Business 05/04/2021

Companies that have gained the most from covid

Three Catalan companies were awarded 400 M€ in emergency contracts during 2020

4 min
Shortages of face masks and other sanitary products were a major problem at the beginning of the pandemic.
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The arrival of the pandemic of covid-19 caught everyone off guard, but some people knew how to react better and faster than the rest and took the grand prize of providing the administrations with health material, the most precious good at a time of total shortage.

After a year, it is possible to make a first balance of which were the companies that won the most in the awards made during 2020 to combat the pandemic among all Spanish administrations, from the State to the regions through municipalities and councils. All of them were fast-track contracts, without competition, with the legal protection of the state of alarm and with covid as a target.

The three main awardees

Among the top five companies that pocketed more money in Spain with these contracts, three are Catalan and the other two foreign, according to data compiled by the transparency portal Civio. The three Catalan corporations have another thing in common: they are very close to each other (two are in Sant Cugat and the third in Molins de Rei). However, from here the similarities end.

FCS Select Products, the company that won the most contracts in Spain, is a company that has made a big splash with the pandemic. Until covid, its activity was practically irrelevant (it billed 964,000 euros) and had no connection with medical equipment. In a single day, on 23 March 2020, the Council of Ministers awarded it four contracts (such as, for example this one, or also this one) valued at 217.5 million euros for the purchase of face masks (at an average price of 2.4 euros per unit) and, to a lesser extent, gloves and goggles.

On the other hand, the other two companies with the most contracts have a long tradition in the sector. Bimedica, owned by the Parara family and founded in the 80s, is dedicated to the import and sale of medical equipment. Bimedica is the second Catalan company (and the third in Spain) with the most money awarded: 121.5 million euros, to be precise, but unlike its predecessor it had to work much harder to achieve this figure, because it obtained 225 contracts, compared to the four of FCS Select Products. Bimedica, based in Molins de Rei, invoiced 79 million the year before the pandemic, so adding the contracts won by covid in Spain, it could have tripled the volume of sales during 2020.

The third most successful company in emergency contracts was Palex Medical, a company that originated in the 50s in Rubí and that since 2016 is controlled by the Corpfin Capital fund, a company owned by Felipe de Oriol, father-in-law of Esperanza Aguirre and member of the famous lineage that founded Iberdrola. Palex Medical - which moved its headquarters to Madrid after October 1, 2017 - received 347 contracts worth a total of 61.5 million, more than a third of what it had billed the year before.

Including these three, there are up to ten Catalan companies among the thirty that have been awarded more money during 2020. Some are large multinationals in the sector, such as Grifols and Werfen. Others are less well known, such as Skymedic and DSV Air & Sea. And only one (Roche Diagnostics) is a subsidiary of a foreign multinational.

The mysterious case of FCS

FCS, the company that has benefited the most from public contracts, is a mystery. Born in 2012, it is based at a private address at 3, Carrer Mèxic in Sant Cugat del Vallès, and is managed by Mayra Dagà Castillo and Felipe Recio Valcárcel. Prior to the covid contracts, the company was actually dedicated to "the manufacture of marketing items for premium beverages". The contact person given by the company in the Mercantile Register is Eva Baliu, whose e-mail and mobile phone number are given. But, at the same time, Eva Baliu declares on her on her LinkedIn to be the finance manager of the Aedifica group and does not mention anything about FCS Select Products. Neither Mayra Dagà nor Eva Baliu wanted to answer ARA's questions. Dagà, by the way, was sentenced in 2015 to more than ten months in prison for a continuous crime of fraud along with three people linked to Fincas Corral, according to a sentence that this newspaper has been able to read.

However, the key to success perhaps lies in the other administrator of the company, Felipe Recio, who for many years has been dedicated to exportations. In 2012 he explained to La Vanguardia that he was dedicated to bringing frozen fish from Guinea Bissau to other African countries, such as Mali and Senegal. Four years before the start of the pandemic he went to live in the region of Guangdong, which with the outbreak of covid became the second most infected province in China. Recio was still living there when the pandemic started. Surely this allowed him to know about the disease well in advance and at the same time have contact with the world's leading producer of medical supplies, to offer these products to the Spanish government before anyone else. Recio has not responded to the ARA's requests either.

FCS' links with Ebioss

However, there are many surprising details. Felipe Recio has another company originally called FCS Plastic Free Packaging, as he himself also explained to La Vanguardia at the beginning of the pandemic. This company (based in Tuset Street in Barcelona and with an office in China) was created in October 2019, when there was not even half a year left for the global pandemic to be declared, and has Mayra Dagà as its contact person. Even so, since its incorporation the company's administrator has been Óscar Leiva, president of the Akiles group (the former Ebioss), a peculiar company of Bulgarian origin that is in the middle of an insolvency process and has seen its stock market value fall by 81% in four years to be worth just 3 million euros. To make matters worse, although Felipe Recio claimed to be the owner, his name does not appear anywhere in the official records.

Last August FCS Plastic Free Packaging changed its name (it is now called Greenback Plastic Free), and in its annual report it states that it "does not form part of any group of companies", despite the similarity of its name with FCS Select Products and despite the fact that Felipe Recio said in the press that his group was "made up of several companies".

One last detail: on its website, FCS Plastic Free Packaging (now Greenpack Plastic Free) claimed to have three factories in China with an area equivalent to twenty football fields. On the company's website a video of these factories appears, but here comes the detail: all the images that appear are made with a computer, they are not real. The web offers a Chinese address, but it is not of any factory. Once again, as in Sant Cugat, the address is of a house in a residential area of Huadu, in Guangdong. Of the factory, not a trace.