There are no tycoons in Spain, but “pilferers”

The independent Spanish company doesn’t exist (apart from the shopkeeper from around the corner –no pun intended). If it does exist, it’s usually managed with a not-too-big fiscal slack, which provides an essential safety net without which the firm would “die.”

However, the big Spanish company is the result of bartering with the government, because we are talking about former public businesses from the Franco Era, with which their successors have been playing the Monopoly. Now such successors are divided into 18 tiny powers that have destroyed their heritage as if they preferred to burn their property before letting them fall under their enemies’ hands.

Be that as it may, don’t ever forget this: today’s big Spanish company is a poorly administered heritage of a past time, which its tycoons now try to republish so they can be considered the real creators. Although, there are no tycoons in Spain but “pilferers.”

Repsol was booming and about to become one of the greatest oil companies all around the world, thanks to its newfound own deposits, which would have provided a permanent energy security. According to economist and engineer Roberto Centeno, all these promising perspectives have been spoilt because of the Catalonian and Brufau’s interests, as well as the clear disinterest of PM Mariano Rajoy.

As if by magic, Repsol fell into the clutches of Catalonia some years ago, because Gas Natural purchased it, against all logic: the oil company was thrice bigger than the buyer. It was obvious that the Spanish government and the Catalonian Generalitat orchestrated such operation.

Repsol might have had another fate if Sacyr, which held 20% of the capital in the oil company, had been able to exercise its equity rights. However, Mr. Rajoy didn’t allow for this to happen, and left Repsol carved up.

But Repsol wasn’t a big company created by a tycoon; it was the result of gathering all the national oil businesses in which former Campsa (the public oil company from the Franco Era) had been previously divided. That’s why the total of shares was so appetising.

The same happens in all major Spanish companies, because they hold a shareholding ad hoc, instead of a single proprietor with a clear and specific goal for business. Besides, there is always the threat of a governmental action, which only guarantees a subjugation of the asset interests to a friend who needs a favour (e.g. Artur Mas with Repsol or the Italian president in the case of Endesa).

So it’s clear that in Spain, there are no tycoons but “pilferers.” During the so-called Transition period, a new entrepreneurial force should have arisen, but there was a simple destruction of the nationalized companies. They should have adapted and made them equivalent to the European businesses, when they swapped and destroyed them.

About the Author

Miguel Navascués
Miguel Navascués has worked as an economist at the Bank of Spain for 30 years, and focuses on international and monetary economics. He blogs in Spanish at: http://

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