4th July 2024
Report finds that it’s a good time to invest in Portugal’s stable economy – Tourism, Healthcare and Energy top list

The report ‘Structural Trends shaping Portugal’s Economy and Growth’ by a research team from Lisbon’s Católica University and Centre of Applied Studies led by economist Ricardo Ferreira Reis (pictured) has revealed that there are numerous investment opportunities in Portugal, not only for institutional investors but also private investors and family offices.

 

The report, commissioned by Euronext Lisbon and the Portuguese Issuers Association (AEM) was unveiled on Friday (28 June) at the conference ‘Invest in Portugal – Insights into an economy in Transformation’ as part of the 1st Capital Markets Day at which investors from seven countries met the CEOs of Portuguese companies at face-to-face meetings held on the previous day in Lisbon. (Thursday 27)

 

The report found that there were legions of reasons to invest in Portugal whose economy has enjoyed steady growth and a notable increase in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), demonstrating investment confidence.

 

Fiscal responsibility

 

Portugal’s public debt had fallen to below 100% for the first time since 2009 and was expected to fall to 70% of GDP by the end of the decade providing fiscal discipline is maintained.

 

Fiscal responsibility had led to the country’s improved international credit ratings, to “A” levels, and lower borrowing costs while Portugal ranks high in the OECD Foreign Direct Investment Regulatory Restrictiveness Index, particularly in the primary and tertiary sectors.

 

The report found that government incentives such as tax benefits, residency programs, and streamlined business registration processes had fostered a supportive investment environment.

 

The country’s stable political climate ensures a secure landscape for foreign investments. The country ranks consistently in the top 10 of the Global Peace Index, reflecting social stability and security.

 

Portugal’s strategic location offered unparalleled access to Europe, Africa, and the Americas through its world-class ports and logistics infrastructure while investment in transportation and logistics supports its vision of becoming a pivotal global supply chain hub. Major ports, such as the Port of Lisbon and the Port of Sines, have enhanced trade capabilities.

 

With an unemployment rate below 7%, and scarcity of labor in several sectors, the country’s positive approach to inward migration is addressing demographic challenges while enriching social diversity.

 

I&D expenditure had grown significantly, with notable contributions from the private sector, state entities, and universities.

 

Healthcare

 

The report highlighted a number of areas ripe for investment including Portugal’s healthcare energy and tourism industries.

 

The private sector of the Health Care (HC) industry in Portugal was highly relevant. The health expenditure share of GDP was 11% in 2022, above the OECD average. Private financing was 34% of total expenditures in 2022. Most of the HC in Portugal, 59%, is delivered by the private sector.

 

The private health care market structure however is very fragmented. Between 2006 and 2022 the number of firms, turnover, and the number of employees in HC firms have grown. In 2022 the average firm was still quite small, with less than 4 employees and an annual average turnover of 338 thousand euros per firm. Large firms, with a headcount above 250 or a turnover above €50 million were 0.2% of the firms, yet had 34% of the turnover and 25% of employment.

 

In the public sector Public Private Partnerships (PPP) had been used for the construction and equipment of hospitals and as providers of care for the National Health Service (NHS). Since 2010 four hospital PPP were active as HC providers but there was only one PPP active as of 2024. However, construction and equipment PPP are still active, and more are planned for new hospitals. These represented large investments and the firms winning the public tenders can use the capital markets for funding.

 

When it came to financing, healthcare firms have relied more on equity (47%) than the overall economy (39%). Large firms have depended more on financial debt (51%) compared to smaller firms (21%).

 

As to raising money on the securities markets, Luz Saúde, initially listed on Euronext Lisbon in 2014 and delisted in 2018, is planned for relisting by Fidelidade, potentially selling a 30%-45% stake. Healthcare companies have also tapped the bond market in recent years; CUF, a hospital management player has tapped the bond market several times, also Hovione or Bial, on the biotech and pharmaceutical activity.

 

Tourism

 

Portugal’s tourism sector had undergone significant growth and transformation, positioning the country as a premier destination. With a significant weight in the economy, investment opportunities are set to continue, investing in improving and diversifying the visitors experience, while mitigating the strains on resources.

 

With a significant impact and growth, tourism has grown significantly, contributing over 8% to GDP. The sector has rebounded post-COVID-19, employing over 1.6 million people. Portugal ranks 6th in Europe for inbound tourism expenditure.

 

When it comes to financing, asset management organisations and institutional investors have both been significant sources of capital for the hotel sector.

 

As for future trends, Portugal’s tourism industry was poised for further growth and innovation. Anticipated trends included increased investment from foreign hotel chains and private equity firms, emphasis on sustainable tourism practices, integration of technology in tourism services, promotion of cultural heritage and culinary offerings, diversification of tourism offerings, and collaboration between public and private sectors.

 

Energy

 

Portugal’s energy industry is a sector in transition, with significant opportunities and challenges ahead. In spite of the progress in renewable energy production, large amounts of investment was still needed in the coming years. The clear and stable policy context was supportive. Portugal benefited from a good mix of large incumbent companies with a wide range of new players, offering consolidation opportunities. Larger energy companies have been extensively using the capital markets for financing.

 

Portugal’s energy market had evolved by unbundling vertically integrated operators and had promoted liberalisation and privatisation to encourage competition. The sector now operated in a competitive market without state-owned companies, regulated by a Government agency and service, to ensure fair competition and sustainability. The market structure included a few major players, such as EDP Group in power and Galp in oil and gas, with a numerous and growing number of private companies engaging in electricity generation, distribution, and industrial production such as renewables company Greenvolt, with service providers mainly consisting of small and micro companies.

 

Several energy producers and distributers were listed companies, including incumbents GALP (Oil and Gas) and EDP (Energy) and EDP Renewables and REN (managing the electric grid). Greenvolt listed more recently, in 2021. The energy companies listed have raised €3,5Bn of equity over the last 3 years.

 

ESG bonds too are increasingly being adopted by various players as well, and since 2018 there has been a notable increase in the issuance of green bonds to finance investments in clean technologies related to energy transition: EDP Group, Greenvolt, Altri/BioElectrica do Mondego, or REN, being examples of successful implementation. The energy companies listed have raised €7Bn of bonds over the last 5 years.

 

Text and Photos: Chris Graeme in Essential Business