Bacalia Group celebrates a decade as a business leader

The following is an automatic translation of an article originally published in Spanish on Forbes on Feb 25, 2020. The full article can be found here

Giuseppe Cicatelli’s business career dates back a decade, when after having accumulated several years of experience in investment banks (including Citigroup and Goldman Sachs), he decided to turn his professional career around, giving way to the creation and capitalization of a holding company with its own capital, giving rise to the Bacalia Group.

Today as Principal & Chairman of the group, he talks about the present and Bacalia’s challenges for the future. “Over the years we have focused on looking at prime assets and sectors of the real economy with competitive advantages. We try to buy below intrinsic value and keep a long-term view until the assets reflect their true value. In this way we always have a cushion that protects us in case of unexpected events,” Cicatelli told Forbes México.

For the executive, understanding global trends is essential, but it is special situations such as an economic cycle, a disruption at the sector or country level, or sometimes some government policies, that create the opportunities.

Cicatelli lives in Panama and sees the region as rich in opportunities. He believes that in the business world it is very important to know with whom to do business and with whom not, because there are many strange or exaggerated stories.

“We relate to many important families and groups in the region. We appreciate the aspect of building long-term business and personal relationships,” he adds.

Bacalia in business

Currently, Bacalia Group houses diversified holdings in marinas, vertical and high-tech agriculture, parking services, a medical clinic and a real estate development, which has been a pioneer and driver of business innovation.

Baru Fresh Hydroponics, one of its subsidiaries, is a leader in high-tech agricultural production, it has one of the largest plants and the highest technology in hydroponic crops in Central America and the Caribbean.

“Relaunching agriculture is one of the greatest challenges of our times. Hydroponics solves problems such as scarcity of water or other resources, it does not overexploit the land, and it allows the development of vertical agriculture that takes advantage of limited spaces to generate large resources, which is a fundamental principle of intelligent agriculture,” says Cicatelli.

In total, Bacalia Group adds 16 subsidiaries and has more than 200 employees in operating positions. Other investments, such as marinas and parking services, constitute an important part of Bacalia’s portfolio.

“Marines allow a business with solid cash flow, incredibly resilient to economic cycles, to be associated with the upside of real estate. The dynamic is very similar in the parking services sector”, argues the manager.

According to Cicatelli, the keys to the success of the Bacalia Group can be summed up in three fundamental points. “First, we ourselves operate the companies of the group, our human capital is the best resource we have; second, we believe in building long-term relationships, which is why we prioritize values ​​such as integrity and ethics for the satisfaction and loyalty of our customers and partners; Third, we are a business group attentive in terms of social responsibility.

It is very important to generate sustainable cycles with the communities that surround us. For example, at Baru Fresh Hydroponics we are an important source of employment for the indigenous community, we are also members of the Panamanian reforestation program ‘Alliance for the Million’, which aims to plant a million trees to stop the phenomenon of erosion.”

Expand the portfolio

Puerto Rico and Panama have been the markets where Bacalia has made its largest investments. Both countries are characterized by having gone through important challenges in recent years.
“In Panama and Puerto Rico we have been operating with the group for several years, and it would be natural to continue expansion in these countries that we know very well as part of our strategy. Panama is a country that has seen a slowdown in its economy, but it continues to be a competitive economic model due to its position as a hub. Agrologistics and tourism will be -certainly- the leading sectors in the coming years.

For its part, Puerto Rico has gone through an economic, fiscal, and institutional crisis, but maintains incredible competitive advantages in terms of human talent, a solid currency, and legal and institutional security. Really, the specific situations of these markets in recent years have created the opportunity for us to enter and strengthen our position”, points out Cicatelli.

To continue this successful march, Giuseppe Cicatelli knows that Bacalia must continue to grow. The acquisition of new brands, the expansion of its portfolio and entering new markets are some of the future challenges that await a business group that today has no ceiling.