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Source: Apertura Magazine

An Image that Regains Value

The companies that managed to make the leap to the top of the ranking and the companies that surprised us with their exit. The industries that drive market perception at an international level. How the current situation had an impact on each sector.

Last year was not an ordinary one for the Argentine economy. Hand in hand with the midterm elections, which consolidated the openness model based on measurable economic bases, the local market and the companies that make it up received the message. This is confirmed by the new edition of the ranking of the top 100 companies with the Best Image in Argentina. After years of variations that ranged from three to four positions gained or lost, the list made by SEL Consultants exclusively for Apertura magazine, shows significant changes this year. It can be inferred from the more significant changes in the general ranking that our economy has reorganized its sectoral matrix around Finance, Supplies, Technology, and Health. The most prominent example is Pampa Energía, which climbed 107 places to reach for the first time the top of mind, where it holds the 40th position.

Other examples are Sancor Seguros and BBVA Francés, which improved their performance by climbing 70 and 29 places, respectively. For its part, boasts about its successful landing at Wall Street in September 2017, with a growth of 30 positions, while Bagó Laboratories closes the group of the most relevant climbs with a jump of 21 spots. “During the last two years, there was a very significant change on how image is built. Today, exposure of management and company information on networks are the most important factors, while media and advertising actions are placed on a second level of importance,” stated María Laura Cali, Executive Director of the company that prepares the ranking. “This change strengthens the need for team work because all voices count today in the formation of image, starting with the voice of the CEO and following with each voice that speaks about the company,” summarized the executive officer. It is worth mentioning here that the consulting firm founded by Ernesto Kritz drew the sample from 260 responses of opinion leaders: entrepreneurs (190), business consultants (35), and specialized journalists (35).

From a general perspective, this time it is the financial sector which marks a milestone. This is not surprising after a year in which the investment in instruments such as Lebac, Letes or UVA mortgages, but also in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) competed head to head with the Argentine weakness for the U. S. Dollar. Led by Banco Galicia, which returns to the top 10, the financial entities record five of the major improvements among the 25 best-ranked companies. Among them, American Express achieves the second most prominent climb: from the 27th to 17th place.

However, at the top of the general ranking, Arcor leaves no room for interpretation. Captained by Luis Pagani, the Company maintains the pole position at 53 points away from the second place, Organización Techint. The change comes in the third place, where Toyota boasts of a performance that accounted for the honor of being on the top of the world best selling cars ranking, with 8.7 million units sold, according to data from the global research company Focus2Move. In the image ranking of APERTURA magazine, the bottom line is that the car manufacturer led in Argentina by Daniel Herrero overtook Unilever, which this time ends up in the fourth place, suffering from the expectation of an improvement in the consumption that still has the handbrake on. The good news for the sector is that Natura anticipates a light at the end of the tunnel, with a climb of seven places, the largest change in the top ten.

Finance: Money Never Sleeps

In the Financial Services category, which this year once again includes insurance companies, the sectoral benchmarking stands out for a comprehensive reordering that starts from the top.

There, Banco Galicia takes the lead and replaces Santander Rio, which with 24.5 points ranks second. Both banks reflect the interest of the local financial market after the boost caused by the tax amnesty (voluntary and extraordinary disclosure of assets) of US$ 116.8 billion at the beginning of 2017, which fueled the appetite for such instruments of private savers. Places at the podium were also changed, with Visa pushing American Express to the fourth place. It should be remembered that last year, the credit stock grew 45%, while deposits increased to 22%, according to data from the Central Bank. It was not until January 2018 that deposits in local currency started to grow at a faster pace than credits. Citi showed one of the most significant declines in the banking sector, with last year marking a turning point for the bank, which, with a drop from seventh to tenth place in the sector ranking, is facing the impact of the sale of its retail banking business at the end of 2016 to Santander Rio, accounting for US$ 1,600 million in assets.

Automotive Industry: Getting Back on Track

In this edition of the ranking, the automotive industry shows little cross-sector change. Toyota takes the lead, ahead of Ford and Volkswagen, with the same composition as last year's podium. All after a fiscal year in which, thanks to the sale of more than 900,000 units, according to data from the Republic of Argentina Automobile Dealers Association (Acara), demand recovered. For this year, car manufacturers hope to exceed again the historical record of registered units and dream of reaching one million units. If so, it would help to alleviate the industry's concerns regarding the supply, since production cannot avoid the downward trend of the Brazilian market, which, although it has stopped falling, is still far from the numbers of previous years.

Consumption: The Challenge of New Demand

Consumption still faces the challenge of being able to return to a positive trend sustainable over time.

Consumption showed signs of improvement at the end of the third quarter, when it surprised analysts with a rise of 1 %, after eight periods of negative results. The impact of the September's monthly increase (4%) did not, however, sustain the momentum beyond November. The annual balance sheet closed with a one-digit fall, compared to the previous year. Players' hope rests on a fiscal year that, without any elections being held, will allow them to benefit from an economy expected to grow again by a minimum of 2.5%. In the category, the comparison shows an image almost identical to last year but with Natura and Danone as the main winners. Natura advances two positions to the fifth place, while Danone does the same to the ninth. For its part, in the Retail category, Falabella is ranked third, reaching the podium.

Agriculture: A Bet that Is Still Alive

As far as image is concerned, the agricultural sector reflects the projection of a business that nowadays is effectively attracting the long-awaited international investors. With Los Grobo, Monsanto and Syngenta ranking in the top three, it is San Miguel that stands out showing an eminently positive result. A year ago, the Company was experiencing first-hand what the ups and downs of Donald Trump's mood swings meant for the global economy. Today, the lemon producer and exporter is demonstrating, with a climb of nine places up the ranking, that it knew how to make the most of a conflict that threatened to escalate. It is worth remembering that, in February 2017, Trump suspended imports of Argentine lemons to his country for 60 days. However, a year later, the Company that in the 1990s was headed by Fernando Oris de Roa, Argentina’s recently appointed ambassador to the United States, moved up to the 12th place, which is the industry's best comparative performance.

Services and Communications: Focusing on Infrastructure

The Government's strong commitment to infrastructure last year marked its potential as an economic engine. One of the businesses that felt it most in terms of image is that of utilities. AySA managed to retain its leadership over the second placed Edenor, in a year in which AySA had more than 200 works in progress and, according to its president, José Luis Inglese, in dialog with APERTURA, is preparing to complete its work throughout the Metropolitan Area of Buenos Aires by mid-2018 after the successful placement of bonds for US$ 500 million in the international market. However, the best performance in the sector was that of Aeropuertos Argentina 2000, which has moved up nine places to the fourth place, behind Gas Natural Fenosa. The airport company gained momentum after a year in which national air transport played a leading role in the scheduled landing of more than five new carriers, including several low-cost carriers. Needless to say, how the new competition will affect the airline ranking in the coming years remains to be seen. This year's ranking remains almost unchanged, with Latam, Aerolíneas Argentinas and American Airlines leading the category. In the Communications category, while Movistar retains the top spot, Claro and Personal interchange their second and third place, and Telecom and Telefonica do the same in the bottom places of the ranking.

Technology: The Future

In the category that became a business game-changer, Apple made the difference in a year that, as a result of the abolition of the technology tax, witnessed the Company's return to Argentina with both products and premium resellers. Cupertino's company moves up from fourth to second place in APERTURA's sector ranking, behind Google, which once again leads the category. MercadoLibre is another one that has improved its performance. Even though in the sector ranking it only moves up one place, in the general ranking it climbs five places and makes it to the top five. The reasons for this can be attributed to MercadoLibre’s efforts to become a 360° provider for the digital universe. After launching its own online credit service in 2017, at the time of publication of this edition, MercadoLibre was doubling down with the release of its own prepaid card, in partnership with Mastercard.

Supplies: A New Framework

Along with public works, energy and the production of its by-products experienced a year of changes both in terms of prices and labor regulations. In the sector ranking, with a podium that maintains last year's order with Techint, YPF and Shell, the above-mentioned Pampa Energía stands out. The company moves up eight places, mirroring its performance in the general ranking. One of the reasons for this is its presence in the M&A market, which was led by Marcelo Mindlin, elected CEO of the Year 2017 in the survey organized by APERTURA, El Cronista Comercial and PwC among the main business leaders in Argentina.

Laboratories and Chemistry: on Hold

Finally, the segment of laboratories and chemical industries shows little movement if it weren't for Sanofi and BASE, both having climbed 14 and 11 places, respectively. In the prepaid medical insurance segment, on the other hand, the status quo is barely altered by the fall of the Hospital Italiano, which drops two spots, and Sancor Medicina Prepaga, which moves up two.

How the Ranking Was Done

In order to establish the Ranking of the Top 100 Companies with the Best Image, SEL Consultores surveyed, exclusively for APERTURA, 260 opinion leaders (190 entrepreneurs, 35 business consultants and 35 specialized journalists), between November and December 2017. Three methodology criteria were used: the number of mentions, the mention order (first, second or third place), and the score given (1 to 10) to each of the companies mentioned. The ranking was established by taking into account the mentions made by respondents when asked about the companies with the best image, in general, and specifically, about the image attribute. The instrument used to collect data was a semi-structured questionnaire (to elicit spontaneous responses) directed by María Laura Calí, Executive Director of SEL.

The study analyzed 11 image attributes: Reliability of its Products/Services; Business Ethics and Transparency; Economic and Financial Soundness; Responsible Consumer Service; Innovation in its products and services; Care of Human Resources; Sustainable Management; Track Record and Presence in the Country; Management Quality; National Investment and Production; and Advertising and Communications and Media Actions. Each attribute was weighted by the relative importance given to it by the respondents.

As regards the sector rankings, the survey took into account the mentions made when respondents were asked about the companies with the best image within each category. Thirteen sectors of activity were surveyed: Consumer Food; Financial Services, Laboratories and Chemical Industries, Production of Supplies and Durable Goods, Automotive, Agribusiness, High Technology, Communications, Utilities and Infrastructure, Retail, Prepaid Medical Insurance, Media and Airlines. Each activity sector was analyzed individually, taking into account the number of mentions, the mention order and the scores achieved by each company in relation to the companies mentioned. Each ranking presents each company's position and the score obtained in relation to the leader.

Investment, the Magic Word

The urgent need for the economy to attract investment is not only at the top of the Government's agenda: it is also a decisive element for entrepreneurs and opinion leaders. So much so that, according to the 2018 survey, a company's image is strongly influenced by the disbursements it discloses to the market.

This year, APERTURA and SEL Consultores inquired about three additional aspects. The first question was: How much does the announcement of investments contribute to the formation of a company's image? 34.1% of opinion leaders answered “a lot”, and 55.1% answered “quite a lot”. That is, almost 90% of those surveyed admitted that an investment has a positive impact on their perception of a company.

The second question posed to opinion leaders was: How is a company's image affected by the fact that the company is a national one? In this case, the answers were not so conclusive: although 21.5% responded “a lot” and 26.2% said “quite a lot”, over 50% of the respondents said that the Argentine nationality of a company is of little or no importance.

Finally, entrepreneurs were asked what aspects define a company's ethical image. 36.4% of the respondents mentioned the quality of the company's products and/or services as the most important reason, while 27.8% mentioned the good image of the company's CEO/Management.

The Influence of the New Generation

The most influential entrepreneurs ranking according to opinion leaders, showed a change in the top positions: Marcos Galperín, founder of MercadoLibre, was ranked for the first time behind the incumbents Paolo Rocca of Techint (who has headed the list for more than 10 years) and Luis Pagani of Arcor.

In keeping with the significance of digital transformation and the drive that the government itself is trying to give to local entrepreneurs, Galperín ranked among the most influential businessmen by climbing to the 3rd position (up three places from 2017). Héctor Magnetto, CEO of Grupo Clarín, ranked fourth, and Cristiano Rattazzi (FCA Argentina), ranked fifth.

Alejandro Bulgheroni (PAE-Axion), Marcelo Mindlin (Pampa Energía), Eduardo Costantini (Consultatio), Gustavo Grobocopatel (Los Grobo) and Nicolás Caputo rounded out the list of the 10 most-influential ones.

Galperín also led the ranking of new generation entrepreneurs, followed by Martín Migoya, co-founder of Globant. Between the two, they accounted for nine out of the 10 awards and repeated last year's positions. Gaston Remy, CEO of Dow until the publication of this issue, and about to become General Manager of Vista Oil & Gas (Miguel Galuccio's oil company, former CEO of YPF) took third place.


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