May. 6, 2021


Matilde Fernández Ruiz

Spain

Matilde Fernández Ruiz

Vice-president & General Manager of Corporate Affairs, Grupo Aldesa

“Poland is one of our main markets; it has not been a strong market, but it took advantage of all the European funds it had to continue developing projects.”

BIO

Matilde Fernández Ruiz has 23 years of experience in the construction industry. She began working in entities in which Grupo Aldesa had invested in the accounting and finance department. She has occupied positions as Vice President of Aldesa Construcciones and Responsible of Real Estate Department.


Grupo Aldesa, with 52 years, has consolidated itself as one of the leading construction companies. How has the company developed over this time?

We are essentially a construction group that has invested in quality and hired local people in order to develop local employment. We also try to invest in economically disadvantaged regions. The company was founded in 1969 and changed hands in 1991. We went from being a small company to developing all areas of civil works. Roads were part of the company's beginnings, and gradually we began expanding into other areas of activity. We entered the private sector and began working in residential and non-residential construction. In early 2000, we started looking for other companies that could contribute to the development of the company. One of them was Coalvi, from Zaragoza, and this has allowed us to become a leading company in the construction of high-speed railroads, both in terms of tracks and stations. Around 2006, we were presented with the opportunity to break into Mexico through the hotel industry and we decided to acquire a plot of land in Huatulco. In addition, we also began operations in Krakow, Poland, by selling an office building that we had previously built.

China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), the second-largest construction company in the world, entered as majority shareholder for 75% in May 2020. How have your daily operations changed since then?

For several years we tried to reach 1 billion euros of annual turnover and it was not possible. We have limits by the type of projects and investment. At that time, we saw the need for and investment partner. CRCC was extremely interested in meeting with us, and we ended up signing with it. It is a macro company with a turnover of USD20 billion with continuous growth. We have found the partner we needed in order to grow. It was interested in us because it found us to be a transparent company that was present in Europe and Latin America. The management of the group has not changed because we continue to manage it. At the company strategy level, CRCC brings a huge financial capacity, and our strategy has changed. Without bank guarantees, our company was not able to operate, and thanks to CRCC, we can access bigger projects with fewer competition and higher margins. CRCC has a large purchasing capacity. Our situation and strategy have changed radically. All this makes us more efficient and forces us to plan more and organize our time well.

Grupo Aldesa has a broad portfolio of business lines, such as construction, industrial, technological solutions, investment activities, and the renewable business. How would you describe your current portfolio?

The investment part of the company is extremely relevant because they were projects that required a higher amount of capital. We were able to access some of these types of projects, but we now have the financial capacity to cover even more of them. Aldesa is extremely interested in renewables. We also develop our own parks. We currently have an agreement with a company to develop for it a park and do the EPC ourselves. For example, in Portugal the auctions were at knock-down prices. In Latin America, we are building many parks in Chile and Colombia, as well as other places. This is an issue of great concern to governments. It seems as though construction is a polluting business, but this is not always the case. You can do sustainable business by using materials that are better than others at the same price from an ecological point of view. We have ventures in real estate as well as in industrial sector.

The group is present in 14 markets. Which ones are your most profitable markets at the moment?

For many years, Mexico was the leader, a market that accounted for more than 60% of the group's turnover although it has experienced a small decline. Now, the country is more unstable due to the pandemic. Poland is one of our main markets; it has not been a strong market, but it took advantage of all the European funds it had to continue developing projects. The first wave did not hit Poland too hard, and it was able to continue developing projects. In 2021, Poland will remain one of our main countries. In Mexico, we have an interesting project to build a subway line, although this project will likely materialize in 2022 due to its complexity. In Uruguay, we are working on a highway project; meanwhile, in Chile, we are closing an agreement with a company from our group for the Pan-American Highway. We are now in Peru, but it is more complicated from a public perspective because it takes a long time to make decisions. We also build hotels and are about to complete the Muna Museum, an impressive archeological museum. In Europe, apart from Poland, we have also been present in Slovakia and have already completed a project there. We are also studying some railroad projects in Croatia while in Norway, we have completed a tunnel and tunnel lighting works. In Denmark, we are finishing a project. Our strategy in Europe is to continue in the countries where we are present. Although we have a powerful partner, we are still the same Aldesa we have always been. The strategy is always to grow, though you cannot grow in every country at any price. It is important to move slowly because while expanding into more than one country, it is necessary to control all of them. Growth will be seen in terms of the quality and volume of projects.

What impact has the pandemic had on Grupo Aldesa?

We have advanced heavily in terms of digitalization in the corporate part of the company. Thanks to this, we were fairly well prepared for the pandemic. The great advantage is that one can telework and improve the quality of their lives. There are sectors that can move to 100% teleworking, but in our case, it would be a combined one because we have people working on building. In civil engineering works, which is what we do mostly in Spain, you have to be physically present. In terms of real estate, there is talk of digitalization and making modules in factories. This will be a breakthrough. The combination of face-to-face and teleworking is positive and is a great for our team.