If it were not for the court apparatus that follows him almost everywhere, no one could say that in Fidelidade's headquarters, in Largo do Calhariz, in Lisbon, entered the wealthiest men in China. Guo Guangchang exudes sympathy and availability, who in just over two years, bought the largest Portuguese insurer, Fidelidade, one of the best known companies in the provision of health services, Luz Saúde, and became the major shareholder of the largest Portuguese private bank, BCP. And Guo will not stop here. Like all foreigners who invest in Portugal, he has the lesson studied. Portugal has to be a platform to invest in Portuguese-speaking countries with a focus on Brazil. What about entering in BCP? High praises to its management and the bet on synergies across borders. Fidelidade in Poland and BCP in China.
"When everyone gets excited, we become more cautious." The phrase is yours. At what stage are you now?
(Laughter) I'm always in between, between cautious and excited. Humans are greedy, but at the same time they are afraid. We are always looking for the balance between greed and fear. Today, in the world economy, there are many uncertainties and last year there were many black swans. But on the other hand, there are many opportunities. So we are looking for our opportunities in this balance.
What about Portugal? At what stage is it now?
I love Portugal (laughs). Football, food, climate, people... At the beginning of our investment, we were cautious and worried because it was in the period when the Portuguese economy was down. But once we get to know Portugal better, the people and the economy, I think we are confident with this country. And Portugal gives me stability. The policy is very stable, even after the change of Government. Policies remain stable. Portuguese people are also very friendly to investors and working people. So I am optimistic about the Portuguese economy.
Is that why you invested so much in Portugal?
That is why after investing in Fidelidade, we invested in Luz Saúde. Now we also invest in BCP. We are also promoting Club Med to invest more here. In resorts, for example.
What about other areas?
These are the areas. We hope to find more opportunities for Club Med and Thomas Cook to invest more in tourism in Portugal. In the health sector, and after Luz Saúde, we would like to find more investment opportunities, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry.
And outside of Portugal?
Regarding global investment, we have focused on our three areas: wealth, health, and happiness. In health, we want to invest more in the pharmaceutical sector. In the field of happiness, we will invest in tourism and shows and films. Third, in the area of fortune, we will invest more in the insurance sector, including investment in FinTech.
Did Fosun's entry into Portugal aim to open a gateway into Europe?
Yes, it is true that Portugal is a gateway to our investment in Europe. But it's more than that. It is at the same time the portal of our investment for the Portuguese-speaking countries. In Europe, we do not only invest in Portugal, but we also have significant investments in Frankfurt, Germany, the United Kingdom and France.
What Lusophone countries are you looking for?
We have investments in Brazil, for example, Rio Bravo, and we see many projects there. We hope that, in the future, Luz Saúde and Fidelidade will also be able to invest in Brazil.
Yes, we are looking for more investment in Africa. I have to mention that we are the largest supplier of malaria treatment drugs in Africa, and so we have many businesses already in the pharmaceutical sector. But we are looking for more investment opportunities. Yes, we are doing this.
At the time of the purchase of Fidelidade, you said that this allowed you to have access to 13 billion euros in assets. Is that how you see the company?
I did not say that. But for companies like ours, buying and selling exist at the same time, and this is normal. But I wanted to emphasize that Fosun has no pressure to sell capital. For example, we did not distribute the profits of the last years of Fidelidade; it stayed in the company for the further development of the enterprise.
What about BCP?
Firstly, I have confidence in the management of BCP. It's an excellent team with a good operation. Secondly, I think there may be many synergies between BCP and Fidelidade outside Portugal. And thirdly, I wanted to repeat the idea that we have confidence in Portugal.
When you talk about synergies, does it mean you can take advantage of BCP's presence in other markets to bring Fidelidade there? To Poland, for example?
Yes, I think it will be a possibility.
And take BCP to China?
We are very willing to help BCP's development in Macao and mainland China, this is part of the synergies I mentioned.
Is the slowdown in China a reality? Can we get 6% or less? Does that worry you?
We say it's the "new normal" (laughs). It is true that China will not grow as it used to. Now it's 6.5%, but I'm confident in the Chinese economy. For an economy as large as China's, this growth rate is already very good.
You said that Donald Trump is not a threat to the world as we know him. And the relations between the US and China? Are you worried about your investments in the US?
We do not have investments in the most sensitive areas of the United States, so we will not be influenced. In my opinion, cooperation between two major countries, such as China and the United States, is the right path.
So Donald Trump is going to be a friend of China?
There is an ancient Chinese saying that competition and cooperation always exist at the same time. I think the American President thinks the same way.
"If I were only concerned about making money I would have been bored for a long time."
He is the 22nd richest man in China and the 270th in the world according to the list of Forbes magazine. This is because 2016 did not do as well for him as 2015. Still, he is not yet ready to lower his arms. He had planned to dedicate himself to philanthropy only after the age of 50, which is the age of this year. But for someone who born poor in a rural area of China, there is always something else to do. And that is why he argues that developing a business is also a way of being charitable towards society.
You say that making money no longer moves you. What moves you now?
Curiosity. The curiosity to know if I can do even better, cooperating with the group and solving problems for my clients. I'm curious to know how far I can go. I think this curiosity is an important force that moves me forward.
Philosophy and religion are an important part of your life. How did they influence your business?
Philosophy is a very broad concept; each one has its own philosophical thoughts. And so it is unfair to say that it was a particular philosophy that changed my business decisions. I can only say that philosophical training has an effect on the development of wisdom and inner balance, which helps me to make decisions.
You argued that investing is like practicing tai chi, knowing the right time to invest for the ability to intuit change more quickly. What did you realize about Portugal that we still have not got?
You know, there are always two aspects. First, you need to be able to see opportunities. But it is also necessary, secondly, to be prepared for these same opportunities. Just finding out the opportunities is not enough.
I read a phrase from you that said, "At first a man wants to be rich, and wants to show his wealth, but gradually he discovers that this is quite boring." Are you already bored?
If I were only concerned about making money, I would have been bored a long time ago. But as I told you before, what moves me is curiosity, the search for value, the willingness to solve problems for customers. And as there are always many problems to solve in the world, with the right curiosity I will never be bored.
Solving problems is what moves you now?
Yes. See the case of Fidelidade. It is the largest insurance company in Portugal, but there are still many problems it can help solve. There is no end in the way of offering better service to customers.
Are not you tired of the comparisons to Warren Buffet? Is it not the time for Guo to be bigger than Buffet?
My goal is not to reach someone. I want to do things that I find valuable. Buffet is one of the examples that we should study. Learn from him. But it is not everything, nor is it the object that I intend to achieve.
But is not the time now for Buffet to start learning from Guo?
Each one has his unique wisdom in business in this regard, each one can learn from others.
You're almost 50 years old. Do you keep the idea of wanting to dedicate yourself to philanthropic causes from this age?
Yes, but doing your own business well is already being charitable towards society. But in addition to business, we want to take on more social responsibilities. For example, in Portugal, we have a project called "Protecting Together with Fidelidade", through which we want to support young Portuguese people to start businesses. We also want to improve the links between China and the Portuguese-speaking world, using the Fosun platform, including in the soccer field.
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