Resilience and strength of US-Portugal and US-EU trade relationships highlighted at AmCham Tributes 2023
Text: Chris Graeme Photos: AmCham
The American Chamber of Commerce in Portugal (AmCham) organised its special annual awards night recently — the AmCham Tributes – to recognise companies and persons that have excelled in strengthening bi-lateral trade relations between the US and Portugal and had shown outstanding success or merit in bringing the two countries closer together in 2023.
At a gala dinner held at the Pestana Palace Hotel in Lisbon, 7 awards were handed out: 2 Personality Awards, 1 honorary award and the traditional AmCham Tributes.
Among this year’s winners were CEO of Portugal’s multinational electrical and renewables energy group EDP and EDPR, Miguel Stilwell d’Andrade who picked up the Personality of the Year Tribute in view of the company’s extraordinary success in the United States in solar energy initiatives and other clean energy initiatives. Although unable to take the award personally, he recorded a special message of thanks.
The outgoing President of Portugal’s Agency for Overseas Investment AICEP, Luís Filipe de Castro Henriques also received an award for his contribution to promoting bi-lateral relations between Portugal and the US with the expansion of new trade delegations, including Chicago whose objective is to attract investment from America’s Midwest where Portuguese companies like Brisa, Amorim, EDPR, Logoplaste and Sodecia have investments, and following on the heels of recent delegation launches in San Francisco and New York. Mr. Henriques will return to EDP.
An award also went to CNN Portugal in recognition of its successful launch last year in Lisbon under the same dynamic format that CNN is famous for in the US and UK.
The successful US health tech unicorn Sword Health with 100% Portuguese DNA was also honoured with an award at the AmCham Tributes 2023 and is now a case study for success at Harvard University.
The company founded by CEO Virgílio Bento is growing fast and has been strengthening its team in Lisbon, in Europe generally, the United States, and Australia this year.
Sword Health created the first digital solution for the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and pains. It is taking on an extra 300 staff this year worldwide, including 150 in Portugal, and has recently opened a new office in Lisbon. The company’s main office in Europe is based in Porto.
The company became a unicorn in 2021, at the time becoming the latest to join Portugal’s stable of six unicorns after closing an investment round of US$189 million (€167 million).
Amyris, Davidson Kempner Capital Management with Start Campus, and Indie Campers
This year awards were also handed to Amyris Inc, Davidson Kempner Capital Management. and Start Campus, and Indie Campers.
Based in California and created by a Portuguese-American whose descendants came from the Azores, Amyris established a partnership with Católica University’s Centre of Biotechnology in 2016 to set up a European Biotechnology Hub in Porto with a particular emphasis on circular economy skills.
Having invested around €50 million in Portugal and created around 90 jobs, this project aims to develop sustainably sourced ingredients for global consumption. They have already developed the first sustainable biosilica obtained from sugar cane ashes which will enable around 32 prototypes to be developed for 5 different sectors for commercialisation, and the development of 15 patents, 15 Phd theses and 6 masters theses.
The award was presented by the US Ambassador to Portugal, Randi Charno Levine, Vítor Cunha Ribeirinho, President of KPMG Portugal and the President of AmCham, António Martins da Costa. (Pictured)
Davidson Kempner Capital Management and Start Campus
Davidson Kempner Capital Management and Start Campus also won an award which was received by Daniel Boehm, Managing Director European Corporates, Davidson Kempner and Afonso Salema, CEO of Start Campus.
Davidson Kempner Capital Management is an international institutional investment management company with over US$36Bn under management and 400 staff in five offices worldwide, two of them in the US.
DK is a relevant investor in various areas in Portugal with its activities centred on two strategic areas. The first is real estate. It bought the ESC Capital property portfolio last year for €850 million that included some of the best hotels in Portugal.
The second area is data centres — and here the award was shared with Start Campus – a company which it holds and was founded in 2020 and is linked with Sines 4.0. The two companies have invested €3.5Bn in Sines 4.0 with a hyper-scale data centre campus (490 MW) which will be one of the largest 100% green centres of its type in Europe.
Start Campus is an innovator in the site selection, design, and building of 100% green energy ecosystems.
Its goal is to have carbon neutral operations by 2025 and to be fully carbon-free by 2028. It is taking steps to achieve this goal through sustainability and cost efficiency initiatives. This is achieved through repurposing existing energy grid facilities, utilising ocean water for a state-of-the-art cooling solution, as well as utilising solar parks, backed by batteries and green PPAs, to optimise costs.
These facilities create their own energy, protect the environment, and do not strain the community’s energy grid. By locating facilities outside of large metro regions, Start Campus makes a positive impact on net contributions by providing a new industry within local communities, complete with employment and new skills.
This investment from the US is the largest direct international investment in a greenfield project in Portugal in recent years and has a substantial impact on the Portuguese economy having contributed to 0.6% of GDP, helping to internationalise the country.
The project will create up to 8,600 direct and indirect jobs to 2027 apart from attracting local investment in education and training in essential technology skills.
Sines 4.0 is seen as a perfect gateway into Europe and the rest of the world, repositioning Sines as a global clean energy and technology hub. When completed, the campus will supply 55% of the total capacity of the Iberian data centre.
The AmCham Tributes 2023 was sponsored by Boyden (Fernando Neves de Almeida), Google (Bernardo Correia) and KPMG Portugal (Vítor Cunha Ribeirinho).
Another of the winners at the AmCham Tributes 2023 was IndieCampers. The award was received by Alexandre Costa Prata, Chief Business Development Officer at Indie Campers.
According to its web site Indie Campers is a go-to marketplace for road trips. Aggregating over 7.000 own vehicles plus the camper vans, motorhomes and other recreational vehicles of countless individual and professional hosts. It operates across North America and 15 European countries and are physically present in over 70 cities.
Founded in 2013 by two good friends, Indie Campers has set its mission on democratising road trips by enhancing travel experiences and lowering prices for millions of travellers worldwide. We envision becoming the world’s no. 1 road trip provider and are quickly expanding – vertically and geographically – to make it happen on a daily basis.
Indie Campers now with 400 staff this Portuguese company is a world leader in the road-trip and RT market, operating its own fleet of camper vans/motorhomes. It is the Nº1 road trip provider in North America, Oceania and Europe as well as a fleet owned by third parties (private individuals and SMEs) in 50 locations in 16 countries (Europe and the US).
The startup began its expansion to the US in 2021 with a pilot project in Los Angeles. In 2022 the company had not only expanded its operation to LA but also launched in seven different locations and increased its fleet 20 times to a total of 400 vehicles (campers and jeeps with tent). This enabled the company to achieve a total of +3,000 bookings to date, spread out over a total of 8 locations in seven US states (Mainly on the West coast but also Florida). The company is on track to exceed 5,000 bookings and 15,000 travellers.
This US expansion project has involved an investment of over €35 million in vehicles and infrastructures, as well as creating over 35 direct specialised jobs and other indirect jobs which look set to double in 2023.
Among the distinguished guests were the US Ambassador to Portugal, Randi Charno Levine, the President of FLAD – Luso-American Foundation for Development, Rita Faden. FLAD promotes closer ties and projects between the US and Portugal in the fields of culture, education, science and transatlantic relations.
2022 – the ingredients of a perfect storm
In his introductory address at the gala, the President of AmCham, António Martins da Costa said that 2022 had “all the ingredients for a perfect storm”.
It started with the post-Covid-19 recovery and an energy and demand crisis which resulted in a sharp rise in inflation because suppliers were not able react to that demand with the required speed, while supply chains could not keep pace with such a big response.
When business started gaining momentum and redesigning their supply chain operations and the world economy was bouncing back, an unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russia took place, frustrating this global recovery.
“We had an energy crisis in a Europe that was too dependent on Russian oil and gas leading to short supply and higher prices. We also had a spike in food prices all over the world, with an impact on food cereals for the Third World which was supplied by grain from Ukraine and Russia”.
Martins pointed out that the US was instrumental in averting crises in both energy and food thanks to deals brokered by the UN, the provision of alternative supplies, and the drive to green energy transformation.
Serious difficulties were mitigated because of the strength of the transatlantic bloc of the US and Europe which showed a significant increase in trade and investment during 2022 and which had a knock on effect for the rest of the world.
The EU and US are each other’s most important trading partners. US-EU trade in goods in 2022 reached a record of €909Bn, exceeding the EU-China goods trade and 25% higher than the US-China goods trade.
On the foreign direct investment side, inflows from Europe to the US are estimated to be around €235Bn in 2022 against €87Bn in 2020 and despite not having the final figures for the US FDI in Europe for 2022, but in the first three quarters it stood at €172Bn – 10x more than what the US had invested in the BRICS countries, and 26x more than US investment in China. “This means that the relationship between the US and Europe is quite strong”.
When it comes to the success of US-Portugal trade, the numbers spoke for themselves: Exports to the US were close to €9Bn in goods and services, with the US becoming the fourth largest destination of Portuguese exports and is Portugal’s first export market outside the European Union.
In Portugal the US exports stood at around €4.7Bn with investment being the major source of imports into the country with an FDI from the US close to €8Bn.
On the tourism side the statistics show that the US had a 10% share in Portugal’s inbound tourism market with a total of 1.5 million visitors out of a total of 15 million foreign visitors last year.
“This was an increase of 25% on 2019 and when the average figure for tourism growth from non-US tourist sources is still 7% below 2019. The US has clearly grown very fast as a source of tourists for Portugal,” said António Martins da Costa.
Regarding the revenue generated by these US tourists in Portugal, this stood at €103 million. (+97% on 2019)
Investment in real estate is another important area for Portugal which is 2022 exceeded €3Bn (+67% on 2021). The US is now the first foreign investor in real estate (private and institutional) and a market share of around 15%.
US Ambassador to Portugal, Randi Charno Levine congratulated the winning companies and individuals as “incredible examples of our ever-growing stronger commercial ties, and some of the best success stories in Portuguese-American business partnerships.
“In my first year as ambassador to Portugal I am happy to say that I know so many of you as I have literally travelled the country visiting factories, textile companies, nanotech labs, biotech labs, cork production factories and everything under the sun.”