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Innovation, partnerships, and sustainability drive Pessina Costruzioni & Acque d’Italia on the global scene

Interview - June 25, 2016

CEO Guido Stefanelli shares with us the group’s strategy of diversification and ambitious plans to keep expanding its global reach, with projects in the pipeline across the world.


What is your perspective on Italy’s current economic outlook?

The economic scenario in Italy is changing. We finally see a transition from austerity policies towards more legislation that facilitates investment. We must adopt a positive attitude. If you look at the amount of investment that are being unlocked thanks to the reform agenda and at the amount of European funds that have been largely allocated–especially in the gorgeous area of southern Italy–I think Italy is undergoing a significant change and we will be able to attract more investment from abroad also in terms of human capital. The brain drain of our talents is an issue that we must find a solution for.  This is the reason why I support Renzi in his education reform.

As the CEO of an important and diversified group, how are you developing innovative solutions to ascertain the group’s global competitiveness?

Many years ago we made a choice in the sectors of constructions and mineral waters that required a higher level of innovation. Especially in the construction sector the innovation is represented by the so called “project financing” a tool that allows collaboration between the public and private sectors for the creation of large works of public utility and ensures funds for the construction, operation and management of the works. Pessina Costruzioni pioneered this scheme.

This approach has certainly brought positive advantages especially if we consider that the cost of labor and the cost of money are decreasing. For example, we were able to build hospitals without neglecting the quality and the managing aspects. Secondly, we were able to reduce significantly the timings of construction. Thanks to the innovative and smart designing process it only takes 24 months.

As for the mineral water sector, we made an investment to manage 8 sources of water of the most prestigious brands. Moreover, we have extended the project financing approach to other sectors like energy, art and publishing in cooperation with internationally renowned brands such as Bulgari and Conde Nast.  We are currently involved in a very prestigious and successful project that is the construction of the new Juventus Village, which will comprehend a whole range of infrastructures such as hotels, soccer academies, shopping malls and an auditorium. This is an outstanding operation of financial engineering that we would like to adopt in other sectors also involved in research and development with an ever-growing enthusiastic and positive attitude. Our company has proved trustworthy even abroad; we have built hospitals in Iran supported by representatives of their government.

What are the company’s growth opportunities in a vision where Italy becomes the logistic hub within the Mediterranean and the Middle East areas?

Our vision is pretty clear. Our investments have been allocated in Kazakhstan, Slovakia, and Albania. We will probably be involved in different projects concerning the oncologic sector in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, supported by a well-established foundation whose founder is a worldly renowned surgeon. Very ambitiously, thanks to the cooperation of the Vice Minister of Economic Development Scalfarotto, we would like to enter the hospital sector in China and Iraq.

As for China, we are trying to convince the main Italian personalities who may be involved in this project to invest with us in order to be able to deliver a complete, solid project in compliance with their health regulations. The financing project for this operation is still to be identified whether it is a private or a public insurance participation.

Italy is not just fashion industry and arts. There are excellences and expertise in many sectors that many people in the country are not even aware of. There are excellences in construction and infrastructure of companies that work at the highest levels in different sectors. I personally came across with many talented managers when dealing with the company’s businesses.

The International Energy Agency expects energy demand to increase by 37% by 2040. Ensuring sustainable development in all economic sectors is one of today’s greatest challenges. The construction sector is among those that have the highest environmental impact as far as emissions are concerned.  How is Pessina dealing with this challenge?

We were the first company able to build a hospital that was certified Energy Efficiency Class A. We are currently studying and projecting a 0-emission hotel that will be located in northern Italy. This development is classified as NZEB building, which literally stands for “nearly zero energy building”. So Pessina builds according to the latest and most innovative regulations in terms of sustainability.

We conduct our activities in conformity with the international standards of the ISO 14001:2004 certification that recognizes our ability to implement an effective and efficient environmental management system. On our sites we pay particular attention to the recycling of waste products and we always propose the use of renewable energy sources. These are the tools we use to demonstrate our commitment to the environment

Another point I would like to stress the importance upon is the high safety standards that help our workers operate in a safe environment with an extremely low rate of injuries, especially if you consider the large number of young people that work in this company under different contractual arrangements.

Talking about USA, what are the reasons why American investors should decide to invest in Italy?

I can say that there are some excellent financial opportunities in our country right now, for example in real estate. The reform agenda is facilitating investment in this sector and finally we see policies going in the opposite direction compared to Monti’s austerity which was disastrous. Do you know why I’m profoundly convinced that we will recover? Because Renzi’s goal is Europe, not just Italy.

We believe in the power of building partnerships. Thanks to some excellent collaborations with French and German multinationals we would like to introduce in our territory some technologies that can be applied to the metropolitan areas for energy-saving purposes and to fight the problem of hydrogeological disruption.

I hope that promoting the participation of foreign companies within our projects will result in more innovative and safer cities with certified energy savings above 10%. Unifying is better than setting apart and if we face our reality with the spirit of someone who is eager to learn, then pretty much anything innovative can be applied to our projects.