Ángel Simón puts Criteria on the offensive

Isidro Fainé Remember, yesterday he did it again, that La Caixa was born with a share capital of the equivalent of 526 euros. The president of Criteria says it first in pesetas, about 87,000, to emphasize the journey of the entity that turns 120 this year.

The reference sets the compass needle of the holding towards social work, even on the day when Angel Simon has deployed all the sails of its 2025-2030 strategic plan, so aggressive that even its own designer finds it difficult to comply.

Revolution and legacy – Simón and Fainé – appeared yesterday at the operational headquarters of CaixaBank in Barcelona, ​​where the executives of the investees attended, starting with Gonzalo Gortazar,CEO of the bank, and Francisco Reynes,president of Naturgy, big elephant in the room due to the failure of the takeover bid with Taqa.

The weight of the elephant threatened to overshadow the magnitude of a project in which Simón has put Criteria on the offensive. He has been saying since he was commissioned to be the first executive that “he has come to do something” and that something has to do with almost doubling investments beyond the long-term strategic assets that have characterized the industrial portfolio.

At the time there were doubts in Criteria about whether to present the strategic plan before the summer or after. Simón has moved forward despite the gas company’s shareholder instability. There is tension in Naturgy due to pressure from CVC and GIP and the guerrilla of the Australian IFM, who is considered a disloyal partner. Also because of the run-in with Veolia. The French water company has accused Criteria of destabilizing it. Simón has left the Barcelona Water Council. Reynés, for whom the situation has caused some discomfort, is in Veolia.

Naturgy was the only company that appears by name in the presentation that Criteria sent to the CNMV. The chief executive showed his support “for the current management team” and is determined to resolve the conflict as soon as he can, with or without splitting it up.

The other two strategic investments will continue to be CaixaBank, where Criteria has 31% and will not move from there, and Telefónica, where it will foreseeably grow. However, strategic investments will barely pass 55% in Simón’s mandate, instead of the current 74%.

And the rush in presenting the plan contrasts with the date of its entry into force -2025-, but the new CEO needs a race of several months and many curves to activate the other points of his plan. Firstly, those that fall within the diversification package, among which are ACS or Puig. Florentino Perez sent his CEO, Juan Santamaria, to the house of his new reference advisor and neighbor on vacation in Menorca. Pérez and Fainé have not missed the meeting on the island in the middle week of August nor during the pandemic.

ACS and Puig are the emblems of the assets in which Simón applies his “I have come to do something” through influence in his business. For the chief executive it will be a basic type of investment because it provides liquidity and geographical diversification. Assets based in Spain and global business will grow as a whole but will decrease in quantity. The divestments will affect dozens of companies. Investment in private equity targets firms that have a turnover between 100 and 150 million in the technology sector and risk, possibly in the United States.

“Focus de future, you will be there the rest of your life” was the epitaph that Fainé chose to finish setting the compass needle. He read it on a plaque during a trip to Davos (Switzerland) and yesterday dozens of senior managers and journalists who attended the call heard it. There was no politician from the most turbulent autonomy in Spain. His influence also wants to be a thing of the past.

By Editor

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