The advantage of Spanish multinational enterprises in Latin America

Pablo Toral, Florida International University


Multinational enterprises (MNEs) from Spain made large foreign direct investments (FDIs) in Latin America between 1990 and 2002, making Spain the second largest direct investor in this region since 1998, behind the United States. This dissertation explains the reasons that led Spanish firms to make these FDIs, as well as their operations in Latin America. Seven Spanish MNEs were included in this study, BBVA and SCH (banking), Telefónica (telecommunications), Endesa, Iberdrola and Unión Fenosa (public utilities), and Repsol-YPF (oil and natural gas). Quantitative and qualitative data were used. Data were collected from the firms' annual reports, from their archives and from personal interviews with senior executives, as well as from academic and specialized publications. Results indicate that the large Spanish FDIs in Latin America were highly concentrated in a few firms from five sectors. The FDIs of these firms alone accounted for 70 percent of total Spanish FDI in Latin America in this period. The reasons for these investments were firm-specific and sector specific. A series of institutional conditions existed in Spain between the 1970s and the 1990s that allowed the employees of the firms to develop the knowledge and devise strategies to adjust to that set of conditions. First, the policies of the Spanish state favored the creation of large firms in these sectors, operating under conditions of monopoly sometimes. Secondly, the consumers put pressure on the firms to provide better and cheaper products as the Spanish economy grew and modernized. Thirdly, the employees of the firms had to adjust their services and products to the demands of the consumers and to the constraints of the state and the market. They adjusted the internal organization of the firm to be able to produce the goods and services that the market demanded. Externally, they also adopted patterns of interaction with outside agents and institutions. This patterned behavior was the “corporate culture” of each firm and the “normative framework” in which their employees operated. When the managers of the firms perceived that there were similar conditions in Latin America, they decided to operate there as well by making FDIs.

Subject Area

International law|International relations|Political science|Business community

Recommended Citation

Toral, Pablo, "The advantage of Spanish multinational enterprises in Latin America" (2003). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3126766.