Interview with Maria do Carmo Neves
Executive President & CEO of GRUPO TECNIMEDE
How ready was Grupo Tecnimede to face Portugal’s financial difficulties?
M.C.N. - Since Tecnimede was created in the 80s we have had two major goals: research & development and internationalization. Before the financial crisis hit Portugal we had made an intense effort in the R&D area, particularly with the creation of our R&D Centre - Laborqualitas. I must say that currently between 15% to 18% of our turnover is invested in R&D. Ours strength in this area has allowed us in the last six to eight years to concentrate on our second goal, international expansion. As a response to the financial crisis we have diversified our sources of business in the domestic market, but most of all we have speeded up our international expansion by opening new affiliates and signing new partnerships in Europe and South America.
Where did you start your international expansion?
M.C.N. - In 2001 we started our international expansion in Morocco, where we set up a commercial branch, and where we have become a pharmaceutical company of reference. This April we finalize the construction of a new production facility, fully dedicated to the production of oral oncologic pharmaceutical products and aimed at international markets. We have invested nearly 15 million euro and this is a new and relevant step in our presence in what we consider to be one of our natural markets.
Where will your next steps take you?
M.C.N. - I must say that today over 50% of our billing comes from international operations. We have defined two guidelines for this expansion: quality and continuous R&D. We have a number of partnerships in some of the markets where we operate, such as in Brazil and Colombia. However today we cover more than 85 countries worldwide and our goal is to increase the number of countries where we are.
"TECNIMEDE IS DEVELOPING THREE NEW MOLECULES WITH ITS VERY OWN RESOURCES"
Is Portugal currently competitive as a producer?
M.C.N. - Portugal was not competitive internationally but the crisis has served as an engine for improvement in terms of efficiency. Through much effort on our side, we have reached a comparatively good competitive position in terms of price and quality. We have achieved this despite the fact that all industrial environment and conditions in Portugal are worse than the general conditions of most competitive countries, as energy in Portugal is still some twenty percent more expensive than in Spain, for instance.
Is Grupo Tecnimede growing abroad through partnerships?
M.C.N. - Yes, mostly we are. We have a direct presence in Morocco, Spain and Italy already with sales, and we are registering in Brazil and Colombia. In another eighty countries we have local partners, and we are always ready to expand our international network.
Can you perceive how Portugal's economic recovery is impacting your business?
M.C.N. - After 2008 the financial conditions of our international suppliers worsened drastically, as the image of Portugal took a severe hit, and that affected the cash-flow position of many companies. Yet we also have a positive image as exporters of quality products with competitive prices, particularly in the pharmaceutical field. So, despite being affected, we have managed to keep up our image as a supplier and we are currently in the process of reinforcing our place in the European stage.
Where do you see Grupo Tecnimede in the next five years?
M.C.N. - As a family-owned company we will remain committed to our two main goals: R&D and international expansion. Currently we are developing three new molecules in the areas of neuroscience, tuberculosis and pain treatment, and we are doing that using only our own resources. All the necessary investment for such developments is only possible through our international growth and presence, which has strengthened our balance sheet and provides resources for R&D.
Since 2008 we have invested continually and heavily. We bought Atlantic Pharma, including its plant and offices. We updated the plant with a new warehouse; already a hundred percent robotized, and obtained GMP certifications from the relevant authorities worldwide.
We built a new plant in Morocco and open affiliated companies in Italy, Brazil and Colombia. We also increased our portfolio with more than 50 molecules. In the next few years I hope to be present in more countries, via partnerships with local players, which indeed takes time and effort. As our founder likes to say, as a company we need to “find the little shoe that fits our foot and won’t hurt.”