PANAMA - Economy
Managing Partner, Grant Thornton Panamá
Juan Moreno Real has more than 20 years of professional experience in consulting projects related to M&A transactions for both sides: seller and buyer. He is also an expert in external audit of private and public companies. He has been a national and international speaker on technical topics such as mergers, acquisitions, IFRS, COSO, and others.
Juan Moreno Real, Managing Partner of Grant Thornton Panamá, talks to TBY about having entered the market at a challenging time, being first of mind for M&A advistory services, and the importance of ESG.
Can you elaborate on the evolution of Grant Thornton in Panama, having rebounded after entering the market in challenging times?
Our history in Panama began in 2019 when we were appointed as the new member firm representing Grant Thornton in our country, where it already has been for about 40 years. At the beginning it was very challenging as after six months of operations the pandemic was declared. Our country was experiencing the highest contraction in the economic activity in the region with a reduction of about 18% of GDP. Fortunately, in 2021, GDP grew about 15%. In our business sector we were able to capture part of that growth mainly driven by compliance and tax rules. Due to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine we also observed many M&A activities in the country in the banking, telecoms, and manufacturing industries, as the most notables. We had the opportunity to advise some companies entering in M&A transactions in financial, fiscal, and labor-related matters. Our firm is positioning as leader in the mid-market sector advising entities that have been unable to recover from the effects of the pandemic and/or the war in Ukraine and are looking for our financial and fiscal advise when trying to sell their entire business or specific units.
What factors rank Grant Thornton first in the mind of Panamanians when they need M&A advisory services?
The first factor is trust. When an entity approaches us to receive our advice in M&A transactions, they know we will deliver a high-quality service. We have been participating in such types of transactions from many years in our area of specialization: financial and fiscal advisory. The second factor is our experience. We have participated in due-diligence services for both sides: buyer and seller. If someone is acquiring a business it is important to be aware of the financial or fiscal contingencies the target company may be exposed to. In our region it is more common to see due-diligence engagements from the buy-side. That is why we are committed to raising awareness in business owners that both sale or buy due-diligences in M&A transactions are something they must take into consideration in order to enhance investment value.
How is a company with a long trajectory such as Grant Thornton giving relevance to ESG policy in its activity?
Environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors are in a very initial stage in Panama. We have been encouraging business leaders to pay attention to these factors in advance and not until they become fully mandatory in our country. An important step has been taken by the International Sustainability Standard Board (ISSB) of the IFRS Foundation, aiming to provide good quality and globally comparable sustainability information. Although ESG factors are considered to be a high priority, according to a Grant Thornton Survey the middle market industry is not ready for this move as just 20% of leaders in this segment were aware of what they have to report based on the ESG agenda. We understand the fact that business leaders have the focus on their core business after difficult times due to the Pandemic and the geopolitical situation as a result of the war in Ukraine. ESG factors are now more business-critical than ever before and they will be highly relevant for those wanting to do business with entities in Panama.
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