An Interview with National Standard’s President, Hugo Barreca
What is the history of National Standard?
National Standard initially began as a sale-leaseback and commercial real estate, energy and healthcare investment firm, focusing on mostly single tenant real estate purchases and build to suit developments for mid to large size corporations in the U.S.
In 2008, the firm shifted its focus to Public Private Partnerships and public sector or government related lease investment transactions both in the US and internationally.
I am the President of National Standard and based in the New York office and I run the day to day operations of the organization. Prior to joining National Standard I was a corporate attorney and CFO of multiple public and private companies in New York as well as served as General Counsel to a Wall Street private equity firm.
In addition to my legal background and MBA, I have a Master’s degree in Public Policy as well and I am currently obtaining my Ph D in Public Policy here in New York City.
Today, the firm works almost exclusively in the international markets outside of the United States with a niche focus on international essential infrastructure and sovereign and sub-sovereign government supported transactions, in the spirit of Foreign Direct Investment.
National Standard has emerged as effectively a leading “Private” Global Development Finance institution for infrastructure and sovereign financial transactions that need specialized expertise and prefer the “private capital markets” to “public or bond markets”. National Standard effectively provides an alternative to international project or sovereign bonds through FDI.
National Standard is growing and now has local offices and representation in many countries around the world including China, Europe, India, Africa, Australia and Singapore.
What qualities do you seek in potential clients on the flip side, what qualities do you and the firm possess that prompts potential clients to select your services?
We focus on “fundamentals” as first, any deal has to make common sense, meaning essential projects such as transportation, healthcare, housing and energy as well as government supported economic development initiatives we help craft to stimulate the economy and create local jobs. Additionally, we pay special attention to the level of true “commitment” from a perspective client to determine how committed and important the project and transaction truly is to them – even with a great project if the commitment is lacking it will likely never get off the ground due to lack of political will in many cases.
Depending upon the specific location in the world, we also study the local political risk and economic and political patterns to ensure we properly understand the local risk factors beyond our investment. We then attempt to mitigate these risks in different ways through Political Risk Insurance and other means. And not least of all is the ability to repay the capital from a creditworthiness viewpoint based on credit rating reports and financial statements.
We feel that National Standard provides a unique skillset and platform on the basis that most transactions we participate in are generally driven by political policies and objectives not purely economics as within the commercial/private sector.
Many of these transactions and projects take years to navigate politically before the project comes to fruition. National Standard is unique in that we understand the political aspects equally well as the financial aspects.
In many cases we work closely with the government to conform or create new policies and legislation that may be necessary to create new opportunity, jobs or access foreign investors and even importing foreign services such as importing American healthcare to improve a countries access to quality healthcare through international healthcare.
We also have the skills and relationships to act as project or transaction architects in that our knowledge and skill sets extend well beyond finance into construction, project management, economic development and public policy.
Please tell us about some of your most recent projects – domestic and abroad – and what difference these projects will make or are already making in their local communities.
We have been and are today involved in many high impact based projects in different regions of the world where we see our involvement is making a difference in the lives of many as well as improving the quality of life for current and future generations.
Here are a couple of examples:
In Brazil, there is a massive shortage (well over a million homes short) of low income affordable housing available under the government’s social housing program. National Standard in conjunction with a highly skilled developer in the area of affordable housing is developing 15,000 homes in Brazil with an investment of $450 Million. Our longer term plan is to expand this to 72,000 homes over the next 6 to 7 years.
This project provides hundreds of local jobs as well as quality affordable housing to thousands of Brazil families that are currently either homeless or living in very poor living conditions.
In the Middle East, we are part of an international consortium of corporations that are building, financing and operating a large scale 150,000 BPD crude refinery at a cost of approximately US $5 Billion. Upon construction completion, the project will create between 600 and 800 local good paying jobs and will create annual revenue to the local government and economy in excess of $3 Billion annually.
In India, we are working in many facets of infrastructure including renewable energy, airport expansion and infrastructure plans driven by government bilateral agreements for development through our local office in Bangalore and our Asia Fund of Funds in Singapore.
In Africa, National Standard is working on critical projects and government financings in countries such as the Ivory Coast, Botswana, Namibia, Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Cameroon, and South Sudan.
In Asia, National Standard is investing in water infrastructure in Indonesia, solar in the Philippines, rail in Vietnam and in China where we have offices in Beijing and Shanghai we are co-investing with Chinese institutions in major infrastructure project initiatives as well as a government subway project.
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