This article presents some multinational companies from Mexico – which I will call MultiMex. These firms present a very interesting research topic in international business because they are subject to an unstable macro environment, the Mexican economy, and to two powerful external forces: (i) the competition from China´s industrial base, and (ii) the protectionist policies from Mexico´s most important trade partner, the United States. In the near future, this blog will bring specific texts about some of the most relevant MultiMex companies, their internationalization strategy, their country-specific advantages and disadvantages, and their firm-specific advantages and disadvantages. Our goal with this series of articles about Mexican multinationals is to show that these companies present textbook cases of survival in difficult micro and macroeconomic conditions and to study their different routes of internationalization. A deeper and more analytical version of the series about MultiMex will (hopefully) be part of the 2019 Emerging Market Report, from the Samuel C. Johnson Graduate School of Business at the Cornell University.
- A Brief Introduction to the Mexican Economy
Among the many particularities that Mexico presents, one is the country´s industrial power. Unlike many countries in Latin America, two-thirds of Mexico’s exports are manufactured goods because Mexico does not have the same agricultural export capacity as Brazil and Argentina do. Additionally, Mexico´s industrial base is firmly connected to the US-based manufacturing value chains. With country’s GDP of approximately US$ 1 trillion, projected GDP growth of 2.3% in 2018, and the inflation rate about 4.4 % a year, Mexico is positioned for moderate growth in the long-term . Finally, the energy reforms have been successful in attracting private participation to the sector and to reverse the downward trend in investment and production in the oil sector , which has helped the Mexican economy.
However, Mexico, Latin America´s second-largest economy, currently lives a challenging external environment due to the trade deal USMCA (the United States-Mexico-Canada, which will replace NAFTA), announced on Oct 1st, 2018. The first USMCA´s key topic is the requirement that 75 percent of auto components be built in North America, up from 62.5 percent, a decision targeted to hurt China´s export to the US. Second, 40 to 45 percent of auto components will have to be made by laborers making at least $16 an hour, a measure that will not only discourage firms from shifting jobs to lower-wage Mexico but also likely to transfer some Mexican-based production to the US, as the current assembly wage in Mexico is US$ 7.34 . As a consequence, USMCA will make it harder for global automakers to build cars cheaply in Mexico and is aimed at bringing more jobs into the United States, a measure that will impact Mexico´s economy. Third, the US tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum from Mexico remain in effect as negotiations about these two products will continue. Fourth, there is a stiffening of the intellectual property rules that allow law enforcement personnel to stop suspected pirated goods in the US and in Mexico. Although the impact of the last two items can be difficult to measure, as a whole the new trade deal may stall some of Mexico’s manufacturing growth. Anyway, as any trade deal, the USMCA agreement involves hundreds of pages and is expected to take effect on January 1st, 2020, after approval from the legislative of the three countries. 
- Multinationals from Mexico
In order to shed light on the international Mexican firms, this article analyses their presence in two rankings, in order to analyze and understand how these companies respond to country-specific advantages/disadvantages and the external business environment. The two international rankings that are considered in this text are the 2018 Forbes 2000 and the 2017 IIEc-UNAM/CCSI-Columbia ranking.
- Mexican Multinationals according to 2018 Forbes Global 2000
The 2018 Forbes Global 2000 ranking includes twelve Mexican companies from diverse sectors, such and metals and mining, banking, construction, food processing, broadcasting, and beverages. 
Table 1: Mexican Multinationals—International Rankings 2018
|Forbes 2000||Company||Sector||Sales (US$)||Profits (US$)||Assets (US$)||Market Value (US$)|
|–||PEMEX||O&G||73.8||-14.8 B||108.9 B||US$ 64 B|
|329||América Móvil||Telecommunications||54.6 B||624 M||78.7 B||57.8 B|
|–||CFE||Utilities||26.1||5.7 B||80,4 B||N/A|
|371||FEMSA||Beverages||25.2 B||2.1 B||31.3 B||31.2 B|
|548||GFNorte||Banking||9.1 B||1.4 B||76.2 B||16.1 B|
|581||Grupo Mexico||Metals & Mining||10.2 B||1.7 B||26.7 B||22.6 B|
|956||CEMEX||Construction Materials||14 B||487 M||29.2 B||8.8 B|
|1073||Grupo Inbursa||Banking||4.5 B||979 M||28.7 B||10.4 B|
|1147||Arca Continental||Beverages||8.1 B||685 M||12.6 B||11.2 B|
|1345||Grupo Bimbo||Food Processing||14.5 B||265 M||13.4 B||9.7 B|
|1377||ALFA||Conglomerate||17.4 B||-87 M||19.1 B||5.8 B|
|1577||El Puerto de Liverpool||Department Stores||6.8 B||545 M||8.8 B||8.2 B|
|1591||Fresnillo||Diversified Metals & Mining||2.1 B||562 M||4.7 B||13 B|
|1695||Grupo Televisa||Broadcasting & Cable||5.1 B||208 M||15.9 B||11.4 B|
Source: Forbes 2000, 2018. Market Value for PEMEX: Revilla, B.S. Oil Markets and Company Valuation: The PEMEX case. Universidad Pontificia ICAI ICADE. Madrid 2017
The analysis of this ranking allows the understanding of some particular characteristics of Mexican multinationals. First, there is the diversity of these companies because this group includes different business segments such as Telecommunications (1), Beverages (2), BanKing (2), Meals and Mining (2), Construction Materials (1), Food Processing (1), Conglomerate (1), Department Stores (1), and Broadcasting & Cable (1). Second, none of the Multimex operates in high-technology segments. Third, there are only two firms in the financial services industry.
- Mexican Multinationals according to the 2017 IIEc-UNAM/CCSI-Columbia ranking
This work also draws on the national ranking developed jointly by the Institute for Economic Research (IIEc) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI), a joint center of Columbia Law School and the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York . With a focus on non-financial institutions, this study was published in 2017 and uses different categories when compared with previous rankings. Table 2 presents the UNAM-Columbia ranking
Table 2: Mexican top 20 non-financial multinationals, by foreign assets, 2017 a
|Rank||Name||Industry||Control||Foreign Assets (US$ M)|
|1||América Móvil||Telecommunications||Public company, controlled by Carso Group, a Carlos Slim´s venture||54,870|
|2||CEMEX||Non-metallic minerals||Public company with a large part of it owned and controlled by Mexican families||27,052|
|3||FEMSA||Beverages||Public company with a large part of it owned and controlled by Mexican families||12,188|
|4||Grupo Mexico||Mining||Public company (49% of floating stocks), owned and controlled by Germán Larrea||11,862|
|5||Grupo Bimbo||Food products||Public company controlled by four Mexican families||9,080|
|6||Grupo ALFA||Diversified||A public company controlled with family control||7,886|
|7||Mexichem||Chemical & Petrochemicals||A public company, 46.5% free float and 53.5% owned by Grupo Kaluz and Del Valle family||4,504|
|8||Arca Continental||Beverages||A public company, 70% owned by families group, 22% floating, 8% owned by The Coca-Cola Company||4,283|
|9||PEMEX||Oil & Gas||A state-owned company, controlled by the Mexican Government||1,928|
|10||GRUMA||Food products||Public company with a large part of it owned and controlled by Mexican families||1,857|
|11||Industrias CH||Steel & metal products||Public company controlled by Rufino Vigil González||780|
|13||Grupo Elektra||Retail trade||Public company controlled by Salinas family||691|
|14||Cementos Chihuahua||Non–metallic minerals||Public company controlled by CAMCEM group (51.62%)||592|
|15||Bachoco||Food products||Public company, founder family owns 73.25% of the total shares outstanding of the company||507|
a The exchange rate used is the IMF rate of December 31, 2015: US$ 1= Pesos 17.2487
The IIEc/CCSI ranking presents interesting insights into the Mexican multinationals. First, The IIEc/CCSI ranking is not limited to public companies as the 2018 Forbes 200 is. Thus, as many large Mexican companies are still owned by family groups that prefer to control their firms, a stronger diversification is pictured as compared to the picture in the 2018 Forbes 2000 ranking. In the top 20 firms at IIEc/CCSI, one is in the Telecommunications segment, two are in the Non-Metallic Minerals group (as IIEc/CCSI calls the category “Cement”), two are in the Beverages industry, one is in Mining, four are in Food Products, four in the Diversified, one in Chemical and Petrochemicals, one in Oil & Gas, two in Steel and Metals, one in Retail Trade, and one in Engineering and Construction. Second, there is a strong concentration of the total of foreign assets in only four firms. For instance, the first four Mexican multinationals: América Móvil, CEMEX, FEMSA, and Grupo Mexico account for 75% of total foreign assets of Mexican Multinationals, while the top seven firms account for more than 90% of total foreign assets of Mexican multinationals. This data shows that, for most Mexican firms, internationalization is still in its early stages.
- Lessons from the International Expansion of Mexican Companies
Because this text focus on aggregated data by rankings of multinational companies, it is not possible to discuss firm-specific advantages, strategies, and internationalization routes, which will be discussed in later articles. However, a recent book was written by Alvaro Cuervo Cazurra and other scholars  about multinationals from emerging markets and it suggests that these companies have developed uncommoditizing strategies that enabled them to upgrade their capabilities and demand premium pricing from selling reputable, quality products . These strategies can be defined as:
- tropicalized innovation: innovation and brands designed to meet the needs of emerging markets multinationals;
- global efficiency: efficient processes that lower costs and produce products of higher quality, and
- coordinated control: expansion into high value-added parts of global value chains to respond to new customers demand.
On the one hand, Bimbo´s strategy, a large Mexican food produced , is focused on efficient innovation and process management, seems to be a mix of the uncommoditizing strategies (i) and (ii). On the other hand, Gruma, another food producer, focuses on the optimization of the portfolio of products . Finally, Grupo Elektra, a Mexican financial and retailing corporation, presents a blend of uncommoditizing strategies (i), (ii) and (iii), as the company is not only adherent to standardized practices but also presents some coordinated control of its value chain.  .
In the incoming series of article about multinationals from Mexico, this blog will present the common characteristics of the MultiMex and their internationalization strategies.
 International Monetary Fund, Country data for Mexico, http://www.imf.org/en/Countries/MEX#featured, Accessed Sep 7th, 2018
 Mexico Overview, WorldBank, https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/mexico/overview Accessed Sep 7th, 2018
 Petras, G. From NAFTA to USMCA: Key changes on trilateral trade pact. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/10/01/comparison-nafta-and-usmca-trade-agreements/1487163002/ Accessed Oct 5th, 2018
 Schoen, J.W., Here are the key changes between the old NAFTA and the new one. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/01/new-trump-trade-deal-leaves-nafta-largely-intact.html Accessed Oct 5th, 2018
 Touryalai, H.; Stoller, K.; Murphy, A.; Forbes´Global 2000: The World´s Largest Public Companies. https://www.forbes.com/global2000/#2827850e335d Accessed Oct 22nd, 2018
 Kunhardt, J. B., Gutiérrez-Haces, M. T., The Uneven Trends of Mexican MNE: Between sluggishness and strength in the international markets. http://ccsi.columbia.edu/files/2013/10/EMGP-Mexico-Report-Nov-29-2017-FINAL.pdf, Accessed Sep 5, 2018
 Cuervo-Cazurra, A., Carneiro, J., Finchelstein, D., Duran P., Gonzalez-Perez M. A., Montoya, M.A., Reyes, A. B., Fleury, M. T. L., Newburry, W., (2018) “Uncommoditizing strategies by emerging market firms”, Multinational Business Review, https://doi.org/10.1108/MBR-07-2017-0051
 BIMBO. Company website, https://www.grupobimbo.com/en/grupo-bimbo-today, Accessed Sep 7th, 2018
 GRUMA, company website https://www.gruma.com/es/somos-gruma/presencia-global.aspx?sec=1051 Accessed Oct 6th, 2018
 Grupo Elektra. Company website. http://www.grupoelektra.com.mx/ Accessed Oct 22nd, 2018