THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD

Ecuador 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

In their bid to confirm the country's long-term economic health, Ecuador's largest consortiums remain focused on adding value and sustainability, in addition to greater private investment.

Isabel Noboa Pontón
BIOGRAPHY
Isabel Noboa Pontón founded Consorcio Nobis in 1998 and developed it into Ecuador’s most diverse and innovative business consortium. She is active in agribusiness, real estate, tourism, and industrial production, and is an integral part of four foundations that support social empowerment and encourage female entrepreneurship amongst other objectives. She obtained her economics degree from the University of London and received her postgraduate education at Guayaquil Catholic University and Harvard. In 2002, she served as President of the National Competitiveness Advisory Board, holding the rank of Minister of State. She has been widely recognized as one of the top businesswomen in Latin America and is currently active in the UN.

How do you manage your diversified portfolio, and what synergies do you strive for?

Keeping a diverse portfolio competitive in today's environment has become an incremental challenge. At Consorcio Nobis, we believe in talent and the power within people to manage. I have the best leaders in negotiation, finance, human resources, legal, and technology, and together with this team and our international board, my children and I analyze the challenges we face and set objectives for the future. We have monthly board meetings with each business division to find synergies and analyze the individual challenges. These synergies include centralized purchasing, sales, and technology development. Above all, we align our values such as: faith in our country, an emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, professionalism, an international focus, and strong ethic principals. We focus on economic sectors of the country that have growth opportunities and where the government needs the trusts of the private sector to make things happen. We are committed to the development of our country.

You have worked on many landscape-defining projects, including the development of Puerta Santa Ana and Mall del Sol. What is your vision for mixed-development projects?

The new economy is organized around supercities. We believe in smart growth, improving the environment, and narrowing wealth disparities, which should be achieved through public-private collaboration. The new generations are looking for urban development projects where they can live, work, and readily access nearby leisure activities. We are going a step further and building walkable cities that not just have everything nearby, but also incorporate the environment and invite us to really take in the coexistence of a developed city at peace with its natural surroundings.

Ecuador is traditionally a primary-materials economy. How can it move up in the value chain in these industries?

The potential of the country in the agro-industrial business is enormous. It is our vision to find the best way to make extra gains by adding value and sustainability. In this sense, we are making multiple bets on the future. First, we are continuously participating in international fairs and events to be connected with the latest trends in global demand of our products. Second, we are building long-term relationships with universities around the country to develop research programs that can be applied for our production. Finally, we are actively investing in our team and building a culture that is conducive to sustainability and creating added value. As our lands are so rich in quality, our agricultural products sustain the best nutritional values in the world.

What will be the impact of the new legislation on industries you are active in?

The new legislation generates positive adjustments for investors, who first and foremost seek legal security. As an example, the law is positive for the mining industry, as it abolishes an extraordinary tax for them and reduces the tax on mining royalties. These, and other changes, incentivize an increase in mining production, and, therefore, more investment in the industry. Ecuador offers a new mining frontier investment, and in 2017 alone, we had around USD1.6 billion of investment from the world's largest miners. We are also involved in the ongoing exploration programs for gold, silver, and copper, whose geological surveys should be completed by the end of 2018. Similarly, the law seeks to prioritize investments in tourism. There are considerable benefits for companies that invest in new projects, including a 12-year income tax exemption.

What are your ambitions for the years ahead?

Our ambition is to see our country grow, a growth that must come through private investment. Committed to Ecuador's long-term growth, we are continuing our investment in logistics, where we are working with our strategic partner DP World on opening the first phase of the deep-water port in Posorja by July 2019. The project consists of four phases with a total investment of USD1.5 billion, which will also include a technical park and a free logistics zone.