On the subject of North Korea, it isn't widely known that some Westerners are actually in residence in Pyongyang doing business there -- profitably.
Well, not many. Nick Bonner, whom I met in Shanghai several years ago, may be in the black by now. One remembers, if one read this weblog several years ago, of the well-paid Milanese winner of an Italian national pizza competition, swept off his feet and brought to Pyongyang for an excellent salary to work as Kim Jong-il's pizza chef.
But here, courtesy of North Korean Economy Watch, we read a fascinating interview with Felix Abt, formerly Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) rep in the DPRK, who now represents in his own agency European multinationals with a claimed annual sales of several USD millions:
Klaus-Martin Meyer: Felix Abt, you came as country director for the ABB group to North Korea in 2002 where you have been resident since. ABB closed its representation just about 2 years after your arrival but you have successfully been involved in a number of other businesses since then. What happened?
Felix Abt: At the time the Swiss-Swedish ABB, a global leader in power and automation technologies, not only faced huge asbesto claims in the United States but also large debts versus a tiny equity that culminated then into a matter of life or death for the group. To survive it decided to immediately save 800 million USD cash expenses, making the closure of a number of factories and offices around the globe unavoidable.
Though we at ABB Pyongyang fully covered our cost through sufficient sales with a good margin the funds and other resources necessary to set up the planned joint ventures I had been negotiating, however promising they may have become, were definitely not available any longer. In addition the pre-contracts I secured for ABB – including one for a 9-digit USD infrastructure project I signed at the dismay of the competitors in presence of the Swiss foreign minister, the Swedish ambassador and the North Korean minister of power and coal industries – would have required even more substantial funding. Given ABB’s critical financial condition...
ABB Pyongyang? Already I am green with envy. What an adventure!
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