Impact International / June 15, 1995
By Larry Luxner
Spanish wine company Torres S.A. is studying the possibility of a major investment in Cuba, chief shareholder Miguel Torres said recently.
Initial investment would probably be in wine distribution and vineyards, according to the newsletter Caribbean Update.On a visit to Chile, Torres noted that there were microclimates in Cuba appropriate for planting vineyards, and cited an increase in tourism and a positive investment climate as attractive business factors.
Torres was unavailable for comment, but his desire to invest in Cuba comes as little surprise. About a dozen Spanish firms are now active on the Communist island, and more are certain to come as the Castro regime opens further to foreign investment.
Among the biggest are Tabacalera S.A., which is financing the production of 54,000 acres of tobacco in Pinar del Río province in return for the tobacco; Iberostar, which manages two hotels in Varadero and one in Havana; Sol Melia, which manages three hotels in Varadero and has a 50% ownership interest, and Iberia Travel, which plans to build three hotels in Varadero and Cayo Coco.
In addition to its original properties in Spain's Vilafranca de Penedes region, Torres has significant holdings in Chile's central valley and in California. The Spanish-based parent company had $83 million in 1994 sales.
John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade & Economic Council, says several other Spanish companies and at least one Israeli firm may be interested in Cuba's wine potential. Kavulich's group is chairing a conference June 15-16 in New York entitled "Preparing for Prosperity in the New Cuba." He said several beverage companies would be attending the conference, but declined to name them.