The euro zone is in seriously woeful shape: It is now in its longest-ever recession; it has endured five sovereign debt crises in five years and there are several candidates to go through a sixth such crisis; unemployment is higher than 26 percent in some member nations; and university graduates are leaving the monetary union to start careers elsewhere. That's old news by now.
So the monetary union is an unmitigated financial basket case, right?
Not exactly. The fact is, despite years of bad economic news from the 17 member countries of the euro zone, some businesses and industries are doing quite well, thank you. From transportation to tourism to luxury goods and more, there are businesses and industries that don’t completely suck. Here are 10 examples of things that are actually flourishing.
Since the 1990s, France has been the world’s No. 1 travel destination. According to the French Government Tourist Office, the number of tourists visiting the country grew in 2011 to an estimated 78 million, resulting in $45 billion in revenue, and that figure is growing.
“We are very gratified by our results, especially in light of the current economic climate,” Anne-Laure Tuncer, Director U.S.A. of Atout France, said.
Recent economic data out of Germany indicates that cigarette and tobacco sales in the country are "excellent."
"We are growing cigarette share, we are growing fine-cut share, and not just at the value end of the market. We have seen growth at the top-end in brands such as Davidoff and Gauloises," Alison Cooper, CEO of Imperial Tobacco, told CNBC.
Cooper said revenues from key strategic brands, fine-cut tobaccos and snus (similar to American dipping tobacco) had increased, with improved volumes, and the company achieved revenue growth in the U.K., Germany and a number of other emerging markets.
The only thing the luxury goods industry is suffering from is the fact that it is generating too much money when everyone else is generating too little. Rich people like to shop in euro zone countries.
Solid revenue growth in recent years has led luxury heavyweights such as PPR, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Cartier owner Cie. Financière Richemont to look for ways to deploy cash. Naturally, this has lead to mergers and acquisitions, always a sign of financial vigor.
Gucci owner Pinault-Printemps-Redoute last Wednesday said it was purchasing Italian jeweler Pomellato SpA, while high-end Swiss watch company Corum was swallowed by China Haidian Holdings Ltd. the same day. Recent months have seen other significant deals, including Only the Brave's purchase of Milan-based fashion label Marni or Swatch Group AG's $1 billion acquisition of U.S. watch and jewelry maker Harry Winston.
Airbus, the Franco-German aerospace giant, is having quite the year as it recently topped rival Boeing (NYSE: BA) as the industry's most successful builder. According to data recently released by both companies, Airbus made considerable strides by landing a record $24 billion order last month from Indonesia's Lion Air. Airbus reported 431 orders, up fourfold from the first three months of last year and well above the 220 new orders posted by Boeing for the same period. Net Airbus orders totaled 410 planes in the first quarter, while Boeing logged only 209 of the same. Airbus also announced that it boosted production of the A330, an older passenger jet that has prospered thanks to previous delays in production of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, to a record level of 10 a month.
Movies and Entertainment
According to a recent statment by Business Wire, the European movies and entertainment market had total revenues of $32.8 billion in 2011. The performance of the market is forecast to accelerate, with an anticipated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 0.5 percent for the five-year period 2011-2016, which is expected to drive the market to a value of $34 billion by the end of 2016.
Tech giant Qualcomm (Nasdaq:QCOM), a global manufacturer of digital wireless telecommunications products, is expanding in the euro zone with its first major facility in Cork, Ireland. The move is a positive sign for the tech industry in Europe as the company will start with an initial team of up to 100 people, with the potential to scale up to several hundred jobs in the medium term.
According to a job posting listed by the company, “Qualcomm is looking to grow its Irish workforce with the addition of IT staff who will support Qualcomm’s global operations teams worldwide in the delivery of best-in-class IT solutions.”
Qualcomm employs more than 26,000 people in 188 worldwide locations and last year recorded revenues of $19.1 billion.
Piaggio, the scooter manufacturer based in Pontedera, Italy, apparently has what cost-conscious commuters around the world want. Even as far away as Australia, sales of Piaggio scooters outsell those of Honda and other rivals. Despite a general decline Down Under in scooter sales, Piaggio sales rose 7.6 percent in the first three months of this year.
Luxembourg, the tiny nation wedged between Belgium, France and Germany, is one of the world's top financial services centers. Despite having a population of less than 600,000, Luxembourg has gained market share from London and Switzerland recently. In fact, the nation is Europe's largest EU fund domicile jurisdition and the second-largest fund domicile jurisdiciton globally. Speechly Bircham is typical of Luxembourg's growing list of clients. The British firm is moving to larger offices in Luxembourg to "pursue future growth plans."
Shipbuilding is one of northern Europe's big success stories, particularly in the Netherlands and Germany, despite the monetary union's never-ending woes. Take German shipyard Lurssen. Workers at the company's shipyard in Bremen recently finished building the world's largest superyacht.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Belgian chocolates may be the world's most coveted chocolates. Certainly, their pralines -- the hard-shelled, cream-filled chocolates invented in 1912 -- are copied by enough confectionaries around the world to prompt Belgian chocolate makers to demand the same kind of protection as is enjoyed by French champagne and Italy's Parma ham. The industry federation met in April to develop a legal strategy to protect the integrity of their products. Overall exports of Belgian pralines shot up 60 percent in Asia and 82 percent in Africa between 2007 and 2011, and the trend is continuing.