Niklas Zennström is pleased. It is rich as Cresus since it has sold more than 2.6 billion company Skype, the King of Internet telephony. Europe is less. It is indeed the Californian eBay who made hands on this start-up created by a Swedish, registered to the Luxembourg, based in London and the developers are Estonians. Once again, a promising company crossed the Atlantic in the wrong direction. Rare indeed are the shoots of the old Continent to maturity.
The McKinsey consultants, many European stars of the high-tech would have not seen the light without the presence of a shareholder "stable in the long term and demanding in the short term." Often family origin, protects the future champions of the pitfalls along the road to success.
The first is just seen, is the risk of a takeover before the company has had time to grow. Second difficulty, one related to the vagaries of the economy. A faithful shareholder protects the storm in an area subject to sometimes violent cycles. The collapse of the telecoms bubble failed, thus, be fatal to Ericsson. Because large telecom operators then gave a brutal blow to stop their mobile networks, the specialty of the Swedish group commands. The active presence of the Wallenberg family, which, with 5 of the capital, controlled at the time approximately 40 of the voting rights, probably saved the company. This did not prevent the most famous shareholder of Sweden regularly change the CEO, guilty of not restructure fairly quickly.
Resist the covetous
In the same way, the French and Italian States were orchestrated in 1992 the rescue of their society common STMicroelectronics coupling massive financial aid and affiliation as France Telecom shareholders and CEA, who have made a valuable contribution with their research centers of Grenoble. One of the most vivid demonstration that the State can sometimes behave in shareholder notice.
Finally, the presence of a "Godfather" preserves the appetites of predators. Wendel rescued Capgemini from the claws of Daimler-Benz (see below), and the Dassault family ensured on Dassault Systèmes during its growth phase. Similarly, SAP has quickly attracted the covetous of its American competitors but was protected by the high participation of the founders in the capital.
Should be to much to publicize the family shareholders "He must be careful with this, tempers Muriel Faure, the patron saint of the IT Asset Management Investment Fund. Families may not have the background for assessing a strategy in a field as complicated as the high-tech. In addition, this conservative ownership is often inbreeding.
Another solution, more "professional" investment companies, such as Wendel. But they are rare, and major American and European funds who are interested in the "private equity", OTC, private investment are not always of a consistency without fault. "They are often a little schizophrenic, provides Frank Dangeard, the CEO of Thomson. They think long term and are sincere, but their behaviour are frequently those short-term investors. In General, they have trouble with the sector of the high-tech, whose movements are too brutal for them. The only fund specializing in the high-tech that I know, it is Silver Lake, which is one of our shareholders.
In any event, says a report () of the National Association of technical research (ANRT), funds not committed money in this type of companies only under three conditions: that the growth potential is important (20 to 30 per year at least for small), that the amount invested is sufficiently high to absorb the costs of study of the records and finally exit opportunities are obvious. In other words that there is a dynamic stock market.
The stock exchange in sights
The stock market remains the indispensable outlet for most of the industrial adventures. And the bad reputation of Europe, always for the Nasdaq, the American stock exchange the values of growth, would now fade. "It is now easier to make an introduction in Europe on the Nasdaq, as a result of the bursting of the dot-com bubble and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act", do not hesitate to say Jean-Marc Patouillaud, "general partner" venture Partech Venture capital company.
Then, what's missing in Europe Perhaps this extremely tight continuum in the United States, from the individual investor, the famous "business angel", on the stock exchange through all stages of the development capital. "The problem lies often in the grey area between 20 and 30 million euros of turnover when it is too small for LBO funds and the stock market." "But, in General, any company with a good economic model and a good management is funding," reassures Jean-Marc Patouillaud.
Moreover, as the note the ANRT, much has been done in recent years to facilitate enterprise creation. But the insufficient renewal of the industrial fabric "is less than a deficit of births of enterprises a problem of growth". All analyses converge today to deplore the dispersion and the ineffectiveness of aid to SMEs. It is they who bear in germ the champions of tomorrow.