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Spanish business: Foreign gain, domestic pain

March 20, 2013

Life in the afternoon
THERE are two ways to look at Spain?s economy. One is to see it as a landscape blasted by the triple shock of the property crash, the financial crisis and the travails of the euro zone. In this Spain banks are in ruins, the recession drags on and the unemployment rate tops 25%. House prices are still far below what they were in 2007. Reyal Urbis, a big property company, went bust last month.But anyone surveying the wreckage will notice that parts of corporate Spain are not only still standing but gleaming and growing. Unit-labour costs have fallen and the labour market has become less rigid, making companies more competitive. Exports have revived. Private-equity funds are sniffing around Madrid for bargains. These are hopeful signs for the euro zone?s fourth-largest economy. But the cheeriest companies are those that do much of their business outside it.For a struggling middleweight economy Spain has a large number of big international businesses. These include two global retail banks, Santander and BBVA, Repsol, an oil refiner, and Ferrovial, which has a share of London?s Heathrow airport. Telefónica is Europe?s...

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