Category: Setting up a business

Dec 12

ThyssenKrupp writes off US$ 4bn over Steel Americas operation in Brazil

The plant in Sepetiba Bay, Brazil: It should produce more cheaply than Germany - it produced more expensive

The plant in Sepetiba Bay, Brazil: It should produce more cheaply than Germany – it produced more expensive

Mismanagement and corruption

The crisis of ThyssenKrupp has much to do with the new steel mill in Sepetiba, Brazil: It should produce steel slabs at a significant lower cost compared to the slabs produced in Germany. In fact, the slab was $ 170 more expensive.

The loss was caused primarily by a 3.6 billion euro write down on its steel mills in the United States and Brazil, which Thyssen is trying to sell. The book value of the mills, bundled in the Steel Americas business, is now 3.9 billion euros, well below the 12 billion euros Thyssen invested in the unit over the years. The division had been meant to give ThyssenKrupp a foothold in the Americas, but costs for the mills ran far over budget while demand for the steel they made subsided.

Thyssen said management at the time based its decisions on overly optimistic projections and took too long to tell the supervisory board of problems with the project, which eventually forced Hiesinger’s predecessor Ekkehard Schulz to step down.

The story of a gigantic bad investment.

It should have been the really big coup. What came out is a disaster, likely to shake this company to its foundations. The titan ThyssenKrupp staggers. The largest German steel and technology company in Brazil literally built the steel mill in the slumps  in the bay of Sepetiba. The construction of the steel plant, which would produce steel slabs far cheaper than German plants, without all kinds of cumbersome environmental regulations, fell into a multi-billion dollar disaster. On top of that, fishermen and residents complain against the steel  work due to massive environmental violations.

“At first we had no luck, then came bad luck,” humorously said by Gerhard Cromme, Chairman of the Supervisory Board ThyssenKrupp, almost a year ago to appease the shareholders at the Annual General Meeting in Bochum’s Ruhr Congress. Already there was clear how much of this entrepreneurial venture would come to stand the Group: Instead of the originally planned 1.9 billion euros it cost – until then – a quadruple it.

Not tricked, only optimistic

Cromme, who had recently commissioned a legal investigation into the case, tried to defend the executive management and Board of ThyssenKrupp. They had cheated nor deceived, they had reported only too optimistic.

The shareholders are now more than worried, especially since ThyssenKrupp on Wednesday night fired half board. “Shows this radical solution us how serious the situation is,” says Thomas Hecht Fischer, CEO of the managing director of the German association for securities (DSW), and: “We must now assume that it is about a completely different dimension.

Market value well below book value

The book value of the plants in Brazil and in the U.S. is seven billion euros, but the market value is rather under four billion euros. Therefore ThyssenKrupp has written down around €3 billion. Furthermore, ThyssenKrupp is accused of bribery and violating antitrust regulations. . Now even the has to be feared that the full German steel industry stands on trial.

70 kilometers from Rio de Janeiro can be seen what ThyssenKrupp did stumble: the blast furnaces, the coke plant, the power plant, which is situated between the sea and the favelas of Rio de Janeiro steel work. In September 2006, as Ekkehard Schulz, the former chief executive of Thyssen-Krupp, the first sod was done here, the future seemed glorious. And the numbers that make up the consulting firm McKinsey worked in their feasibility study promised great things.

Cheap energy, low costs labour and “easy” environmental regulations

 

With cheaper energy, lower wages, fewer environmental regulations, each Brazilian steel slab should be $ 55 cheaper per ton of steel produced than in Germany. Million tons of steel were to be transported by ship, refined in Germany or in the United States. A supposedly lucrative large investment.

The reality however was different. The steel mill site turned out to be so muddy and slumpy that an extra million dollar investment had to be made to make sure the mill was not sinking in the slumps. But above all, it was decided in the Thyssen-Krupp’s boardroom, that a Chinese company was given the order to commission the work, rather than the fully owned German subsidiary Uhde.  A decision that was to proved to be fatal. From year to year became the mill became more expensive to build. Up to today the plant due still does not run at full capacity due to technical problems. The steel slab is already $ 170 more expensive than from German production.

The coking plant: build, demolished, rebuild

And the coking plant, which was also built by the Chinese, has been demolished. Uhde, which was rejected at the first time because of their higher priced  is now building at the same place a new one.Of course this will not be free of charge.

Additionally in 2007, the protests of fishermen came for the pollution of their fish-rich coast. And as soon as the plant was turned into operation in June 2010, it was raining polluted dust all over the place. Residents protested and complained. The dust was found to be adversely affected by toxic heavy metals. The prosecutor of Rio de Janeiro rose soon after charges of massive environmental violations.

“Mr. Cromme, how often were you there?”

Despite all the delays, construction, technical and polluting defects, no one at the board of ThyssenKrupp seems to have recognized the problems and take proper measures. “Mr. Cromme how often were you even there?” Said one shareholder at the shareholders meeting in January 2011.

The day after the shareholders meeting on December the 11th, ThyssenKrupp Chief Executive Heinrich Hiesinger vowed to clean up Germany’s top steel-maker after recent losses and corruption allegations prompted him to axe half his management board.

“I’m not going to talk anything up here, because it is obvious that a great deal has gone wrong in the past,” he told journalists at a news conference on Tuesday, the day after Thyssen reported a 4.7 billion euro ($6.08 billion) annual loss.

Thyssen also decided not to pay shareholders a dividend for the first time in the company’s history,

To be continued…..

 

 

Jun 15

House of Representatives approves purchase of agricultural land by foreigners

Agriculture Committee of the House of Representatives approves purchase of agricultural land by foreigners

The Agriculture Committee of the House of Representatives approved on Wednesday (13th of June 2012) the text of the bill that allows the acquisition of large plots of land by Brazilian companies controlled by foreigners. Today, the actual limit is up to 100 “fiscal units” (módulos ficais).

Fiscal unit is a unit of land measurement used in Brazil. It is expressed in hectares and is variable and is determined for each municipality, taking into account:

  • main type of farming in the municipality;
  • proceeds from the exploitation prevalent;
  • other farms in the municipality which, although not predominant, are expressive function of income or area used;
  • concept of family property.

Today, by law, foreign companies can buy up to 5 000 hectares, never exceeding 25% of the municipal area of the location of the farm. Citizens of the same foreign nationality can not together have more than 10% of the area of a municipality.

The text proposes that Brazilian companies with foreign capital are treated as domestic companies, no limit for land acquisition. The companies and foreign people, who currently limit the acquisition of 100 and 50 fiscal modules, respectively, can now acquire up to one quarter of the municipality where the farm.

The proposal also eliminates the authorization or license from the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (Incra) for acquisition by foreigners of rural property tax of up to four modules and rental tax of up to ten modules. The legislation established the current limit of three modules operating indefinitely.

Non-governmental organizations

The acquisition of land by non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) with foreign capital or headquarters outside of Brazil, which is not mentioned in current law, is prohibited in the new proposal. Upon approval, the report will be turned into a bill and distributed to other committees for analysis, then, be voted on in Congress.

Oct 09

Chinese Car Maker JAC to Build in Brazil – WSJ.com

Chinese Car Maker to Build in Brazil – WSJ.com.

SÃO PAULO—Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Co., the Chinese auto maker known as JAC, and its Brazilian partner said Friday that they decided to go ahead with plans to build a factory in Brazil on hopes that the government will modify a production tax.

SHC, the company that imports JAC automobiles into Brazil, said it would invest 80% of the 900 million Brazilian reals ($509 million) needed to build the factory, with JAC providing the rest. The factory will be built in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, with output set to begin in 2014.

Brazil’s market—the world’s fourth-largest by sales—has attracted heavy investment. Sales are expected to grow 5% this year, slowing from last year’s 12% expansion as the government raised interest rates earlier this year to rein in an overheated economy.

The JAC factory, with initial capacity of 100,000 vehicles, will be in the city of Camacari, an industrial area where Ford Motor Co. has a plant. JAC will assemble and paint the cars locally, with stamping and motor-production capacity set to be built later.

JAC began selling cars in Brazil in March of this year, and through September had sold 17,421 vehicles. With four models sold locally, JAC accounts for 0.9% of all cars sold this year, according to auto dealers association Fenabrave.

SHC and JAC will also build a research center to locally develop parts such as flex-fuel engines–the predominant kind in Brazil, which can run on gasoline, ethanol, or a mixture of the two–as well as a design center and a test track.

The factory plans had been announced in August by SHC president Sergio Habib, although a location had yet to be decided upon. A month later, however, Brazil said it was raising the a tax on autos by 30 percentage points—to a range of 37% to 55%, from 7% to 25%—exempting only cars that used at least 65% locally produced content.

Mr. Habib said last month that the tax would also hurt auto makers that in recent months had begun building factories in Brazil, such as South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. and China’s Chery Automobile Co. Mr. Habib later said he may cancel plans to build the factory because it was impossible for any company to begin production with 65% local content.

Brazil’s Trade Ministry said earlier this week that it was considering making the rules more flexible. News reports said the government may consider gradually increasing local content requirements for newly installed factories.

Also Friday, Mr. Habib said Friday that he is in talks with India’s Tata Motors to import the company’s cars. Tata officials weren’t available to comment.

Oct 06

Steve Jobs is not Brazilian:The Apple founder Steve Jobs, died without seeing his company operate normally in Brazil.

Steve Jobs is not Brazilian

Icon Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs died

The Apple founder Steve Jobs, died without seeing his company operate normally in Brazil. The he is rightly being hailed as a revolutionary genius who transformed the way we sell and consume culture and technology. That’s a lot. But one thing he could accomplish was to make his business occupy the space it deserves in the phenomenal Brazilian market. And that says a lot more about Brazil than Jobs.

To date, Apple products are commercialized by third parties in Brazil, as the American company was unable to develop a viable business model in the homeland of the high taxes and poor business environment.

Brazilians pay double or more than Americans for an Ipad created by Jobs and his team. The last stand for the normalization of the action here was Apple’s announcement, over hyped to say the least, the construction of an IPad factory here.

The announcement came during Rousseff’s trip to China in April. In the absence of any tangible result of the visit, it was announced with great fanfare and no substance that Foxconn, the Taiwanese company that manufactures iPads would open a new factory in Brazil to produce them here. It was what Dilma and PT needed to capture the emerging middle class in the country.

As I wrote here at that time, Apple cannot sell its products in Brazil because of its poor economic conditions, called on the Taiwanese company that manufactures and iPods, IPads in China to produce them here and so get around the precarious economic environment and still be sold as an asset of Dilma’s visit to China. There is the “spin”!

The factory as of today is still obviously a promise. First there was talk of initial production in November, then that BNDES would finance the US$ 12 billion investment, then came the talk that there was no skilled labor in the country to implement the project, then start the operation would begin with Mexican “maquiladoras” only assembling the products here.

The fact is that Steve Jobs is dead, and Brazil is still largely excluded the Apple revolution. While we continue with one of the most expensive and slowest internet connections in the world.

These are the things that explain why we are behind despite the huge advances in recent years, and our dependence on blessed commodities, which without them we would have disastrous trade deficits.

If Jobs was able to transform so much, who knows that maybe this commotion with his death will illuminates the heads of our bureaucrats and accelerate liberalization of the Brazilian market and digital technology.

Taxing technology is taxing knowledge, innovation and the future. It closed the borders to Steve Jobs.

Attributions:

BR ECON: Steve Jobs | Expat Living in Goiânia, Brazil. /

Article by Sérgio Malbergier, Folha de São Paulo, published on Expatbrazil

Sergio Malbergier is a journalist. He was editor of the special money section of Folha (Dinheiro – 2004-2010) and Mundo (2000-2004), correspondent in London (1994) and Special Envoy for Folha in Iraq, Israel and Venezuela, among others. He has directed two short films, A Árvore (The Tree -1986) and Carô no Inferno (Dear Hell – 1987). He write for Folha.com on Thursdays.

Aug 21

Comments on Brazils labour laws: Employer, beware | The Economist

Comments on Brazils labour laws: , beware | The Economist.

Brazil’s labour laws

Employer, beware, an archaic labour code penalises businesses and workers alike

Mar 10th 2011 | SÃO PAULO | from the print edition

IN 1994 Ricardo Lemos (not his real name) and two friends bought a chain of pharmacies in Pernambuco, in Brazil’s north-east. Immediately afterwards they were taken to court by four former employees of the pharmacies who claimed they were owed 500,000 reais (then $570,000) for overtime and holidays. Since the new owners lacked the payroll records, the labour court ruled against them—even though they had only just bought the business and the claimants had been in charge of payroll and work scheduling. The court froze their bank accounts, so they had to close the stores, with 35 redundancies. Seventeen years later three of the cases have been settled, for a total of 191,000 reais. The last drags on as the claimant’s widow and son squabble over how much to accept.