construction and telecommunications group with major operations throughout Africa and the Middle East), Mobile Telecommunications Company (the Kuwaiti giant), and Enka Insaat ve Saayi (the Turkish infrastructure group).
In addition to South Korea and Taiwan, Spain has produced the largest number of truly global multinationals among the countries that back in the 1960s were still attempting to develop a solid industrial base. In food processing, Spanish companies have made important acquisitions in Europe, Asia and the Americas, turning themselves into the world’s largest producers of rice and olive oil, and the second-largest of pasta. In the textiles and clothing sector, Spain has also produced companies of international stature, such as global denim leader Tavex (now merged with Brazil’s Santista), Inditex, which own’s the world’s second most valuable brand (Zara), and Pronovias, the largest bridal wear designer and manufacturer. Spanish firms in telecommunications (Telefónica), electricity (Endesa, Iberdrola) or banking (Santander, BBVA) are among the largest MNEs in their respective industries.
The proliferation of the new MNEs has taken observers, policymakers, and scholars by surprise. Many of these firms were marginal competitors just a decade ago; today they are challenging some of the world’s most accomplished and established multinationals in a wide variety of industries and markets. The unexpected rise to prominence of firms such as Cemex of Mexico, Embraer of Brazil, Haier of China, Tata Consultancy Services of India or Banco Santander of Spain begs three fundamental types of questions. First, do these firms share some common distinctive features that distinguish them from the traditional American model of the MNE? Second, what advantages have made it possible for them to operate and compete not only in host countries at the same or lower level of economic development but also in the richest economies? Third, how come they have been able to expand abroad at dizzying speed,