Questions to Marc Auberger, Chairman of FFC (Future French Champions)
1) Can you briefly describe the purpose, objectives and achievements of Future French Champions?
Future French Champions is a company that is equally owned by the Qatar Investment Authority and CDC International Capital. With an initial capital of €300 million, FFC was set up to acquire minority equity stakes in French companies with strong growth potential, especially in international markets.
2) Alongside Wendel, you recently acquired a 20% stake in property company SGI Africa, a subsidiary of the French firm, CFAO. What are SGI Africa's business activities and what led you to make this investment?
SGI Africa is a fast-growing pan-African property company created by CFAO to support its retail development plan. SGI Africa develops and operates shopping malls primarily through its PlaYce brand. The company opened its first PlaYce shopping center in Ivory Coast at the end of 2015 (PlaYce Marcory, Abidjan) and aims to expand into seven other West and Central African countries: Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Ghana, Gabon, Senegal and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Over the next five to seven years, SGI Africa plans to build then operate around 20 shopping malls, each including a Carrefour hypermarket or supermarket, as well as a portfolio of brands under franchise to CFAO. These projects represent an investment of around €500 million, which will be financed by shareholders’ equity and bank loans. SGI Africa concentrates a high level of French expertise in retail and real estate in a fast-growing region. This naturally attracted our attention.
3) This is FFC's first investment outside of France. Are you going to continue to encourage investments by FFC in businesses outside of France?
SGI Africa is a France-based firm whose purpose is to invest outside of France. So, strictly speaking, as far as FFC is concerned, this is not an investment outside of France. On the other hand, this project is precisely the type of opportunity that we are on the lookout for: a France-based management team, expertise and governance structure, guaranteed to strike a balance between performance and financial rigor, but with broad geographic exposure in a high-growth region.
4) What makes Africa a particularly attractive investment destination for FFC?
It is true that West Africa is a particularly attractive investment target for us. Our companies have successfully established a strong foothold in the region, which is experiencing strong growth and has significant investment requirements. As a result, we have been actively pursuing leads in the past few months with various mid-size businesses and multinationals involved in projects in the region.
5) Are your investments geared to any particular geographic or sector-based strategy?
Our investment decisions are driven first and foremost by the financial health of the company we have our sights on and the credibility of its growth prospects.
Then, as a minority shareholder, we seek to team up with top-tier partners, investors, entrepreneurs and business leaders.
We are only interested in projects that have close ties with France. So we do not apply any specific geographic or sector-based criteria. Our first two investments were in Mériguet, which specializes in high-end interior refurbishment and restoration, and Néovia (formerly In Vivo Nutrition Santé animales), which specializes in animal nutrition and health – both global companies – illustrating our strategy of building a highly diverse portfolio.