Economy

Ranking Latin America’s Most Global Companies

Bolivia may be South America’s poorest country, but it now boasts the region’s most global firm, according to AméricaEconomía’s annual “Multilatinas” list. Another surprise? Brazilian’s Petrobras struck oil last year, but fell in the ranking.

Concha del Toro, a Chilean wine producer, moved up in the ranking after buying vineyards in California.
Concha del Toro, a Chilean wine producer, moved up in the ranking after buying vineyards in California.

SANTIAGO -- Chile's anti-trust authority this week approved a much-heralded merger between Chile's Lan and Brazil's Tam airlines – albeit with a lengthy list of conditions. The decision brings an end to what had been months of uncertainty that began when the same body – the Tribunal de Defensa de Libre Competencia – froze the planned fusion over concerns about how it might affect passengers in the Chilean domestic market, where Lan is a dominant player.

Between the two rulings, Lan stocks took something of a hit. Yet neither the stock dip nor the uncertainty surrounding its precarious deal with Tam stopped the successful Chilean airline from rising in AméricaEconomía's annual Multilatinas List, which ranks Latin American firms in terms of their global reach.

This year, Lan sits in the No. 5 spot, just behind Argentina's Tenaris; the Mexican cement company Cemex; Grupo JBS (Friboi), a Brazilian food supplier; and the cellular company Brightstar, which for the first time occupies the list's top spot. Brightstar is owned by the Bolivian economist Marcel Claure.

The Multilatinas ranking, published annually since 2006, looks to measure, compare and register just how international the region's firms are. To do so, we take into account a company's reach, in terms of the number of countries and global regions in which it operates. A company that operates in 10 countries in the same region, for example in Latin America, scores lower on our ranking system than one that operates in 10 countries spread throughout Europe and Asia.

The methodology also takes into account what percentage of a company's accounts, investments and human resources are outside the country of origin. This explains, for example, why a company the size of Petrobras dropped in this year's ranking: despite having operations on various continents, the company's offshore oil discoveries have meant that much of its resources are now being refocused on the domestic market. Most of the 70 billion dollars the oil company raised from investors in 2010 will go toward extracting these new domestic oil reserves.

When, as in Petrobras' case, a company focuses its growth domestically, it can drop in the Multilatinas ranking. The opposite is true as well. The more a company invests abroad – particularly through mergers and acquisitions – the higher it is likely to rise on the list. That was the case of the Colombian airline Avianca, which jumped 10 spots on the Multilatinas list after absorbing its Central American rival Taca. Other examples are Mexico's Grupo Casa Saba, which rose 26 places on the ranking thanks to its acquisition of Fasa, a Chilean pharmacy chain; and Chile's Concha y Toro, which moved up 10 spots after buying Fetzer Vineyards of California for 238 million dollars. Fetzer had been linked to Brown-Forman, a alcoholic beverage conglomerate that also owns Jack Daniels.

Like in the highly dynamic industries in which these companies operate, not advancing in the Multilatinas ranking is the same as losing ground. Companies that failed to expand into new, especially foreign markets over the course of the year dropped on the list. The Guatemala fast food company Pollo Campero, which has opened fried chicken restaurants in China, Indonesia, Spain, the United States and elsewhere in Central America, did not expand in 2010. A more extreme case is Ripley, the Chilean department store chain. A pioneer in terms of crossing borders, Ripley entered the Peruvian market as far back as 1997. But unlike rivals Falabella and Cencosud – which after breaking into Peru moved on to Colombia – it's done little to expand since.

High-tech starting to hum

AméricaEconomía first came up with the Multilatinas concept 25 years ago as a way to describe companies that were beginning to expand into other parts of the Americas. Nowadays, thanks to the way financing, production and distribution have evolved, the concept refers often to companies whose operations extend not only to other counties in the hemisphere, but to the rest of the world as well. Of the 66 companies on this year's list, 53 operate outside of Latin America – particularly in Asia. More than half of the 2011 Multilatinas firms began operations in Asia in just the last couple of years.

Another relatively new trend is the rise of high-tech companies, which are beginning to appear on the Multilatinas list alongside cement companies, brewers and other more traditional industry firms. Brightstar, a logistical company that has moved into cell phone manufacturing, is a good example, as are the firms Sonda, a Chilean firm that provides technological services throughout the region, and Bematch and Totvs, both from Brazil.

Mexico's Cinepolis is a bright spot as well. The world's third leading chain of movie theaters, Cinepolis operates throughout Latin America, as well as in India, where it first gained a foothold in 2009. It began operating in Brazil just last year.

Changes are clearly taking place – not only in how Latin Americans do business, but what businesses they pursue, says Lourdes Casanova, author of a recent study on the region's economy, funded by the OECD and carried out by Insead, a French university. The study found that there are three highly innovative sectors where Multilatinas have made inroads and can expect to continue excelling internationally: telecommunications; green technologies, such as biofuels; and the so-called creative industries, which include fashion, industrial design, cinematography, audiovisual products and cultural tourism.

More news in Spanish from AMÉRICA ECONOMÍA

Photo - Eneas

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food / travel

The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

Inside Poveglia Island's abandoned asylum

Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.

And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.

Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan

photo of  ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola,

The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan

Dai He/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire


According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.

In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.

The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.

Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.

photo of rocks and trees in Gettysburg

View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA

Unsplash/@nemo23


Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!

The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.

Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.

Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain

photo of sunset of old Belchite

Old Belchite, Spain

Belchite Town Council


Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…

That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.

Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.

If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.

Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan

photo of Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) i

Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Chris Bradley/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire


The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.

The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.

Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."

Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.

Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden

a photo of The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

Unsplash/@hkblind


After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.

Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia

a photo of ort Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Flickr/Eli Duke


During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.

Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.

Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy

a photo of Poveglia Island, Italy

Poveglia Island, Italy

Mirco Toniolo/ROPI via ZUMA Press


Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).

During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.

In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.

Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.

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