Birmingham must market itself better to attract more investment from Brazil and other emerging markets, according to the director of a South American investment bank.
Leonardo Antunes, managing director of Brazilian investment bank Broadspan Capital, said that international thinking was still dominated by London so cities needed to be more pro-active in getting their message across.
“Birmingham needs to market the region,” he said. “It is important to sell the region in Brazil. When Brazilians think of Britain, they usually think of London.
“An easy alternative for them would be Portugal or Spain. In the past Portugal was seen as a bridge to Brazil which is considered the leading country of Latin America and is growing by about three per cent.”
Mr Antunes said there were similarities between the Brazilian and West Midlands economies with synergies that could be mutually beneficial.
He said: “The regions are getting a lot of investment. It is very difficult to bring off a new venture from scratch. You need to go in on joint ventures and mergers.
“We have several tax incentives. In the automotive sector we are receiving huge investment from Korean, Chinese and Japanese companies.
“Autoparts and general supply chain companies should be there.
“Birmingham’s autoparts, IT and food production industries could attract investment from Brazil.
“We need Brazilian banks to have more of a presence here, they are just in London at the moment.
“I think England could be a good place to establish a European headquarters, if you are just in Portugal or Spain you are not really in Europe.”
Mr Antunes was in the UK visiting Catalyst Corporate Finance, a partner company through the International Mergers Alliance.
Brazil, which has a population of nearly 200 million, overtook the UK as the world’s sixth largest economy in 2011 and the shift is part of a larger trend in which emerging BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies are outdoing some European countries although he said Brazil was a “different animal” when compared to the other emerging markets and was not without its problems, he added.
“We have our problems too. Brazil has about 40 million people under the poverty line. The federal government is investing a lot to take people out of this. It is a challenge for any developing country.
“Underdeveloped infrastructure is a problem too, we have cities with huge populations but with low levels of service.
“We have two special events in two years, the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.
“We are investing in infrastructure and transportation – we do not have the same level of infrastructure as Britain or the same level of healthcare and education. People usually have to pay for that. We see several options for direct investment.”
Companies looking to do business with Brazil – be it attracting inward investment or looking for investment opportunities in Brazil – would do well to understand the cultural differences between the two countries.
“Brazilians like to have more personal relationships and to negotiate,” he said. “You should visit the plant, and if possible stay with the family of your counterpart.
“It is important to understand the labour laws. It is important to have knowledge on the ground there.
“All Brazilian companies are looking for opportunities. They are talking to each other. If you ask for a meeting they will probably accept.
“All the investment banks are in Brazil, all the big firms are there. More companies are coming and the market is soluble enough to accept this.”
Wouter Schuitemaker, investment director at Business Birmingham, said: “My understanding is that the UK as a whole has been behind the curve a little bit compared to other European countries. UK companies are beginning to wake up to the opportunities in Brazil.”
He said that Business Birmingham’s focus of the past 12 months had been US and India but that its presence at relevent trade shows was on the up. “The future is signing MOUs (memorandum of understanding) so as cities Rio and Sao Paulo grow it can lead to better relationships.
“And trade missions. Increasingly cities are getting involved in signing up to MOUs. We have got one eye on Brazil and other markets like the US, India and Germany.”