Bernardo Velázquez

CEO of Acerinox

“If we really want to care for the environment we should look after European industry”

Is Europe getting too small for Spanish enterprises when compared with the rest of the world?

In Spain, we have been thinking about changing our economic model and dedicating ourselves solely to tourism, eradicating industry from our country. But we should reflect on what we are doing because clearly the best thing we can do for the environment is to support European industry. According to a recent study carried out in Acerinox, we omit some 30 percent less CO2 than the average stainless steel manufacturer worldwide, while the manufacturers with the highest emissions are Asian. If we really want to care for the environment—and that is a global issue—we should look after European industry.

Is industry making a comeback?

During the crisis it has been demonstrated that industry is fundamental to the economy.

In Spain, we thought that we could rely on a model of tourism and services, but it has become clear that industry is necessary. If industry is making a comeback in other countries that were previously industrialized, it is due to two very important factors. First, southern and eastern countries, Asian countries, have an ever-increasing demand for labor, bringing with it increasing labor costs. The second factor has to do with energy costs. In the United States, the industry that left for other countries— primarily, China—is returning due to energy costs.

Is energy too expensive in Spain?

Yes, clearly. In South Africa, where we have a factory, despite cuts and the current lack of capacity the real price of energy, of Acerinox’s bill, is 30 to 40 percent cheaper than in Spain. It would be half that in the United States. While there used to be a difference of 30 percent between Spain and France, and slightly less between us and Germany at 20 percent, given new issues related to CO2 cost compensation and the subsidies granted in the past, our prices are now going to be double. Electricity- intensive industries are going to find it very difficult to compete in these circumstances. Moreover, we supply other sectors and it is going to make it difficult to attract more industry. We are paying a great deal of items on our electricity bill that are not directly related to the cost of electricity or to supply and demand; the famous peajes, subsidies on supplying the Canary and the Balearic Islands, on Asturian coal, on renewable energies, etc. If Spain really wants to subsidize these sectors, it should look to the central government budget. Subsidies should be paid by the taxpayers and not consumers in order to avoid penalizing industry and driving up costs for this wealth generator.

What does internationalization mean to you? Is it about exporting or investing abroad?

Acerinox was founded in the 1970s and we started to export very early on. Internationalization is good for the size of a company, its security, and risk management, but logically it also means taking these resources out of our own country. We are the most global manufacturer of stainless steel in the world, the only one with factories on four continents. But at the same time, we would love to see the conditions we need in Spain to continue exporting and generating wealth and employment in our country, and once again we are talking about energy prices, flexibility in labor, and all of those factors.