The Business Times

Spain banking on Apple to invest in AI and video production

Published Sat, Jul 24, 2021 · 02:36 PM

[SAN FRANCISCO] Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he's expecting Apple Inc to ramp up investments in his country after meeting with chief executive officer Tim Cook at the company's headquarters on Friday.

Wrapping up a three-day tour of the US on the West Coast, Mr Sanchez said that Apple will be particularly interested in developing artificial intelligence and television production in Spain.

"We expect to have an increased investment of Apple in Spain in the coming years," Mr Sanchez said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. "We have this huge bet in converting Spain into a European audiovisual hub," he added, highlighting the potential for Apple's TV business.

In addition to owning 11 retail stores, Apple says it has spent about 1.5 billion euros (S$2.4 billion) with suppliers in Spain over the past five years, contributing to the creation of more than 70,000 jobs directly and indirectly. Last year, Apple paid about US$50 million to acquire the Barcelona-based artificial intelligence company Vilynx, which had developed systems for understanding video images.

Sanchez was visiting the US as he looks to consolidate the country's economic recovery from Covid-19. With a large tourism industry, Spain was the worst hit economy in the European Union last year but the premier is seeking to capitalize on about 140 billion euros of EU aid to create jobs in green energy and technology as the economy recovers.

The government plans to inject 1.6 billion euros into the audiovisual sector through 2025 and aims expand the industry by 30 per cent. With Netflix opening its first European production hub in Tres Cantos, Madrid, Spain is becoming a favoured location for big budget productions like "Game of Thrones."

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With IBM Spain aims to use the European funds to spur another US$500 billion of investment from the private sector and Volkswagen AG this month announced plans to produce batteries and electric vehicles in the country.

After meeting with the CEOs of companies including HP, Intel, Qualcomm and PayPal Holdings earlier in the day, Mr Sanchez also highlighted Spain's potential in cyber security and quantum computing.

"What I think the companies appreciate from the Spanish government is that we have a vision, that we have also a plan, and that we want to get them involved in the long-term transformation and modernization of my country," he said.

Earlier in his trip, Mr Sanchez met with BlackRock CEO Larry Fink in New York and entertainment executives in Los Angeles. He also visited NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"The conversations were very positive and I look forward to have them on board in this huge transformation we are facing," he said.

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