Panama's USD-pegged currency, key geographical location, and tax exceptions are just some of the factors that make it the optimal country for companies looking to enter the region.

Manuel CalderÓn Quiel

Managing Director, Tetra Pak

2017 was a great year for the industry and Tetra Pak. The only other regional country performing as well as Panama is the Dominican Republic. Consolidation in the market is putting pressure and emphasis on reducing operational costs, forcing companies to look for alternatives, and one such way is through services. We focus a great deal on services, and our service business, lead by consulting, has grown by double digits. Our main customers are Nevada, Bonlac, and Estrella Azul; these companies seek to capture market share, and they place great focus on reducing operational costs. In the past, we only offered consulting services to direct customers; now, we offer them to the entire food industry. Quality in innovation is extremely important; we are always working on new packages, services, and products to maximize our position. Our ambition is to have a 100% renewable package. 2018 will be the 10th anniversary of “Tu Papel Cuenta” campaign in Panama, which aims to create awareness among local consumers to recycle. In 2018, we will continue to focus on services and improve the level of end-to-end solutions we offer. We want to continue to help our customers reach their goals, which, generally speaking, revolve around reducing costs, improving the customer journey in the entire value chain, and bringing all our capabilities to Panama's food industry.


Seong Hyun Lee

President Central America and Caribbean,, Samsung

Samsung Panama is a regional hub for 23 countries in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. 2017 was an excellent year for us, especially in mobile phones. In terms of total turnover, we are under the Latin American headquarters and have subsidiaries in many countries. Panama is a great place to manage regional operations due to its solid logistics and strategic advantages as a center; the country is also a great market for B2B activity and big multinationals such as Procter & Gamble and Adidas that are based here. In terms of corporate social responsibility (CSR), we use our IT technology in mobile phones or tablets to educate students in rural areas through our Smart School program. In addition, we support initiatives to open a technology school and educate the trainees who we can then hire. Moreover, in 2017 we motivated school-going students to come up with solutions for society and selected 20 finalists out of a pool of thousands. CSR is one of our key tasks in all markets, and whether business is slow or excellent, we are committed to continuing our efforts. Our current market share stands at around 50%, and we want to sustain and manage that figure. We have the technology and the right products to make that a reality, and not just in the high-end segment, but also in mass products.


Andrés Jiménez

General Manager, CEMEX

CEMEX has invested around USD600 million over its 24 years of operations in Panama. It is the only clinker producer, which is the main raw material for Panama's cement industry. We are proud to participate in some of the most emblematic infrastructure projects in Panama's history, notably the Panama Canal Expansion project, the Panama Subway Lines, the City of Colón Urban Renewal, and the first liquified natural gas electric generation plant in Central America. In 2017, we also entered the cement additive—admixtures—business, further helping Panama become a regional export hub. In terms of sustainability, we have several initiatives, including an effort to reforest 50ha in 10 years and working with other stakeholders to overcome challenges such as waste management. These are some of the projects under CEMEX's global initiative to reduce its CO2 footprint by 25% in the next three years. The biggest challenge is maintaining growth levels; Panama's economic model is changing and so are building methods, such as 3D printing. CEMEX has been preparing for the challenges ahead, and one key initiative is CEMEX Go: a digital platform aimed at providing a superior customer experience, providing a seamless experience for order placement, live tracking, and managing invoices and payments. It delivers real-time and detailed information, enabling customers to have more control over their businesses and increase value to their stakeholders.


Marc de Leeuw

Country Manager, Boskalis

The company was established in the Netherlands over 100 years ago, and it has been growing as a result of consolidation in the dredging market. Over the last 10 years, we have been diversifying the group and acquired Smit International and Docwise, which is involved in heavy transport that aids our offshore activities. We had our first project in Panama in 1987 and established ourselves here permanently in 1997. Our project in Colón is an interesting project that was revived in 2016; it was finalized in March 2018 after negotiating for almost a year. We delivered the sand to build a platform, but one of the challenges was that the existing seabed was extremely soft and we needed to place the material with certain care to ensure stability. Since the completion of Panama Canal's expansion, Panama has an increased focus on what it can do in addition to just transiting vessels and being in the shipment business. There is potential there, and for the last two years, we have focused on how we can further benefit from the canal's current operations. Through our experience, we offer ideas of how things can be done differently than what the client initially wants. This is an area in which we are competitive; our ambition is to work with potential developers and capitalize on the canal.


Luis Eduardo Ocando B.

Country Managing Partner Latam North, Ernst & Young

The diversification of the Panamanian market makes it an important part of our business network. Panama, along with Costa Rica, are the two most important countries in the region for us. The Panamanian market has a growing presence of international companies. In 2018, we have been restructuring our operations in Panama by establishing divisions that manage different lines of businesses. Since the company's headquarters are situated in Panama, it makes the country even more important in handling our regional operations. Panama is part of action number five of the OECD's BEPS project. This means that the OECD will review all the departments and governing tools and recommend changes across a number of areas. In total, the OECD has pinpointed three issues that Panama must modify in order to satisfy the organization's requirements. The Panamanian government is expected to follow the OECD's recommendations by YE2018; once successful, it will allow Panama to take its rightful place on the world stage. One of the main challenges in Panama is transparency issues. Nonetheless, Panama is a law-abiding country with a business oriented and a diversified economy. The country's connectivity, transportation, and communications network are unparalleled, and they are a major factor in why the country is attractive to companies. Our main goal is to finish our internal restructuring and to continue to establish our reputation as an employer in the Panamanian market.


Alberto Alesi

Regional Manager Caribbean and Central America, Manpower Group

Over the last five years, the company has grown by double digits across the region. Its most important markets are Costa Rica, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala. Our main clients in Costa Rica, Panama, and the Dominican Republic are in retail, construction, telecommunications, and IT. Our core business is staffing service, and the highly competitive industry is putting pressure on our margins. We seek to reduce the gap in volume regarding the scale of business across the region and want to understand other niche markets. We want to better help businesses coming from Europe and the US. Panama has different tax incentives; it also allows companies to bring in employees without fearing taxation. Moreover, law 41 allows foreign industries and companies to do business here, and they are exempted from certain taxes. This is different from Costa Rica or the Dominican Republic, which have free zones but not many incentives for companies. In terms of our profitability, we want to expand our lines of business for outsourcing in the region because Panama is not used to the outsourcing model. We want to introduce benchmarks of our other operations in the US and Europe. We want to expand the line of businesses that are more profitable in the region in addition to business process outsourcing.


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