Cover Story : The Best Companies In Latin America









Executive Vice President and CEO: Enrique Cueto Plaza



LanChile’s operational efficiency, passenger loyalty and steady revenue growth in both its cargo and its passenger business segments continue to drive the company’s profitability, even as other Latin American carriers struggle for survival. Chile’s largest international and domestic airline has also become an important regional market player by taking management stakes in international carriers in Ecuador, Peru and the Dominican Republic under the Lan brand name. A fleet renovation program launched three years ago remains on track for completion in 2005.







Chairman and CEO: Jose Antonio Fernandez Carbajal



Already ranked as Latin America’s largest beverage company, Mexico’s FEMSA also became the world’s second-largest Coca-Cola bottler when it acquired competitor Panamco this year in a $3.6 billion deal. The group’s soft drink division now operates in nine Latin American countries, while its breweries produce some of the region’s most popular beer brands, with exports to the United States,Canada,Latin America, Europe and Asia. Its vertically integrated structure includes packaging and logistics divisions, as well as a wide network of convenience stores.





Bunge Fertilizantes


President: Mario Barbosa



Bunge Fertilizantes is Latin America’s largest fertilizer producer and one of the region’s fastest-growing companies, with more than 3,300 employees and 60,000 customers. Its R&D; investments have resulted in a wide portfolio of products that support Brazil’s booming agribusiness sector.As the region’s only vertically integrated fertilizer manufacturer, its operations include phosphates mining, chemical processing and product distribution. Aided by parent company Bunge Brasil’s 125% rise in net sales last year, it maintains a variety of social programs for both customers and employees.





Grupo Carso


Chairman and CEO: Carlos Slim Domit



One of Latin America’s largest conglomerates, Mexico’s Grupo Carso has entered a new era, with billionaire founder Carlos Slim Helu handing over management to his sons. Now refocused on its most profitable assets, the group sold its 51% stake in computer retailer CompUSA. The corporate juggernaut’s portfolio includes majority stakes in the Sears Roebuck de Mexico and Sanborns retail chains, as well as interests in tobacco, railways, aluminum, auto parts, cement, tourism, telecoms and mining. There are high expectations for this new generation of managers to further streamline the group’s operations.







President and CEO: Pedro Novis



When the Odebrecht family arrived in Brazil from Germany in the 1800s, they could not have imagined they would establish a global construction empire.The company employs more than 36,000 workers throughout South America,North America, Africa and Europe and is active in engineering, construction, chemicals, petrochemicals, infrastructure and public services. It also has interests in oil and gas, tourism, and pulp production. Whether running a literacy campaign in Angola or supporting the arts in Brazil, the group has also become a Latin American model for social responsibility.





Kimberly-Clark de Mexico


Chairman and CEO: Claudio X. Gonzalez



Kimberly-Clark’s Mexican subsidiary is a market leader in all its product categories, manufacturing a variety of paper-based goods ranging from disposable diapers and facial tissue to office products and printing papers. Tapping into its US parent’s technological knowhow, the Mexican producer continues to launch new products to satisfy demand from millions of local consumers, while also generating some $100 million in annual export sales to 14 countries.With annual sales of more than $1.6 billion, stockholders received a dividend for the 40th consecutive year in 2003.







President and CEO: Mauricio Novis Botelho



Latin America’s only global aerospace market player, Brazil’s Embraer is one of the world’s largest producers of regional jets. Despite an airline sector downturn,Embraer had a firm order backlog of $10.3 billion at June 30 and another $15.8 billion in options. The company is creating a new family of jetliners in the 70- to 110-seat category to strengthen its market share among regional carriers. Ranked as Brazil’s second-largest exporter last year (it was the largest exporter in 1999- 2001), Embraer employs more than 12,000 workers.





Companhia Paranaense de Energia (Copel)


CEO: Paulo Cruz Pimentel



On the eve of its 50th anniversary next year, Copel remains one of Brazil’s largest power utilities, distributing energy to nearly 3 million end customers. While its core business involves generation, transmission and distribution in the southern Brazilian state of Parana, Copel has diversified into telecommunications, gas, sanitation, Internet service provision and agribusiness. It has sold consulting services to Latin American and Asian governments.A new power purchase agreement with Cien, a transmission company that imports lower-cost power from Argentina, should further reduce operating costs.





Grupo Bimbo


CEO: Daniel Servitje



With more than 3,600 products and some 100 different brand names, Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo not only is Latin America’s largest industrial baker and confectioner but continues to gain global market share through distribution in 14 countries, using 29,000 vehicles. The company has more than 72,000 employees and operates production plants throughout Latin America,the US and the Czech Republic. It reported 11% growth in net sales, to $4 billion, last year and expects further increases to $4.3 billion in 2003 and more than $5 billion in 2004.





Grupo Posadas


Chairman and CEO: Gaston Azcarraga



Mexico’s Grupo Posadas,Latin America’s largest locally owned hotel operator, continues to invest in the region’s hospitality sector and already operates more than 70 properties in Mexico, South America and the United States. Mexico’s tourism industry is continuing to attract international visitors, and Posadas operates fully 20% of the country’s tourist-class hotel rooms. Investors can choose from the firm’s five hotel brands catering to various consumer segments: Fiesta Americana, Fiesta Inn, Caesar Park,Caesar Business and The Explorean.With the company’s debt profile improving this year, its expansion plans remain under way.





InterContinental Hotels Group


Chairman: Sir Ian Posser



Business and leisure travelers to Latin America can choose from among this British company’s 44 properties (more than 9,000 rooms) in 14 Latin American countries. InterContinental has had a presence in the region for nearly a half-century, and its brands (InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Staybridge Suites) offer options ranging from mid-scale to what the company describes as “upper upscale.” Its plans for the region include a diversification of its property portfolio to capture a broader cross-section of guests and a push to expand its franchise opportunities.







Chairman and CEO: Robert H. Benmosche



Since entering the Latin American market with the establishment of a Mexican subsidiary in 1992, MetLife has gone on to become one of the region’s largest and fastest-growing insurers, offering a wide variety of insurance and retirement savings products. Much of its growth has been supported by M&A; activity, including the acquisition last year of Mexico’s market leader in life insurance for government agencies. Today, MetLife Mexico is the country’s largest life insurer, with more than 3 million insured. MetLife also operates subsidiaries in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay.





Grupo Televisa


Chairman and CEO: Emilio Azcarraga Jean



Mexico’s Televisa is the world’s largest Spanish-language media group, but its soap operas have for years been dubbed into multiple languages and enjoyed by viewers worldwide. In 2002 it produced some 52,000 hours of programming distributed in Latin America, Europe, Asia,Africa and the US. Its four Mexican networks capture 74% of the market, while the firm also has media interests in the US, Spain, Colombia and Chile.The conglomerate’s operations extend far beyond broadcast TV to cable TV, DTH (Direct-To-Home satellite TV), publishing, recordings, paging,live concerts,sporting events, cinema and the Internet.





Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD)


CEO: Roger Agnelli


The largest diversified mining company in the Americas, Brazil’s CVRD maintains three core business areas: mining, logistics and energy generation. The semi-privatized company is one of the world’s most efficient steel exporters and largest producers of manganese and ferro-alloys, while its acquisition of a majority stake in local iron ore producer Caemi this year will boost its share of the world iron ore market to 35%. CVRD’s operations extend throughout 14 Brazilian states, the US, Argentina, Chile, Peru, France, Norway and Bahrain.







President and CEO: Jose Eduardo de Barros Dutra



In addition to being Brazil’s largest company, Petrobras operates with a global vision and has operations in South America, the US, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa. In fact, the company expects to triple production outside Brazil by 2005, for which it is considering some additional acquisitions abroad.It is eyeing In addition to being Brazil’s largest company, Petrobras operates with a global vision and has operations in South America, the US, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa. In fact, the company expects to triple production outside Brazil by 2005, for which it is considering some additional acquisitions abroad.It is eyeing some key assets in the Gulf of Mexico. International investors have likewise continued to show a keen interest in the semi-privatized firm, with its global bond issues subscribed in record time this year.





Wal-Mart de Mexico (Walmex)


Executive President and CEO: Eduardo Castro-Wright



Walmex’s 611 stores in 58 Mexican cities, as well as its nearly 100,000 employees, make it Mexico’s undisputed retail leader. Its six subbrands include retail stores, warehouse clubs, supermarkets, hypermarkets, clothing stores and restaurants. The company’s centralized purchasing and distribution networks have cut operating costs, while also tapping into its US parent’s bulk purchasing schemes. Walmex buys nearly 90% of its goods from local suppliers. Net sales are expected to near $11.6 billion in 2003 and top $13 billion next year.





Telefonos de Mexico (Telmex)


CEO: Jaime Chico Pardo



Telmex is Latin America’s only true telecom giant, with more than 14 million phone lines in operation. The firm has invested more than $27 billion to expand and modernize its infrastructure since its privatization in 1990.Telmex offers a variety of telecom products, including local and long-distance wire services, wireless communications,paging, Internet and data transmission. Its operations extend beyond Mexico to the US, Puerto Rico and Brazil. Telmex USA is an important supplier of pre-paid phone cards and money transfer services to the growing Hispanic market in the United States.




—Written by Santiago Fittipaldi and Laurence Neville. Edited by Dan Keeler.