FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business

Economic ripples from Venezuela to Florida

A currency crackdown, surging infation and government interference in pricing in Venezuela are likely to spill over into Florida's economy.

In October, Venezuela's annual inflation rate hit a record 54%. Shortly after that, the government began ordering retailers to sell goods at lower, money-losing prices. Soldiers even seized the Daka electronics chain for pricing its goods higher than the government wanted.

Many Venezuelans, especially business owners, began moving money out of the country. Some are purchasing real estate in Florida, especially in south Florida. Reports indicate that Venezuelans have also been purchasing jewelry at home, then wearing it on visits to the U.S. They then often sell the gold and gemstones for dollars.

Others exchange their jewels for dollars with Venezuelans living abroad in Florida and in Panama or attempt to use Venezuelan bolivars to purchase virtual currencies such as bitcoins.

Expensive airfares create the possibility that soon only the wealthiest Venezuelans will be able to afford to travel to Florida. At the same time, many Venezuelan expatriates in Florida who own companies in their homeland are likely to see their incomes suffer.

Exports from Florida to Venezuela are also expected to drop. For one, banks are unwilling to finance trade with Venezuela. Additionally, economists predict that many midsized businesses in Venezuela will close because the government will force them to sell goods for less than it costs to purchase them. And with the Venezuelan government limiting the supply of dollars that can be changed for bolivars, those companies that stay open will find it increasingly difficult to purchase foreign-made goods.

Although many companies turn to black market exchanges, the exchange rate is far higher, and the government is finding new ways to crack down on black market exchanges. Venezuelans may increasingly find themselves blocked in.

COLOMBIA —

Miami-based investment banking and advisory frm Provicapital Partners opened an offce in Medellin, Colombia. The from also has offces in Mexico, Ecuador and Peru.

EUROPE —

Through a joint venture with French restaurant operator Groupe Olivier Bertrand, Burger King Worldwide will build 250 restaurants in France. Until 2012, Burger King had not had a presence in that country for 15 years. France-based asset management frm Naxicap Partners will have a minority interest in the venture.

HAITI —

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport recently added JetBlue Airways service to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

ISRAEL —

Israel-based Krausz Industries, which manufactures products for the potable water supply industry, plans to open its North American headquarters in Ocala. The company will warehouse fnished products, provide custom enhancements to products made in Israel and run its operations for the continent from the offce. It plans a manufacturing plant in the city.

LATIN AMERICA —

Money processing, transportation and vault company Brink's Regional Services plans to open its Latin American headquarters in Miami-Dade County. The offce is expected to have 105 people working there within three years. » Redlands, Calif.-based Esri, one of the world's largest geographic information systems software companies, opened a Latin American headquarters in Coral Gables.

PANAMA —

Panama-based Copa Airlines, which began fights between Tampa International Airport and its Panama City hub, announced that demand for tickets on the route is so high that it will fiy round-trip four times a week, and it has been fying on larger aircraft than originally planned. Copa has signed a one-year contract to fy into and out of Tampa.

SCANDINAVIA —

Norwegian Air Shuttle launched direct service between Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Copenhagen, Denmark; Oslo, Norway; and Stockholm, Sweden. The fights mark the frst scheduled service between that airport and Scandinavia. The Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau reports that about 242,000 people from the region visited Broward County in 2012, spending $137.6 million.

SCOTLAND —

Edinburgh, Scotlandbased travel-search company Skyscanner opened an offce in Miami from which to base its expansion in the U.S., Canada and Latin America. It plans to have about 50 people working from the offce, which will house sales, business development and marketing departments, within three years.

Edinburgh-based Vioearth, which designs and makes products that track and minimize computer energy usage, opened its U.S. headquarters in Miami. The company, which is a subsidiary of Vioearth Holdings, expects to grow the offce to about 45 people during the next three years as it expands its operations in the Americas.

AVIATION —

Punta Gorda-based Aviation Partners Group and Italybased aeronautic manufacturer OMA SUD have established a manufacturing partnership in Charlotte County. They will expand Aviation Partner's manufacturing facility and begin assembling OMA SUD's twin-engine, five passenger, Skycar aircraft. » Enterprise Florida was joined by 11 Florida companies at the Dubai Airshow in the United Arab Emirates, making the state the only one represented at that show. » Palm Beach Gardens-based Chromalloy, which supplies and repairs turbine engines, acquired United Kingdom-based aerospace from Trac Group, which supplies commercial aircraft engines and power generation systems.

BANKING —

Banco de Sabadell, the Spain-based parent of Sabadell United Bank, agreed to purchase Doral–based JGB Bank from Colombian billionaire Jaime Gilinski Bacal. Gilinski is Banco de Sabadell's largest shareholder, having acquired 9% of the bank through a September public offering. Gilinski also owns Banco GNB Sudameries, one of the largest privately owned banks in Latin America. » Banco do Brasil Americas, a subsidiary of Brazil's largest bank, applied to open a branch in Boca Raton, which will be its fourth Florida branch.

CRUISE —

The MSC Divina arrived at PortMiami for year-round homeporting, becoming the frst of Geneva, Switzerland-based MSC Cruises' ships to be based in the state year-round. MSC Cruises USA is based in Fort Lauderdale. The company has sailed seasonally from Port Everglades in the past.

The Venezuelan government has ordered retailers to lower prices, forcing some to sell below cost.