sources, which includes wind, solar, and combined-cycle plant power [6]. Why was Spain one of the first European countries to successfully adapt its energy production to the threat of global warming, and therewith stimulate its renewable energy development? How has Spain’s wind energy developed ever since? In this blog, we will dive into the topic of wind energy in Spain, and provide answers to these questions.
 

The rise of renewable energy in Spain

Due to a general push for the use of renewable energy sources in the EU in 2009 [6], the Spanish energy organisation IDEA (Instituto para la Diversificación y Ahorro de la Energía) installed the National Renewable Energy Action Plan 2011-2020 (link) in 2010. In this plan, the organisation set goals for Spain with regard to overall energy usage, heating and cooling, electricity, and transport, which included a minimum percentage of energy generated from renewable sources for each category. Ever since, Spain has invested largely in renewable energy development. Of all renewable energy sources, both the development and success of one source in particular were increasing rapidly. This sources is wind energy. The potential of wind energy in Spain was discovered after one specific, particularly windy day in November 2011, when 59 percent of the nation’s power was produced by wind energy [4]. As this proved that Spain is not only sunny, but also windy, the developments of wind farms in the country were strongly stimulated by the national energy organization which led Spain to be the first nation ever to have wind energy, or any renewable energy, as its primary energy source in 2013 [6].
 

Current developments of wind energy

Since then, Spain has continued to develop its wind energy production and consequently maintained its position amongst the top four countries in the world (after China, USA and Germany) and as the number two in Europe [4] in terms of renewable energy production. Over the past decade, Spain has increased its renewable power by 53 percent which includes the generation of 61,925 gigawatts per hour of wind energy in 2017 (24.3% of the total year-average power usage, 252,755 GWh) [3]. These developments are not expected to slow down, as organisations are looking to invest 30,500 megawatts of new capacity to further support the integration of renewables. Enel Green Power, for example, acquired five wind farms in February 2018 with a total capacity of 132 MW. Moreover, the company identified 29 new wind projects that will allow for an additional capacity of 540 MW once installed, which is scheduled to be in 2019 [1]. Another example is the autonomous community government of Aragón, who authorised 1,778 MW of wind projects that were awarded in the May 2017 energy auction to be installed before the end of 2019 [5].
 

Effects on economy and future outlook

Recent data shows that in the first half of 2018, 45.8 percent of electricity in Spain came from renewable resources, of which the majority is generated by wind power [3]. Next to the positive impact of this rise of renewable energy sources on the environment, the increase in wind farms and wind energy development have stimulated the Spanish economy by creating more than 22,000 jobs. Considering the characteristics of the sector, and the increasing demand for renewable resources, the number of new jobs is expected to grow [3]. Moreover, Spain has obtained a top five position in worldwide exports of small wind turbines for domestic usage. Small wind turbines can be installed on the roofs of houses and can provide energy for a household [4]. The increasing popularity of these small turbines can boost the Spanish economy future as well, offering a positive outlook in the near future.
 

Sources:

 

[1] Enel Green Power (February 26, 2018), The Spanish Wind Energy Pushing Europe Forward, ENEL. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 30.08.2018]
[2] Tsvetomira Tsanova (December 29, 2017), Renewables Produce 33.7% of Spain’s Power in 2017, Renewables Now. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 28.08.2018]
[3] Bradley Stokes (July 15, 2018), Spain Takes Big Steps Towards Renewable Energy, The Olive Press. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed 29.08.2018]
[4] John Wolfendale (July 30, 2018), Is Wind Power in Spain Practical on a Domestic Scale?, Eco Vida Homes. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 30.08.2018]
[5] Lucas Morais (August 6, 2018), Spain’s Aragon Okays Construction of 1.78 GW of Wind Projects, Renewables Now. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 28.08.2018]
[6] Matthew Humphries (January 16, 2014), Spain Becomes First Country To Use Wind Power As Primary Source Of Energy, GEEK.com. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 30.08.2018]

Blockchain in Spain: how Banco de España is an exception compared to other Central Banks

By | Economic Activities, Economic Analysis | No Comments
Vivian Hendrikse
 
Following several news items in the past week concerning Blockchain in Spain, it becomes clear that the Spanish Central Bank has an opposing strategy for the up-and-coming distributed ledger technology (DLT) involving cryptocurrencies than most other Central Banks. In what way does the Banco de España (BDE) differentiate itself? What are the consequences of this for both Spain, as well as the general development of how banks see cryptocurrencies and the blockchain? This article serves to provide answers to these questions.
 
Though believing in the underlying blockchain technology, most Central Banks (including the European Central Bank, ECB) have expressed concerns regarding cryptocurrencies, as a specific part of the blockchain[1]. They argue that, though cryptocurrencies offer a wide range of new opportunities (for example in securities settlements mechanisms) operational challenges and complexity issues are of unknown size and, therefore, highly risky [3]. Consequently, the majority of the Central Banks do not (yet) shape clear regulations and standards that provide an outline for the technology to further develop in the market as much as they ideally should [1].
 
Several Central Banks or governments have initiated research in the field and thereby have undertaken an important first step. These include the Bank of Canada, Bank of Japan, Sveriges Riksbank and the ECB [1]. Only few, however, have openly committed to blockchain and to developing regulations around it. A great example of one of these is the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), who started a blockchain experiment in November 2016 as a “road to regulatory understanding” [4]. Still, the MAS, just as the other “openly committed” central organisations, does support cryptocurrencies. It merely acknowledges and explores its opportunities, while remaining to distrust crypto. And then there is the Banco de España. The BDE recently published a report (link) in favor of both cryptocurrencies and the blockchain, stating that they could have a positive impact on the Spanish economy [2]. The argument in the report is made by Galo Nuño, the Direct General of Economy at the BDE, and poses that the blockchain technology and a hypothetical “Central-Bank-Issued Digital Currency (CBDC)” could help track the country’s money supply. This introduced concept of the CBDC is a new type of cryptocurrency, one that is established by government regulation and controlled by the Central Bank itself. Even though the BDE mentions that further investigations are needed, the statement of a nation-wide organization implying that “Central Banks should consider implementing cryptocurrencies” is exceptional. The next step for Nuño is to further explore the consequences of his ideas and demonstrate that the usage of cryptocurrencies can be positive for a Central Bank [2].
 
What are the outcomes of the support for cryptocurrencies by the BDE? What could be the positive impact of this CBDC in the Spain, and for the blockchain technology in general? The answers to these questions are, of course, speculative. First, the concept of the Central Bank’s digital currency must be further developed and researched, which means that the implementation is not guaranteed. Nonetheless, the improvements for the Spanish economy are expected to include a more stabilised financial infrastructure and an improved management of interest rates [2]. Furthermore, the report of the Spanish Central Bank encourages other organisations in Spain to develop blockchain innovations. Spain is recently moving fast towards cryptocurrency adoption [2], which clearly coheres with the supporting standpoint of the Central Bank. Second, the impact of the BDE’s report for development of cryptocurrency regulations and strategies at other banks in general is also of a positive kind. Spain’s support of cryptocurrencies is inspirational, and can stimulate other central banks (and governments) to reassess their distrust in crypto and more actively pursue cryptocurrency and blockchain opportunities. The results of this refreshing approach by the Banco de España are thus far positive ones.
 

Sources:

[1] Oliver Thew (March 29, 2018), Central Banks Must Adapt to Blockchain, OMFIF. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 21.08.2018]
[2] Ian Tozer (August 9, 2018), Spain’s Central Bank: Cryptocurrency Could Improve Monetary Policy, Bitcoinist. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 22.08.2018]
[3] Annaliese Milano (March 27, 2018), Central Banks Say Blockchain Shake Securities Settlement, Coindesk. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed: 23.08.2018]
[4] Darryn Pollock (February 20, 2018), Singapore’s Government Blockchain Experiment Is a Road to Regulatory Understanding, Cointelegraph. Available Online (link) [Last Accessed, 22.08.2018]

Financial Technology in Spain: a brief overview

By | Economic Activities | No Comments
Vivian Hendrikse
 
Financial Technology, known as ‘FinTech’, is the term used to describe financial services by the means of software and modern technology. Even though the term FinTech has raised global awareness only in recent years, FinTech initiatives arose many years before it had been created. One of the first financial technologies, for example, is one we otherwise know very well as the ATM machine. The fact that we only now know and use the word FinTech to describe modern, ATM-like innovations is caused by a large movement in the past decade that includes the development of an extremely high number of FinTech initiatives worldwide. Think of payments via your smartphone, or generally transferring money online; it is all possible because financial technology. Think of cryptocurrencies and the Blockchain; all included in FinTech. It is therefore not surprising that banks and other large financial institutions depend on FinTech initiatives and cooperate with them in order to improve their financial services. Many of these organizations provide incubator programs or startup boost-camps to help FinTech companies grow.
When investing in the FinTech sector, it is thus of importance to recognize the FinTech landscape in the country of interest. Spain has seen a tremendous rise in the number of FinTechs in the past years. Early 2013, merely 50 FinTech startups were located in Spain. Within five years, this number has grown to over 300 FinTech firms registered in Spain, creating a market in which Spanish FinTechs raised over 120 million dollars across 19 deals in 2017, an impressive 10x increase in comparison to raised capital in the year before (12 million in 2016), see graph below.

FinTech investment in Spain (USD, number of deals). 2014-2017

Source: FinTech Global
 
When taking a closer look at the kind of FinTech initiatives that exist in Spain, the ‘FinTech News’ provided an overview of the segments that concentrate most activity, innovation and dynamism in Spain in the field of FinTech. The division is as follows: Payments & Remittances is the largest FinTech segment (24%), followed by Lending (19%), after which Enterprise Financial Management (11%), Crowdfunding (10%), Personal Finance Management (10%) and Insurance (8%) complete the overview.
 
Next to FinTech initiatives, Spain is one of the leading countries when it comes to FinTech usage, according to the EY FinTech Adoption Index of 2017. Over 37% of the internet users in Spain has used financial technology services at least once – mainly for managing their finances, purchasing products online, or making transfers via mobile apps. What is more, as this development has grown every year and the largest user-group consists of millennials, the usage of FinTech in Spain is only expected to further increase.
 
Since more than 90% of the FinTech initiatives in Spain are brought to the market by startups, it is of interest to assess the startup environment when considering investing. Several organizations have been created to connect FinTechs in Spain in order to provide transfer of knowledge and know-how. These include FinTech Spain and the Spain FinTech Hub. Furthermore, both organizations connect FinTechs to many accelerators and incubator programs, both in Spain and in Europe, which all in all provides for plenty of options for Spanish FinTechs to grow and excel.
 
All in all, the FinTech ecosystem in Spain thus fosters many opportunities and an interesting future perspective.

About the author:

Vivian has completed both her bachelor’s degree in International Business Administration and her master’s degree in Finance and Investments at the Rotterdam School of Management. While obtaining experience in investment banking and FinTech, she developed a strong interest in innovations in the financial world and sustainability. With her international work experiences, Vivian is able to recognize trends in Europe and Asia in both sectors and translate these into progressive business strategies.

Sources:

Ani Miteva (2018, March 22) The Spanish FinTech landscape in 2018. Available online (link) [Last access: 28.07.2018]
Ernst & Young (2018) EY FinTech Adoption Index 2017. Available online (link) [Last access: 28.07.2018]
FinTech Global (2018, January 23) Investment in Spanish FinTech companies surged in 2017, despite a slowdown in deal activity. Available online (link) [Last access: 28.07.2018]
FinTech News (2017, February 19) Fintech Radar Spain: Spain quadruples its Fintech sector in three years. Available online (link) [Last access: 28.07.2018]
FinTech Weekly. FinTech Definition. Available online (link) [Last access: 28.07.2018]

Sustainable Investing

By | Economic Analysis | No Comments
Vivian Hendrikse
 
Sustainable investing is an investment that considers environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) criteria in order to generate long-term competitive financial returns and a positive societal impact (definition: US SRI). Though its importance has been recognized only recently, data shows that sustainable investing is applied more and more in the global world of business. One example: analyses show that the X dollars (globally) invested in sustainable, responsible and impact (SRI) assets – $8.72 trillion as of 2016 – is 33% higher than in 2015 (US SIF Report 2016). Also, an increasing number of stakeholders of large investment firms express demands regarding sustainability in the investment firm’s portfolios. What are the driving factors behind this large movement, and more importantly: will the movement sustain?
There are three reasons for the large increase that is recognized in the discipline of sustainable investing. First, research clearly demonstrates that sustainable investing enhances portfolios’ returns. The below graph shows a strong growth in the return of a sustainable investing portfolio over a normal one in the past six years. Considering that portfolios that score high on ESG also often have a longer-term vision than portfolios that score low on ESG, one can imply that sustainable investing will not only enhance the portfolio’s yearly returns, but will increasingly enhance the returns in later years. Thus, profitability will continue to rise.
Second, sustainable investment strategies strengthen risk management. As the sustainability aspect of it ensures that an investment will enhance value over time, corporations with these kinds of portfolios are more likely to have the capacity to remain operating in the long-term. Moreover, many of the risks that could derail firms over a long period arise when environmental records are poor: they expose a firm to legal issues or regulatory penalties. Implementing ESG factors in an investment strategy helps to mitigate these risks, thereby improving the overall risk management of a portfolio, and thus, of a firm.
 
Third and last, it appears that sustainable investing is just as much a push from external stakeholders as it is an internal business strategy. According to Morgan Stanley, about 84% of millennials are interested in socially responsible investing. This number is not expected to
change as the generation ages, suggesting that demand for sustainable products is partially driven by millennials joining the investment market and hence it will only increase in the coming years. In order to align strategies with the ones of stakeholders, and the future generation of stakeholders, many firms should incorporate sustainable investing into their business model and build sustainable portfolios.
 
Concluding, it appears that there are large factors driving the movement of increasing usage of the discipline of sustainable investing. Considering the characteristics of these factors, such as the long-term vision, or the push from the younger generation, sustainable investing is expected to increase in the coming years and will, indeed, sustain.

About the author:

Vivian has completed both her bachelor’s degree in International Business Administration and her master’s degree in Finance and Investments at the Rotterdam School of Management. While obtaining experience in investment banking and FinTech, she developed a strong interest in innovations in the financial world and sustainability. With her international work experiences, Vivian is able to recognize trends in Europe and Asia in both sectors and translate these into progressive business strategies.

Sources:

 
Hale, J (2018). Sustainable investing trends for 2018. The ESG Advisor. Available online (link) [Accessed March 2018].
Morgan Stanley. (2017). Millennials and the Democratization of Sustainable Investing. Available online (link) [Accessed May 2018].
Robecosam (2018). Sustainability Investing | RobecoSAM. Available online (link) [Accessed May 2018].
Desclee, A., Hyman, J., Dynkin, L. and Polbennikov, S. (2016). Sustainable Investing and Bond Returns. Barclays, pp.1-40
Pharma

Overview of the pharmaceutical expenditure in the public sector

By | Economic Activities | 5 Comments

Farmaindustria, the Spanish association of pharmaceutical industries, has recently published an analysis showing that the Spanish public pharmaceutical expenditure has decreased without sacrificing innovation. The latest data shows that, although the public healthcare sector is not spending as much on pharmaceuticals as in 2010, innovative medicines still reach the patients. Pharmaceutical expenditure represented a 1.43% of the GDP in 2017, lower than the 1.57% of 2010. This is possible thanks to the price pressure after a patent expires and generics appear in the market, this is known as reference pricing. Currently, 8 out of 10 pharmaceuticals consumed are generics and they represent 55% of the Spanish pharmaceuticals market. Furthermore, the pharmaceutical industry has a low success rate, with only 11.8% of the compounds reaching the market and being approved by the healthcare authorities.

Figure 1. Total pharmaceutical expenditure over the years (2010-2017)

 

Source: adapted from graphic from Farmaindustria

At the same time, the Spanish Ministry of Health (Ministerio de Sanidad Servicios Sociales e Igualdad) has published the 2016 Report on Public Healthcare Expenditure (Estadística de Gasto Sanitario Público). In this report, the analysis is done at country level and autonomically. The public healthcare expenditure is based on the analysis of the final amount of service requested, including data from all the different healthcare institutions that either provide healthcare or finance it. This report represents the basis for the Health System Accounts (Sistema de Cuentas de Salud) report that follows the A System of Health Accounts manual published by the OECD in the year 2000.
 
The Report on Public Healthcare Expenditure shows that from 2012 to 2016 the percentage of the GDP on public healthcare expenditure has been around 6%, reaching €66.7 million in 2016. The remuneration of healthcare professionals in the sector represented a total of 44,5% of the expenditure in 2016, summing up to €29.7 million. In 2016, pharmaceutical expenditure was of €10.9 million and medical devices and transfers €1.2 million.
 
Among the different autonomous communities, the ones with the highest percentage of the GDP expenditure on public healthcare were Extremadura (9.4%), Asturias (7.6%), and Murcia (7.5%). However, the Basque Country and Asturias were the ones that spent the most per civilian with €1,669 and €1,577, respectively. In 2016, Catalonia, Andalusia, and Madrid represented the 44.2% of the total public health expenditure, it has to be noted that they are also the three most populated autonomous communities. Moreover, Catalonia and Madrid also gather most of the hospitals that offer highly specialized services for the rest of the country.

Figure 2. Percentage of the Regional Domestic Gross invested in healthcare expenditure. 2016

Source: adapted from the Ministry of Health data on regional expenditure
 

Sources:

– El gasto farmacéutico público en España sigue por debajo del nivel de 2010 pese a la incorporación de innovaciones, Farmaindustria, May 2018 (Link)
– Estadística de Gasto Sanitario Público 2016, Ministerio de Sanidad Servicios Sociales e Igualdad, March 2018 (Link)
Joint venture

Joint Ventures in Spain: a viable alternative?

By | Law | No Comments

In a previous post titled How to bring a foreign company to Spain, Dos Aguas Team discussed the three most common ways to start a company in Spain: a Representative Office, Subsidiary or a Branch Company. Being these three the famous and regular ones, in this blog, we would also like to introduce another formula that can be as effective and beneficial as the other three: the Joint Venture.

In Spain, the most common case for a Joint Venture to take place is when a foreign company wants to enter the Spanish market. The reason for this is that the growing demand for services and products in the international market generates a greater need for collaboration and corporate restructuring in order to carry out a specific commercial operation. These commercial operations mean investments and responsibilities that are easier to take over if the risks are distributed into two different companies.
 
The Joint Venture is therefore structured as a temporary strategic partnership, a business collaboration that maintains its individuality and legal independence. However, it acts under the same direction and standards. The most common example of a Joint Venture is when a foreign company associates with another company that is already established in Spain and therefore, knows the market. In this case, both companies can combine resources and knowledge, at the same time that they spread risks. The local partner contributes to the personnel, the knowledge of the economic and social context of Spain, and the expertise of the access to the Spanish market. In this scenario, Dos Aguas helps the foreign company to find the right local partner, as well as it elaborates the contract of the Joint Venture. This contract includes the following aspects: the initial contribution of each of the companies, their goals, the logistics of the operations, the consequences that both the benefits and the losses will have for each of the companies. The importance of this contract being supervised by Dos Aguas Consulting lies in the fact that this will prevent from having legal problems during the entire time that the companies are united.
 
Next, we are going to break down the advantages and disadvantages of creating a Joint Venture in Spain.

Joint Venture

The main advantage of the Joint Venture is that both companies share the risks and costs of operations and marketing. This allows them to be more competent, cover more different markets and increase their economic power. In addition, the joint venture allows them to share the know-how and thus manage more information.
 
The main disadvantages of a Joint Venture are the possible conflicts of interest between the two contracting parties, as well as the dependence of the other partner to make the important decisions. This is coupled with the necessary adaptation to a different culture as it is the Spanish, as well as its market which might be unknown to the company outside of Spain. Therefore, there is a possibility that the integration and communication are poor between both partners. However, these disadvantages can be easily solved with the participation of Dos Aguas, that act as a mediator and is in charge of taking corrective measures and correct strategic decisions, so that the relationship is excellent for the interests of both companies.
Foreign investment in Spain

Foreign investment in Spain

By | Economic Analysis | No Comments
 
Since the signing of the economic and military agreements with the United States, in 1953, that marked the beginning of the end of the isolation of Spain in the international scenario and, even more so, with the Spanish incorporation to the European Economic Community, in 1986, foreign investment in Spain grew to unprecedented levels. However, it is useful to shed light on some details that contribute to dispelling myths and pre-established ideas.
According to a study by the D & B consultant for 2017, only 2% of the companies located in Spanish territory are foreign. We are talking about some 18,205 active companies in the country that, paradoxically, account for 26% of the total (380 billion euros). Foreign companies, worth pointing out, employ 970,000 workers (19% of the economically active population). In terms of geographical location, 40% of commercial companies go to Madrid, 29% choose Catalonia and 8% are based in Andalusia.
The case of Catalonia deserves a separate line: according to fDi Markets (the largest online database of foreign investments), Barcelona was -in 2015- the second European city by volume of foreign investment (after London) and the sixth city in Europe by the number of projects. Catalonia is, historically and in recent years, the fourth region in Europe (first in continental Western Europe) in foreign investment volume.
And what are the business opportunities for foreign companies that decide to settle in Spain? Let’s see some statistics. The trade takes 25% of the total. The construction follows with 15%; business services, are next with 14% and the industry is fourth with 11%. It is no coincidence that these same sectors stand out among national companies (among which, however, construction exceeds trade). Is the weight of foreign companies decisive in the sectors in which they operate? Well, we can say that they cover 9% of the energy market; 7% in financial intermediation and 5% in telecommunications.

 

Separate paragraph for an analysis of commercial and financial risk of non-Spanish institutions. The levels of risk they present are lower than their national peers: 29% have a high or medium-high risk compared to 36% of Spanish companies, while 71% of foreign companies have low or medium-low risk levels, compared to 64% of Spanish companies.

The vast majority of foreign investors agree that Spain has many clear advantages when it comes to settling in: the flexibility and adaptability of economic operators, the quality of life offered by the country, its cultural proximity to Latin America (where several Spanish multinationals are located), the rise of tourism, the efficiency of its transport network and the development of renewable energy. As an incentive for the future, Spain aspires to become one of the world’s leading research players.

The other side of the coin is the obstacles of the Spanish administration: the complexity of starting a new company, and the lack of relevance of the Spanish market compared to other Western countries. We would need several more pages to analyze the complexity of the Spanish legislative system, due to the presence of 17 Autonomous Communities (comparable to the American states, the Italian regioni or the German Länder), which is also an obstacle to investment.

After a brief analysis of all the factors, we can conclude that Spain undoubtedly has unique and attractive characteristics that make it an unavoidable destination for foreign investment.


About the author:

Eduardo Fort holds a degree in Political Science from Complutense University of Madrid. He has participated in academic projects related to History of Ideas and Political Theory. He has collaborated with various media – newspapers and television- as an international analyst and specialist in Latin America.