DIVERSIFY OR PERISH

Peru 2017 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Gonzalo Sarmiento, CEO of Inversiones Centenario, on strategy, portfolio diversification, and maintaining a flourishing business culture.

Gonzalo Sarmiento
BIOGRAPHY
Gonzalo Sarmiento has been with Inversiones Centenario for 20 years. He has overseen areas such as development, sales, marketing, and planning, among others, and has been CEO of the company since 2012. He also has experience in the real estate sector. He holds a business degree from Universidad de Lima, an MBA from the Universidad del Pacifico, and was the recipient of a general management scholarship from the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University.

How did Inversiones Centenario perform in 2015?

Overall, 2015 was a great year. Centenario's profits grew by 88%, while our revenue grew 2%. All of our business units showed positive results in this challenging year. These results were the product of a great performance by the real estate business as well as the sale of shares in a subsidiary outside the real estate business. Our strategy has two angles: diversification of our real estate business, and striking a balance between sales and rental and geographic diversification. This strategy has allowed us to achieve great results and face the slowdown of the sector with more composure than our competitors.

Which sectors have additional potential for strong growth in 2016?

Our portfolio manages different segments such as land development, industrial development, office buildings, and shopping malls, and we recently entered the hospitality business with hotels. We have an investment budget of USD100 million for 2016, and investment is diversified in these business units. We have a lack of real estate infrastructure in both Lima and the provinces; we need more shopping malls, office buildings, and housing, so the opportunities are there.

What are Centenario's activities in the industrial parks and industrial centers sector?

Up until a few years ago, due to the lack of urban planning in Lima, industrial zones were in the middle of residential areas. Today, there are new areas specifically reserved for industrial purposes. Our project in the south of Lima called Macropolis in the Lurin district will become one of the most important industrial areas in Lima. We have 900ha in that zone and are developing a new industrial park. We already have the zoning and are starting construction in the coming months.

What are some of the areas where Centenario is innovating and pushing things forward right now?

The real estate sector is not as innovative as other sectors, but we try to bring some architectural improvements to the country. Currently, we are building a new office that was designed by well-known architect Jaan Novel and will innovate aesthetically and architecturally. We are also in the process of certifying our office buildings as sustainable and will do similarly with other projects in the future.

What are some of the greatest challenges facing the company currently?

One of the most interesting challenges in the coming months will be our entry into the hospitality industry, especially by taking advantage of our real estate know-how to monetize our land bank. In the first stage we will invest USD40 million to develop two projects, one in Lima and the other in Piura. We have been in the office building and land development sector for many years, and shopping malls are a recent investment. Hotels will be our new challenge in the short run.

What does Centenario do to ensure it remains an attractive destination for talented workers?

Our business culture is great at attracting and retaining talent. One of the best practices is to place a large emphasis on evaluating employee satisfaction. And it has worked: our group has been one of the best companies to work for in Peru for four years now.

What are your main goals and objectives for 2016 and the future? What do you want to accomplish?

Our goal is to be the most profitable real estate company in the country with the most diversified portfolio. Growth by diversification makes full sense because businesses are not that big in our countries to be “pure players" in only one segment. If we want to grow in the future we need to grab the opportunities in each segment of the market, which we have been doing recently with shopping malls and now with hotels. We will try to grab opportunities in the industrial field as well.