will increasingly have to be "bringing people over, given the
scarcity of local talent, particularly in the engineering and
technical fields," said Javier Garcia-Ramos, a Spanish investment
banker who moved to Sao Paulo this year to work for VGL Financas
Corporativas, an advisory firm specializing in mergers and
acquisitions. Still, he warned job seekers that "immigration
requirements are cumbersome, to say the least, and don't facilitate
Latin American companies, on the other hand, have so far mostly ignored Europe, in part because their priority instead has been to tap into Asia-led demand for natural resources and because of concern about the euro. The trickle of Latin American investments could turn into a flow "when there is more certainty as to the direction of Europe," Mr. Moreno of the Inter-American Development Bank forecast.
The bank announced Friday that it was offering $420 million in credit and guarantees for medium-size Latin American companies to expand overseas. Half of the 150 largest Latin American multinationals have no base in Europe, according to a study by Javier Santiso, economics professor and Latin America expert at the Esade -- Escuela Superior de Administracion y Direccion de Empresas - - Business School in Madrid.
Meanwhile, Mr. Moreno noted, "with hindsight many Spanish companies now see that they made the right bets" in Latin America.
Indeed, many of them have become heavily reliant on their Latin American businesses to offset dwindling revenues at home. Last year, Banco Santander earned more money in Brazil than it did at home, while the largest Spanish bank, BBVA, had higher earnings in Mexico than in Spain.
Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal, the president of Panama, whose economy is expected to grow 10 percent this year, said Saturday that the future of Spain "involves being able to incorporate this big Latin American market with 650 million people, in which Spanish companies are more than welcome, with some exceptions."
Indeed, Spain recently suffered some significant setbacks in the region. In April, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina unexpectedly announced that her government would take back majority control of YPF from Repsol, the largest Spanish oil company. Weeks later, Bolivia seized the assets there of Red Electrica de Espana, a Spanish utility. The Argentine president was among a handful of absentees from the weekend summit meeting, citing health reasons.
In 1999, Spanish companies invested the equivalent of EUR 32 billion, or $41 billion today, in Latin America. In 2011, the amount was EUR 9 billion.
Still, despite the slowdown and the recent dispute over Repsol in Argentina, Spain remains the largest foreign investor in Latin America after the United States and is set to raise its investments this year in every country in the region except Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador, led by companies focusing on the infrastructure and energy sectors, Mr. Santiso of Esade said.
Spanish companies are also maintaining their focus on Latin America because of what Mr. Santiso called "the paradox of financing," which has seen Spanish companies successfully raise money in Latin America while being almost shut out of European financial markets.
Last month, for instance, Santander raised $4 billion in listing its Mexican banking subsidiary.
Carlos Malamud, a Latin America specialist at the Real Instituto Elcano, a Madrid research institution, suggested that over all, however, the euro crisis had reshaped what had been an asymmetrical relationship between Spain and Latin America since the 1990s. "Spain simply cannot maintain the leadership role that it has had," he said.
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