50 YEARS IN PANAMA

Panama 2018 | ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Haralambos Tzanetatos, President of H. Tzanetatos Inc., on a 50-year history in Panama, diverse operations, and plans for the coming year.

How has the company evolved over its 50-year history in Panama, and what have been some of its achievements?

It has not been easy. However, when one is engaged in working from an early age, you mature faster. For example, we established a a factory that makes butter processed cheese, currently the leading cheese brand in Panama. Before, the butter was imported directly and had to be stored and transported refrigerated. This raised costs significantly. Over time, my Australian partners found a different way to do it that did not require refrigeration, but in a 55-gallon tank. When exported, it does not need refrigeration and when it reaches Panama, we merely add 20% water. I entered that business many years ago and have done extremely well; to date, no one else is doing this. I produce and export butter for everyone else. Before, producing butter generated a lot of taxes. When we produced butter with raw materials, we paid USD0.10 per pound; however, I did not think it was right to raise prices because it would affect consumers. We have been able to surpass Nestlé and are currently number one in terms of cheese sales in our country. We also produce butter for other companies and export it.

Tzanetatos works with several segments such as food, personal care, cosmetics, household, and automotive. What is the company's core activity?

We started in the food segment, so one can say that is our main area of business, but over time we have ventured into other areas such as real estate development. We have constructed several buildings, including a commercial mall in Colón and a 40-story apartment building in Costa del Este with two apartments of 400sqm per floor. I own 10% of the mall in Colón, we have prominent developers as minority partners (one of them is a great builder with a great deal of experience). As developers we have seen an increase in demand for small apartments of 70sqm with shopping centers on the ground floors and apartments on the upper floors. We have 3ha of land available and want to build two buildings with a green zone in the middle with various facilities such as restaurants and pedestrian areas.

After 50 years in the country, how has Tzanetatos Group contributed to the socioeconomic development of Panama?

I think that our contribution can be summarized in our main belief in making a better society for all. There are so many ways to help out your fellow man: I purchased a house with 20 rooms, 42 beds, and a small chapel so that the mothers that came from outside the city who bring their children to the Children's Hospital had a place to sleep because they could only sleep on the floor. We developed a blood bank for a hospital that did not have one. We also built a school called Instituto Atenea for Panamanian students. When they finish seventh grade, we send them to Athens, where we have a hotel. Their accommodations are taken care off and we help with flight tickets. There is also a hospital called Irma Lourdes that we collaborate with that is on a 30,000sqm plot of land.

What are your goals and priorities for 2018?

We pay a great deal of attention to the developments surrounding the general elections due next year. But business have to go along with social responsabiklity: I have purchased a plot measuring 3,000sqm for a project with commercial premises on the ground floor and an amusement area for young people on the upper floor in Chorrillo, a low income area stricken by crime. There will also be a children's dining room for 50 children who will be supported with rental income for life. You have to create opportunities for a better living in order to have better citizens.