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Companies with international exposure find a way to thrive also in the South

There is a group of mid-sized, international and winning companies in southern Italy capable of performances as good as those in northern Italy and ready to challenge the usual analysis of the gap between the two areas of the country.

The sixth report of the Ugo La Malfa Foundation on industrial groups in the south prepared with the research center of Mediobanca includes some surprising numbers: the productivity of medium and large companies in southern Italy is in line with the companies in the rest of the country, with an added value per employee of around €84,000.

The result is higher than the productivity of southern companies on average, equal to €66,000. The difference is shown by another indicator, the ratio of labor costs to added value: a total average 68.8% in central and northern Italy, 79.6% in the south, and only 56.8% for the medium-to-large firms in the south.

According to the report, which will be presented today at the Italian Banking Association in the presence of the Economic Development Minister, Carlo Calenda, and Confindustria Chairman, Vincenzo Boccia, being in southern Italy does not mean that industrial activity has additional costs weighing on it by default. The number of industrial groups in the south has dropped 8% between 2009 and 2016, but companies with the right size resist and react.
These firms are structured, open to innovation, have an international presence and a successful market presence.

The report offers a deep analysis of the industrial presence in the south. The number of active companies, according to Infocamere, is accompanied by their financial results between 2008 and 2015, with a focus on 135 industrial groups of a larger size and 263 medium enterprises (50 of which are analyzed by Mediobanca).

Southern companies reported higher revenues in 2015 compared to crisis level (€47.8 billion compared to €48.2 billion in 2008). But results remain negative, with €900 million of losses in 2015.

Medium and large companies, including small multinational groups, reported much stronger results. Their revenues rose 17% in 2015, reaching a new high since 2008, with export revenues rising 44%. They had profits for €278.2 million, compared to €259 million in 2008.

Their return on equity (ROE) and return on investment (ROI) are a further example of this double trend. On average, southern companies had a ROI of 6.6% compared to 8.3% in the rest of the country, but medium and large companies in the south had a higher return (10.1%).

While companies in southern Italy had a negative ROE of 6.9%, larger firms recorded a positive 14.3% and those in northern Italy were at 6.1%.

The numbers are a lesson for those who have a solid project to invest in the south: there's still room to grow.