Part 1 of 2: MBA study tour in Peru – Coffee, copper, economics

Guest post by Oliver Huslid, Evening MBA student

Peru_0097Silicon Valley of Peru
Microsoft Peru rents space from an unassuming office building in the heart of the city. Because this particular satellite branch only does Sales, it does not have the need for a sprawling complex like that in Redmond.  The immediate surrounding area has a new and modern feel to it. The architecture of the buildings showcases their glass and clean concrete. Because Microsoft’s neighbors include HP, Cisco, Oracle, and Google, it’s no wonder they call this area the “Silicon Valley of Peru.”

Coffee co-op
We visited Café Villa Rica, a co-op of coffee-growers in the Villa Rica region. Headquarters were located inside an unmarked office building in a sleepy residential area of Lima. Café Villa Rica is a privately owned and privately funded since local banks do not trust farmland as good collateral for loans.  They grow, pick, and process their own beans to ensure quality. Unfortunately, Peru does not yet have a big coffee-drinking culture, so most of their beans are exported to coffee-drinking nations like the United States. Café Villa Rica sells about 60% of its beans to Starbucks, where their acidic, earthy beans are mixed with Kenyan beans to balance out some flavors for Starbucks’ customers.

Copper mining
We walk around the corner to visit the headquarters of Southern Peru Copper Corporation, a copper mining corporation with extraction sites in Peru and Mexico. The copper industry enjoys high margins and an accelerating demand from developing countries like China. Year over year EBITDA is in the triple billions for this particular company despite issues with strikes, corrupt unions, and increasing environmental backlash.

Though recent demand slowed in 2009 due to lagging construction needs in the global sphere, demand has picked up pace again in 2010. As one of the largest mining companies in the world, Southern Peru Copper Corporation mines a diversity of minerals and metals, like molybdenum, zinc, and others.

Peru’s national economy
We began one day with a visit to the Ministry of Foreign Relations, where we are treated to an exposition on the strengths of Peru’s economy.

Many of the charts convey dramatic increases of key exports in the past decade, highlighting Peru’s rapid expansion and growing presence in the global trade arena. Peru’s modern approach to global economics has earned it crucial free trade agreements with a large number of countries, including the United States and much of Europe. The impact of these decisions has improved the standard of life for Peruvians substantially, as evidenced by the poverty level dropping from 50% to about 35% over the past decade.

One major weakness of Peru’s economy that they are trying to remedy is overreliance on exporting to the United States and other developed nations. The other major weakness of Peru’s economy is heavy saturation of mining companies. This trait of the Peruvian economy makes it vulnerable to fluctuating commodity prices for metals and minerals.

Oliver is one of many University of Washington Foster School of Business MBA students who studied abroad in 2011. Learn more about MBA study and work abroad opportunities.

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