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PANAMA - Economy

Guillermo de Saint Malo

CEO, Grupo Eleta


Guillermo de Saint Malo Eleta is a Panamanian entrepreneur and philanthropist who promotes innovation, principled leadership, and sustainability as CEO of Eleta. He also promotes good corporate governance within family businesses and serves on various company boards. Furthermore, de Saint Malo also serves on NGO boards such as Pro-Chiriqui, driving public-private alliances in Panama’s agricultural areas, and on the board of ANCON, Panama’s foremost nature conservation group.

“Today, we own and operate generation companies across various technologies both in Panama and abroad. This includes hydro, solar, diesel, LNG, and batteries.”
A family-owned investment firm withs investments across a range of industries, Grupo Eleta is currently focused on key sectors such as energy, agribusiness, and real estate, among others.
What goals does Grupo Eleta have in the coffee business?

Eleta is a fully integrated coffee investor from farm to cup. We are the farmer, the processing facility, the roasting facility, and the retailer. Along the entire supply chain, we work to take beans directly from the farm to people’s hand; that is how we create value and protect quality. We also serve as a showroom for other premium coffee growers. The idea is to work with others coffee players to make Panama the most recognized premium coffee producer in the world. We are too small to compete for quantity with the likes of Brazil or Colombia, so our strategy is to win in quality. At Eleta, we aim to be one of the driving forces behind making Panama coffee the best coffee in the world. This is why you can find various types of coffee when you enter UNIDO, our coffee roaster and retail shop. To produce an agricultural product that is so widely accessible and considered one of the greatest in the world is incredibly uncommon. As a result, we spend a lot of time and effort on this endeavor. Right now, it is all about growing the brand, which translates into how we achieve a store count of 100 or more, while still offering a best-in-class experience and product. We are aiming to open five to six stores per city. We are currently deploying our second store in Washington D.C, and we hope to soon set up in Miami, followed by Houston and possibly Madrid. We will continue to open in cities offering the best connection with a reliable local partner. Our end vision is to “wine-ify” coffee. We want to bring to the coffee industry what has happened in wine. Making it about the experience and selection; about the pairings, tasting and varieties; about knowledge, products, and scarcity. It is about expanding the culinary appreciation for coffee similar to how it happened in the wine industry.

What energy-related projects do you have, and what opportunities have you found in this market?

Today, we own and operate generation companies across various technologies both in Panama and abroad. This includes hydro, solar, diesel, LNG, and batteries. In Panama and the region, the opportunity is mostly in solar, battery, and small-scale LNG. Solar energy is our main area of interest for the mid-term. Recently, we have been building capacity and investing both domestically and internationally. The demand for sustainable and reliable energy models will only increase and solar energy, in conjunction with batteries, will become an important driver of future growth. Having said that, I believe we must pursue both traditional and renewable energy sources in order to maintain a balance within energy systems. By traditional, I mean natural gas, which is essential for the energy transition as its plays an instrumental role in shifting away from coal and moving towards net-zero emissions. Hence, our second area of focus. As the transition evolves, natural gas will remain vital in providing reliable, cleaner, and efficient energy to support economies around the world. Natural gas is the cleanest amongst the fuels that can help provide 24-hour energy to high demand areas. Island Power (IPSA), our microgrid company, is an initiative to provide energy to remote locations. For instance, we operate in a remote location called La Miel on the Caribbean side. It is the final settlement in Panama before the border with Colombia; it lacked electricity. The solution: we provide electricity by using a hybrid system of diesel generator, solar panels, and batteries. As a result, education and health has improved as well as tourism, for people from Colombia are crossing to visit, spend resources, enjoy the beautiful scenery, and visit the beach. All of this has contributed to forging a robust local economy. Again, doing good is good business.



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