On the road in Lisbon, Portugal

Except for the old fortress on a hill overlooking town and the wide main boulevard running through downtown Lisbon, I'm not impressed with Portugal's capital and largest city. The country's infrastructure definitely needs work. The roads are potholed, trains are old, and housing in many parts of Lisbon and Porto (Portugal's second largest city) are ramshackle.

Portucel

From the outside, Portucel's eight-story headquarters building could easily be mistaken for an apartment complex. Why? Built in the 1960's, the rear ends of various individual air conditioning units hang out each office window give the place a sloppy look especially when there's not one specific type of unit but a hodgepodge of styles. The company's name and logo in large dark green letters hang on the side of the building near the top. Portucel's corporate logo is a green tree. Cristina Aragao Teixeira, image and communications, explains it has to do with Portucel being in the forests products business. The company main products are papers & paper boards, liners & packaging and bleached & unbleached pulp. Portucel is also the world's second largest producer of bleached eucalyptus pulp. Revenues in 1994 were 81.4 billion escudos.

About 80 employees work in the company-owned, non-descript building. The boardroom on the top floor contains five REAL plants, a tv-vcr, wood paneling, and an outside balcony. I'm always expecting forest products companies to have boardroom tables containing exotic woods but this one is nothing special. I can't see president & Chairman's Jorge Godinho's seventh floor office because "he's in it".

Inapa

Making my way up a steep narrow street in the old part of Lisbon gets me to the head office of Investimentos Participacoes E. Gestao, SA (Inapa), a paper manufacturer. The four-story structures looks to have been a former residence but you can't see depth of the building or property because all the homes and buildings have high walls which flush up to the sidewalk of the street. After checking in with the security guard/receptionist I spend a few minutes in a small waiting room. I don't mind the wait because there're quite a few magazines in English to peruse including Business Week, Valor, Euro Business and Industri (with an "i" not "y").

The first thing Mario Ramirez, director, does after introducing himself is to walk me up the beautiful four-story rosewood staircase which winds itself to the top floor and under a skylight. From here we can look out a window onto the large enclosed grassy backyard and a huge five-story tall rubber tree. How old is this building with its wood floors and chandeliers throughout? From the 1850's. There's nothing special about the boardroom table but, the parquet floor in the room is a beaut. I also count one real plant and a TV-VCR in the second floor boardroom. I can't see the president Vasco Luis Schultless de Quevedo Pessanha's office because "he's in it working".

This and that

Had quite a few lousy receptions in Lisbon. At EDP (Electricdade de Portugal), a utility company, I abruptly got up and walked out of their eight-story building several miles from downtown. Why? I was placed in a room filled with the stench of cigarettes with the door closed. My eyes started to water and after waiting for almost an hour I just said it wasn't worth it. I tried to visit Telefones de Lisboa e Porto, the state-owned telephone company but was given the run-around several times. At CIA Portuguesa Radio Marconi's futuristic-looking white 11-story weaving half-circle building with yellow trim I was brusquely told by the secretary to the head of communications, "I have other calls" and she hung up on me as I stood in the reception area. Marconi, an international communications concern operating in 18 countries with 1994 revenues of 53,900,000 million escudos evidently hasn't learned the adage, think global but act local. Visit pulp & paper company Soporcel only to be told their head office is at their plant in Figuerira da Foz, a town 120 miles north of Lisbon which I passed through on my way down from northern Portugal. What do almost every one of the companies visited have in common? All are directly or indirectly controlled by the state.