Fernando González Urbaneja | What we have been hearing and reading these days about Ferrovial’s change of headquarters from Madrid to Amsterdam is astonishing; both the round of interventions by members of the government and some reports and editorials in very reputable media. For example, the front-page headline in Friday’s El País: “Ferrovial was awarded contracts worth 1 billion in the Sánchez era” requires you to read it twice and then rub your eyes.
Firstly because of the concept of “Sánchez era” and above all because of the reflexive SE ADJUDICÓ which means (or not) that these Ferrovial people have the power to award public tenders to themselves.
One of the most frequently used arguments is that Ferrovial owes a lot to the Spanish people for the work it has contracted and executed in Spain since its foundation in 1952. This concept of “owes” for what it has done is novel; if we extend it to a general concept, we could compile an account of the “debts” of all the companies that have worked in Spain. Of course, according to this argument, Great Britain, the United States and Canada could also claim a trace of patriotism from Ferrovial. Especially Canada, where in 1999 it won a public tender in the state of Ontario by offering the best price, which was the award scale. This investment has been the most profitable in the history not only of Ferrovial but also of many companies in the sector. The same could be claimed by the state of Texas, where Ferrovial’s investments over the last decade far exceed those made in Spain.
The British government would also have something to claim for the awarding of the Heathrow airport in 2006 or the London Underground contracts. In short, the patriotic argument is weak, flawed and ephemeral. It makes for headlines and provokes emotion without reflection, but it is unbecoming of serious people.
Another argument used by a minister is that the company has been in need of aid and that its recent profits were very low. There is no substance to either argument. Some of Ferrovial’s service subsidiaries (a sector from which it is withdrawing worldwide) resorted to the ERTE system during the pandemic under the same conditions and requirements as thousands of other companies. Ridiculous argument. And the same goes for the CNMC sanctions, which have affected all companies in the sector and have had their legal procedure. In the administrative and judicial spheres.
What seems to have most irritated the government, more specifically President Sánchez, who is the outraged one, who has taken it as a personal offence, is that Ferrovial’s decision calls into question legal security in Spain. This is a matter of opinion on which there is plenty of debate and literature. Of course there is legal certainty in Spain, but with more than a few grey areas accredited in the numerous lawsuits scattered around the national and international courts.
The debate on this case does not follow the path of reason and wisdom, but rather a partisan and emotional drift that does not bring any positive results either for the government or the affected company. It could be that the decision is wrong, although I suspect the opposite is true. But there is no doubt that it has the right to decide where it wants to be domiciled in scrupulous compliance with the rules. Moreover, the personal attack only disqualifies the attacker. In short, an obfuscated president: Sánchez has lost his temper.