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Where East meets West

Article - September 14, 2012
Geocapital blends the values of both east and west through its visionary leadership, and after many years, it continues to drive development
When people from one culture try to get something done in another culture, open-mindedness and understanding are very important qualities. Some parts of the world are, by the accidents of history, much more conducive to producing people with those qualities, and one such place is Macau, the former Portuguese territory near Hong Kong on the edge of southeastern China.

Geocapital is dedicated to helping bring people and businesses from diverse cultures together. Geocapital helps connect China to Portuguese-speaking countries, a collection of nations which has its roots in Europe and has spread to South America, Asia and Africa. 

Geocapital’s role is to introduce Macau and its investors to businesses in the other countries, and also to bring businesses from those countries closer to each other as well, using its specialized expertise and connections to make projects come together successfully and profitably.

“You can see the development of relationships amongst these countries, like Brazil with Angola, Angola with Portugal, Portugal with Mozambique, and Mozambique with Angola,” says Jorge Ferro Ribeiro, co-Chairman of Geocapital and one of its principle shareholders. “Macau is a platform of course, which makes sense. It doesn’t replace these direct relations, but it complements them. It’s something you can use to increase cooperation, not replace it.”

“We only invest in Portuguese speaking countries, because we want to be focused.”

Jorge Ferro Ribeiro,
co-Chairman of Geocapital

The company was founded in 2005 to take advantage of Macau’s unique history as a Portuguese territory in China. Geocapital’s other main shareholders are Ambrose So, who is one of the company’s directors and a member of the Committee of International Relations of the Consultative Council of the People’s Republic of China, and Stanley Ho, the biggest private investor in the former territory who also has holdings around the world in economic sectors including entertainment, maritime and aerial transport, real estate, and finance.

The presence of Portuguese traders in the Macau area dates back about 500 years, and over the centuries the small trading presence developed into a full-blown territory. It was only in 1999 that the territory was peacefully returned to Chinese control, and to this day it is governed as a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. It was the last European territory on mainland Asia. 

In its heyday the territory was an important link in Portugal’s chain of trading posts in East Asia, India and Africa, and Geocapital’s founders intended to take advantage of that history right from the start. The company has a wide range of investments in most of the former Portuguese colonies, and it’s always looking for more sectors of the economy that could benefit from its expertise.

“We only invest in Portuguese speaking countries, because we want to be focused,” says Mr. Ferro. “These countries have so much potential that if we focus entirely on these countries, that is good enough.”

The Portuguese-speaking countries around the world are tremendously rich in natural resources, and their economies are growing rapidly. Brazil is one of the world’s biggest exporters of food and minerals, for example and just a few years ago discovered immense deposits of oil in its coastal waters.

Angola has been producing oil for decades, and also has large deposits of diamonds, bauxite and other minerals. The other former Portuguese colonies, such as Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe, and East Timor, are also all ripe for investment to help them develop their resources and grow their economies.

One important part of Geocapital’s strategy is to gain knowledge and connections in each of the countries through targeted investment in local financial institutions. In Portugal, for instance, Geocapital is associated with one of the most important shareholders of Millennium BCP, one of the biggest banks in that country.

“We must know each country very well, but we must know the national players,” explains Mr. Ferro. “I know everybody in Angola, and I know what is missing. That is why it’s important to have an investment or commercial bank or private equity in each country. When you go there, you get privileged information because you know the people, the economy and the players, so you are in a very strong position to go to the second phase.”

In Cape Verde, Geocapital is in a partnership with the island country’s state in the Caixa Economica de Cabo Verde and also has a stake in an important insurance provider there. In Guinea-Bissau, the company holds a majority position in the country’s biggest bank, Banco da Africa Occidental (BAO).

In oil-rich Angola, Geocapital has a strategic partnership with Global Pactum and Banco Privado Atlantico and is associated with state-owned oil company Sonangol, one of the biggest companies on the African continent.

Across southern Africa in Mozambique, Geocapital has partnered with Moçambique Capitais, which groups together over 300 stockholders from a broad range of the country’s social and business worlds. Together they created Moza Banco and Moza Capital, institutions that are rapidly becoming touchstones in the country’s growing financial sector.

Geocapital’s focus on those countries, with their abundant oil and other natural resources, is no coincidence. The company is dedicated to helping the former Portuguese colonies exploit their wealth while helping provide China’s booming economy with the resources it needs to continue its amazing economic expansion.

“China needs energy, mining and infrastructure for its products,” says Mr. Ferro. “We do joint ventures with local players. Why can we do this? We have a very long track record with investments in Portugal and Portuguese speaking countries.”