Italy Inc bets on expansion in the US
The climate isn't the easiest. Economic uncertainty and political unknowns abound on both sides of the Atlantic.
In the US with the new administration of Donald Trump and its protectionist and isolationist tone. And in Europe, rocked by Brexit and anxiously awaiting elections in nations that are key to the future the Union.
But most of all for Italy Inc, whose companies are determinedly betting on their own excellence despite their often niche positions. Confronted with uncertainty, they must focus on attracting international investment and on expanding their presence in the US with acquisitions and growth on US soil.
This is the central message of the sixth annual “Italy Meets the United States” summit, where panels of Italian business leaders discussed business prospects Stateside in front of an audience of about 300 at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan.
Donato Iacovone, CEO of EY for Italy and the Mediterranean region and a Managing Partner at the firm, opened the event by fleshing out the issue with a few numbers: Italian businesses invested €28.5 billion in the US over the past year, a figure that, for the first time, beat out investment flowing the other direction—of €22.5 billion.
The US is Italy's third biggest export market after Germany and France and is it the non-EU nation where Italy has the biggest presence, with 2,419 companies.
“From luxury goods to precision engineering and pharmaceuticals, there are opportunities,” said Iacovone.
He noted the strength of exports, which makes up one-fourth of GDP and “increased confidence of foreign investors in the Italian economy,” which, he cautioned, must be supported with ongoing structural reforms, from the justice system to the public administration and taxation.
There was no lack of concrete examples of Italian opportunities in the US during the conference: in the auto sector, the CEO of Dallara, Andrea Pontremoli, cited a letter of thanks for his job creation in Indiana from the state's former governor and current US vice president Mike Pence.
Lamborghini stressed that a huge chunk of its sales come from the US market.
Pharmaceuticals is another strategic sector, as was made clear by the presence of Farmindustria president Massimo Scaccabarozzi and a company like Chiesi. And the food sector has an essential role, from Eataly to Rana, which have benefitted greatly from their presence on the US market.
Energy was another theme of the event as the new Trump administration has promised to revive traditional energy sources. Francesco Venturini, CEO of Enel Green Power, and Luigi Michi, head of strategy for Terna, discussed the state of the industry on a panel.
“We need to give our business community credit,” said the co-organizer of the event Fernando Napolitano of Ibii (the Italian business and investment initiative), “for promoting relationships and business.”
The summit focused on five sectors: manufacturing, telco, pharmaceuticals, energy and food. Maximo Ibarra, CEO of Wind Tre, defined the “ultra-broadband and increasingly sophisticated digital services” as the key to success for a promising frontier like telecoms, in Italy and the world.
Besides the companies mentioned, the event also featured appearances by executives from Tiscali, Alibaba Italia, JP Morgan Italia, Sace and Invitalia.