GOING BIG

Colombia 2017 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Pedro José Collado Gómez, President of FCC Colombia, on the importance of government support, the opportunities in the country, and its future strategy.

Pedro José Collado Gómez
BIOGRAPHY
Pedro José Collado Gómez has a civil engineering degree from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. He has been at FCC since 1999 and has fulfilled different responsibilities at the company. Before being the Country Manager for Colombia, he was the Construction Manager in Central America in charge of the civil works department. Currently, he is responsible for business development and supervises construction projects.

What were the strategies behind FCC's two latest projects in Colombia, the Toyo tunnel and the El Salitre Wastewater treatment plant?

In every market that FCC operates in, we want to start out as an aggregator of value. In order to be the most competitive player in the market, we need to have a strategic difference. Given its 5km length, the tunnel project required much expertise, which is precisely what we brought to our collaborators in the project. As for the water treatment plant, we did this project through Aqualia, a subsidiary of FCC and the fourth-largest company of its kind in the world. We also have local partners whom we try to make a part of the construction process, not only on a per diem production basis, but also throughout the entire scope of a project's operations.

What is your experience using and implementing the PPP model in Colombia?

Private investors are important for these kinds of projects in Colombia; however, the money and expertise of a private investor is not enough, because in this specific case we are not talking about one company's profit margin, but the welfare of the entire country. Therefore, it is necessary for the government to strongly support these private investors in order to overcome environmental and community issues. There are some issues that private companies can assume the risk and responsibility of managing; however, they still need the government's help with community and environmental issues. Sometimes it is easy to simply leave all the responsibility with private actors. Nonetheless, if we look at 100 projects here in Colombia and questioned which ones finished were on time, we would be surprised to learn that so few were. Time delays can last for years, with huge impacts on the cash flow. Those who have to put the money down often lose confidence about whether a company will finish on time, and start asking for far more guarantees for the money they already put down. This too can affect cash flows. People often think foreign companies come into the country to exploit it, but this is not the case at all; countries around the world compete with one another to attract investors. It is easier for countries with fewer and more clearly designated regulations to attract these investments. Thus, countries overcrowded with regulations present a more uncertain picture. This is one of the challenges Colombia currently faces.

How would you characterize the medium- and long-term attractiveness for Colombia as an investment destination for foreign investors?

Colombia is a country with enormous opportunities, especially for people in Europe. FCC is a Spanish company and there is a kind of affinity with Colombia, especially since we share a common language. Colombia has a great deal of potential for young people. Given the massive demographic gap in Europe and the fact that the “old” continent is actually growing quite old, for this reason alone Colombia is an excellent place to invest. There is a large young workforce here in Colombia and in neighboring countries that when given the tools and education will seize the future.

As a company, where does Colombia fit into your long-term strategy?

Our goal is to consolidate and expand here in Colombia, but all the people we are hiring and that already work both for us and with us are Colombians. As such, we really believe in sharing knowledge and being part of the actual culture and growth of Colombia. It is very important that we continue to share a long-term vision with the government, since our mission is to transform the country through measures like the 2035 Plan, we need the government's backing. In this regard, President Santos is on the right track, though we will see how they actually help us implement this. The previous president was also helpful in attracting actors from the private sector into Colombia.