Private equity can also be a convenient way for SMEs to strengthen their equity and finance their further growth. But how do you attract private equity investors? And how do they operate?
Private equity can refer to many things. Which investment techniques are involved in private equity and in which cases are they used?
Private equity is an instrument used by FPE to acquire an equity interest in a company, either alone or together with other investors. This does not involve a passive investment, but active share ownership: the aim is to engage in a partnership in the medium or long term. In concrete terms, this means that FPE is represented on the Board of Directors as a minority shareholder and in that capacity provides strategic and financial guidance and/or further professionalization of the company.
After a few years, FPE will withdraw from the company again. How this happens exactly is decided in consultation with the co-shareholder(s). They can buy the interest from FPE, but FPE may also sell it to another private equity investor or industrial player.
A company may decide to attract capital for various reasons. A common reason is that the company seeks to finance growth by increasing its activities, internationalising or acquiring other companies. The advantage is that no new private funds or excessive leverage are necessary. Other options are a business transfer or a (partial) buyout of family or less active shareholders.
Venture capital, also referred to as start-up capital, is a form of private equity used to finance early-stage, high-tech companies. These are mainly innovative start-up companies with promising growth prospects. FPE mainly provides venture capital through investments in university venture capital funds.
Mezzanine financing is a long-term subordinated loan for which the company is not required to provide any interim repayments, but makes one lump-sum repayment at the end ('bullet'). These factors mean that the risks of mezzanine financing are higher, which makes it more expensive than a conventional loan with a shorter term, a repayment schedule and securities.
The company does have to generate sufficient returns and liquidity in order to bear the interest charges. The total payment usually consists of a combination of the following elements:
- Cash interest: Interest that is paid at regular intervals during the term.
- 'Payment in kind' (PIK) interest: Capitalised interest that is not paid in cash during the term, but is added to the payable capital and repaid along with the principal.
- Warrant: An instrument that entitles the provider of mezzanine financing to acquire a small percentage of the share capital later. This allows the provider to enjoy a variable payment too.
The exact relationship between these elements depends on the type of company, its future plans and the arrangements it has made with the financier. A company generating a lot of liquidity will be able to cope with a higher cash interest, while a company with a great need for working capital will tend to go for a higher PIK interest or more warrants.
Mezzanine financing is often used for companies facing a financing gap: an investment need that cannot be fully covered with capital or conventional leverage. A company can also opt for this form of financing if does not need external capital injection because there is sufficient equity present or because the company prefers not to open up the capital to new shareholders, for example.
Private equity in practice: Point Chaud
In April 2014, BNP Paribas Fortis Private Equity took a minority stake in filled rolls and pastry chain Point Chaud. Let us take a look behind the scenes of this transaction.
Point Chaud was established by CEO and reference shareholder Didier Depreay in 1993. Since then, the company has expanded to become the biggest filled rolls and pastry business in Wallonia, with about 400 employees and a turnover of €40 million. Point Chaud has about 40 branches in Wallonia and France, most of which are concentrated along the Namur-Liège axis.
In April 2014, BNP Paribas Fortis Private Equity (FPE) took a minority stake in the company. This transaction was the jewel in the crown of almost two years of preparatory work. Luc Weverbergh, Managing Director BNP Paribas Fortis Private Equity, explains:
“Our entry is the result of a shift in Point Chaud's ownership of shares. CEO Didier Depreay wanted to buy out some minority shareholders, but neither he nor the company had the resources to do so. When he presented this problem to his relationship manager at our bank, which has had Point Chaud as a customer for years, he was put in contact with our team immediately.”
It still took quite some time to close a final deal. This is absolutely normal, Luc Weverbergh adds:
“Our entry is always preceded by a preparatory process, in which we evaluate the strategic plan and the figures thoroughly. We also need to come to a joint vision for the future for the company. As part of this, we proposed to simplify the Point Chaud group's structure and give it a Belgian focus. This takes time. The minority stakeholders also had to be bought out in the best possible circumstances. It was a clear advantage that we could set up the transaction ourselves without any external pressure from a corporate financial advisory, for example. This allowed us to take our time in order to build mutual trust and get to know the company.”
Supporting future growth
This participation makes FPE an important minority shareholder of Point Chaud and allowed CEO Didier Depreay to become a majority shareholder. Finance group Meusinvest keeps a small interest in the company. Didier Depreay:
"When BNP Paribas Fortis Private Equity joins the capital, it will provide powerful leverage for expanding our activities in Belgium and beyond. I am pleased about this financial partnership, as it gives us the opportunity to accelerate our development and consolidate our structure and position on the Belgian market. It should also enable Point Chaud to conquer a bigger market share faster in regions where the brand does not have a presence yet in order to become market leader in the Belgian retail segment for filled rolls and pastries. We have concrete plans for a number of new branches in Wallonia and Brussels."
Why Point Chaud?
According to Luc Weverbergh, Point Chaud has exactly the company profile FPE is looking for:
"Our investment strategy focuses on high-performance, medium-sized companies in the Benelux region with a strong market position and major growth potential. Point Chaud fits this profile perfectly. It was also clear right from the first contact we had that our vision is fully in line with the CEO's, both in terms of the choice of new markets and the company's structure, growth strategy and even a possible joint exit. This meant that all the ingredients for successful cooperation were there."
Belgian gaming industry gets a big push
BNP Paribas Fortis Private Equity, together with Howest and Cronos, recently founded ForsVC, the first venture capital fund to focus exclusively on the Belgian gaming industry.
The gaming industry is booming all over the world. A lot of Belgian talent works on the development of computer and video games. In recent years, there has been a true explosion of creative video game start-ups in Belgium. But still, a lot of highly skilled creative people too often go abroad.
From brain drain to brain gain
As a venture capital fund for the Belgian video game industry, ForsVC wants to combat this brain drain. In the coming years, it will invest 10 to 15 million euros in gaming. Each of the three parties is bringing its specific experience and expertise. The Kortrijk college Howest as a reputable training institute. The Cronos group as a seasoned entrepreneur and investor in technology companies, including gaming studios. And the bank as a financial expert in Private Equity.
By making capital and expertise available to promising game companies, the existing ecosystem is enriched and made a lot more attractive. Belgian companies can professionalise themselves, develop high-quality games and pay competitive salaries.
Mireille Kielemoes, managing director fund investments Private Equity at BNP Paribas Fortis: “ForsVC is what we call a “university-linked” fund. This is a specific envelope within our Private Equity portfolio which, among other things, invests in university spin-offs or innovative companies whose IP (intellectual property) has a link to universities or knowledge institutions. Through these funds, we support innovation, creativity, job creation and entrepreneurship in Belgium in promising areas. For ForsVC, we’ll also be working via a participation in the game companies, but individual games are also eligible for project funding through revenue-based lending.”Press coverage dated 14/10
Which Belgian companies will win the Private Equity Awards 2021?
On 13 October, together with the Belgian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (BVA), we will present awards to three companies supported by private equity or venture capital. Discover the candidates.
This fourth edition once again recognises successful Belgian companies that used private equity or venture capital to finance their growth. BNP Paribas Fortis is also supporting the Private Equity Awards for the fourth time as a member of the BVA. The bank will both host the event and serve on the jury.
Raf Moons, Head of Private Equity at BNP Paribas Fortis and juror: "We believe it is important to reward the growth companies in question and also highlight private equity's usefulness as a financing solution. Private equity is an excellent tool to boost the economy. For 40 years now, we have used it to offer companies opportunities at all stages of their life cycle. Besides this, BNP Paribas Fortis also supports companies that aim to use additional investments to increase their sustainability. This type of investment will only show financial returns in the longer term, which is why we wish to support them through our private equity offerings. In this way we can make a positive contribution to the Belgian economy and to society. We are actually freeing up additional resources for this and intend to double our private equity portfolio to EUR 1 billion in the next five years."
Pierre Demaerel, BVA Secretary General: "In the past few years the global private equity market has grown considerably. In Belgium, 1,400 deals amounting to over EUR 10 billion altogether were concluded in the past six years. And this trend is increasing. It involves EUR 1.5 to 2 billion annually. However, we have noticed there is a wider audience that is still insufficiently familiar with the possibilities offered by this form of financing. That is why for the fourth time, the BVA is proud to be highlighting, together with partner BNP Paribas Fortis, several Belgian companies that have exhibited remarkable growth thanks to the support of private equity or venture capital investors."
Who will follow in the footsteps of iStar Medical, Cegeka and Destiny?
The jury has nominated nine companies. There are three nominees each for the categories 'Venture Company of the Year', 'Growth Company of the Year' and 'Buy-out Company of the Year'. The jury will announce which companies they feel have achieved the steepest growth trajectory in each category on 13 October. We are pleased to introduce the nominees:
- The ‘Venture Company of the Year 2021’ category focuses on young companies developing and marketing an innovative product or service with the support of a venture capital investor.
- AgomAb Financials is a Ghent-based biotech player that develops drugs to repair damaged human tissue.
- Deliverect, also a company based in Ghent, creates software that allows restaurants to manage their online orders and integrate these into their existing cash register system.
- Imcyse is a Liege-based biopharmaceutical company that pioneers the development of a new class of immune technologies for the treatment of serious auto-immune diseases.
- The category ‘Growth Company of the Year 2021’ is for companies that expanded their business significantly through organic growth or an acquisition policy. They brought financial partners on board without the latter desiring control.
- Odoo from Ramillies in Wallonia develops open-source management software for SMEs. With over 10,000 fully integrated apps, the company offers solutions for the full automation of business processes.
- UgenTec from Hasselt develops pioneering lab software for the automation of DNA analyses, making it possible to detect respiratory infections, STIs and various types of cancer much faster.
- Charleroi-based Univercells develops technologies for the production of low-cost and large-scale vaccines. This company has won the confidence of many (inter)national investors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
- The category ‘Buy-out Company of the Year 2021’ focuses on the transmission and growth of companies achieved by management and a private equity investor with a controlling stake.
- Anzegem-based Abrios-Jiffy is a leading manufacturer specialising in the extrusion of sustainable, innovative, protective and insulating materials for the packaging and construction industry.
- Corialis in Lokeren designs and manufactures high-quality, technologically advanced aluminium systems for in-wall (windows, doors, sliding elements, roofing systems, curtain walling), indoor (partition walls, walls, fire protection doors) and outdoor (balustrades, greenhouses) applications.
- Esas from Wilrijk, which will be renamed Circet Benelux in future, is a service provider for the installation, maintenance and management of smart devices in sectors such as telecom and energy. The company also handles the construction and maintenance of coax, optical fibre and mobile networks for large telecom companies.
Export plans? Make sure you talk to our experts first
To prepare your international adventure properly, ask yourself the right questions and talk to people who have done it all before: partners, customers, fellow exporters and experts.
BNP Paribas Fortis listens to the questions asked by international entrepreneurs and offers reliable advice. "A lot of exporting companies ask for our help when it's too late", Frank Haak, Head of Sales Global Trade Solutions, says.
Entrepreneurs with little export experience are often unaware of the bigger financial picture. So what do they need to take into account when they set up a budget for their export plans?
Frank Haak: "Budgeting and pricing are affected by a lot of crucial factors: working capital, currency exchange risks and currency interest, prefinancing, profit margins, insurance, import duties and other local taxes, competitor pricing and so on. We always advise customers or prospects to start from a worst-case scenario. Quite a few companies are insufficiently prepared for their first international adventure: they see an opportunity and they grab it, but quite often disappointment and a financial hangover are not far away.
Our experts have years of export experience and the BNP Paribas Group has teams around the world. This means that we can give both general and country-specific tips. Let's say a machine builder wants to design and manufacture a custom-made machine. We recommend including the machine's reuse value in the budget: can this machine still be sold if the foreign customer suddenly no longer wishes to purchase it or if export to that country becomes impossible due to a trade embargo or emergency situation?"
What type of companies can contact BNP Paribas Fortis for advice?
Frank Haak: "All types! Entrepreneurs are often hesitant to ask for advice. Sometimes they are afraid that it will cost them money. However, the right advice can save them a lot of money in the long run. For example, we recommend a letter of credit or documentary credit to anyone exporting goods to a foreign buyer for the first time. This product is combined with a confirmation by BNP Paribas Fortis to offer the exporter the certainty that it will receive payment when it presents the right documents and to assure the buyer that its goods or services will be delivered correctly."
The consequences of not seeking advice: what can an exporter do in case of non-payment without documentary credit?
Frank Haak: "If you are not receiving payment for your invoices, the counterparty's bank can be contacted in the hope that it advances the payment on the customer's behalf. However, we shouldn't be too optimistic in that respect: the chances of resolving the issue without financial losses are very slim. Once you have left your goods with customs, you usually lose all control over them. Hence the importance of good preparation: listen to and follow the advice of your bank and organisations such as Flanders Investment and Trade (FIT). It will protect you against a whole host of export risks."
BNP Paribas Fortis
- is the number one bank for imports (approx. 40% market share) and exports (approx. 25% market share) in Belgium (according to the statistics of the National Bank of Belgium): it offers advice/financing and can help you to discover new export markets through trade development;
- is proud that Belgium is one of the world's 15 largest export regions and is pleased to give exporters a leg up, for example by sponsoring the Flemish initiative ‘Leeuw van de Export’.
Source: Wereldwijs Magazine