Italy is more a buying country than a country up for sale and two out of three companies do not use the “Made in Italy” brand in their international business. These are just two of the seven unexpected results highlighted in the research “Italian companies go global” commissioned by HSBC and elaborated by Padua University-CMR, which surveyed more than 800 medium and large sized Italian companies.
The results highlighted seven myths about Italian companies in the international landscape.
Myth#1: “Italy is a country up for sale.” Indeed almost half of the medium and large sized Italian companies made an acquisition at least once, and in 81% of cases, this acquisition was made abroad. Only 13% of mid-large sized companies have been bought by foreign companies.
Myth#2: “Export helps companies to solve their productivity and profitability problems.” The research shows that export is an amplifier of companies’ pros and cons. In details, it shows that there is no relation between profitability, productivity on one side and aperture toward internationalisation on the other. The highest level of productivity and profitability is recorded among companies that export more than 75% of their revenues as well as those that are pure domestic players to demonstrate that profitability and productivity are not belonging to hard exporters only. More, Return on Equity (11.7%), Return on Sales (5.7%) and Return on Investment (11%) are ratios that are higher in those companies with the higher or lower export level. According to the research “Italian companies go global”, companies deciding to become exporters tend to be those that already have a high level of productivity. This allows them to absorb sunk costs related to their internationalisation.
Myth #3: “Italian companies do not innovate.” Report findings highlight that less than 30% of companies do not innovate, and almost 90% of the most important exporters have innovated both products and processes in the past. In fact, companies that innovate are more likely to increase their degree of internationalisation.
Myth#4: “Italy only exports manufacturing.” Not only manufacture is Italian exports’ ambassador: more than 65% of major Italian service companies are exporting.
Myth #5: “Italian companies go abroad to cut costs.” Only 22% of them go abroad to cut costs. The first reason that drives companies to open up to foreign markets is the presence of key costumers or suppliers at a local level (39%), besides availability of qualified local partners (20%) and the nearness of outlet markets (18%).
Myth #6: “Bureaucracy and tax issues are only Italian problems” According to the research, 61% of major Italian companies consider bureaucracy as the top critical issue in operating abroad. Other difficulties involved in the launch of globalisation processes regard human capital (47%), the protection of intellectual property (for 39% of companies), language and cultural differences. In addition, corruption is a critical issue for one in every five companies (19%).
Myth #7: “The ‘Made in Italy’ brand is the only factor to boost the country’s exports”. According to the research, the largest part of Italian companies do not use the “Made in Italy” brand in their international relations. In fact, only one third (35%) of surveyed medium and large Italian companies uses it, although those who use it acknowledge that it generates high added value (90%). Italian companies that mostly use this brand belong to textile and fashion (80%) and food (59%) sectors.
Marco Mariano, Head of Commercial Banking HSBC Italy, said: “Italian companies that are champions in their own sectors are performing thanks to a great degree of innovation and productivity. However, moving towards foreign markets is not exempt from problems and difficulties, which can be overcome thanks to wise business partners and thanks to the ability to go beyond the clichés to unlock Italian business’ full potential”.
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HSBC in Italy
HSBC Bank plc has operated in Italy since 1995. We offer a wide range of banking services through our branch in Milan and our rep office in Rome. Our clients are large domestic firms, medium sized businesses with international operations, local branches of multinational companies, financial institutions and the public sector. HSBC Italy's services include corporate credit and lending, trade and receivables financing, cash management, interest rates and foreign exchange risk management. We also operate in capital markets (equity and debt), as well as in mergers and acquisitions (M&A). HSBC has a successful Export Finance business, and plays a critical role in funding Italian exports via ECA-backed structures. HSBC provides a selection of account services and electronic transactions via the home banking platform (HSBCnet), host-to-host connectivity (HSBC Connect), and the payment system SWIFT.
The HSBC Group
HSBC Holdings plc, the parent company of the HSBC Group, is headquartered in London. The Group serves customers worldwide from around 3,900 offices in 67 countries and territories in Europe, Asia, North and Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa. With assets of US$2,492bn at 30 June 2017, HSBC is one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organisations.
About the research:
The research, which was designed and carried out by Padua University-CMR and was produced for HSBC, included a survey conducted on a sample of medium and large sized Italian companies, identified through the AIDA database and broken down by geographical macro-region (North West, North East, Central, South and Islands) and productive sector (Manufacturing, services). Distortions were balanced during post-detection processing through weighting procedures that took into account the abovementioned sampling stratification variables.
Interviews were carried out with CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing) and CAWI (Computer Assisted Web Interviewing) systems in the period 5 October - 17 November 2017.
The research provides a clear picture of the international business activities of 1,200 Italian companies as well as their expectations and business strategies. The research also included qualitative interviews with a sample of more than 800 entrepreneurs and managers in order to fully understand the process of globalisation.