France Business Report 2018

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Discovery Reports

Bpifrance boosts entrepreneurial spirit

Chinese and Asian companies can find a reliable banking partner in Bpifrance, which understands the cultural, economic and political intricacies of France

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 March, 2018, 9:59am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 March, 2018, 9:59am

[Country Business Reports interviews and articles by Discovery Reports]

Just as Chinese tourists continue to pick France as their first choice of destination outside Asia, businesses including e-commerce giant Alibaba and technology firm Huawei are also trooping to France, electing the country as their gateway to Europe and the rest of the world. French investment officials have noted that Chinese companies are increasingly investing in a wide range of businesses in France, from food and wine, hotel and tourism to technology and the industries of the future.

To succeed, Chinese and Asian companies need a reliable banking partner who understands the cultural, economic and political intricacies of France, and who can help foreign investors find their way. Bpifrance is one of them as the state-owned, privately run bank is an essential partner for French investors and companies.

“Our mission is serving the future,” says Nicolas Dufourcq, CEO of Bpifrance. “As a banker, we need to make it possible for energetic entrepreneurs to accomplish their dreams.”

Regulated by the European Central Bank, Bpifrance adequately guides entrepreneurs as it is deeply rooted with 48 branches across France. Bpifrance has different missions. It acts as a public sector bank and finances projects that are considered to be more risky because they involve SMEs or are very innovative. “We are close to our customers; we know all about their developments and we’re in a position to tell them to slow down, speed up or do more,” says Dufourcq, who supervises more than 2,500 employees.

Bpifrance is also one of the biggest European investment funds with more than 26 billion (HK$251 billion) under management including stakes in Orange, Peugeot and many smaller companies. In 2016, more than 80,000 businesses of varying sizes, from start-ups to large capitalisations, received more than 24 billion in investments, loans and guarantees from Bpifrance. It also stimulates exports by insuring French companies and their foreign clients.

Last year, Bpifrance grew its loans business by 20 per cent, the highest in the history of the company. “Bpifrance is the partner of choice for entrepreneurs. We are clearly stimulating the rejuvenation of the French economy,” Dufourcq says. “A recent survey shows that half of young French nationals want to become entrepreneurs, and more and more start-ups are emerging particularly from the biotechnology, medical technology, financial technology and renewable energy fields.” Venture capital has already tripled in the past three years and Bpifrance expects this to reach 6 billion this year.

As a banker, we need to make it possible for energetic entrepreneurs to accomplish their dreams
Nicolas Dufourcq, CEO, Bpifrance

Bpifrance seeks to uphold entrepreneurs as they tackle new frontiers within and beyond the country, and therefore partners with international boutique firms and specialists including development agency Business France.

In 2015, Bpifrance, together with Cathay Capital and China Development Bank, created an equity Franco-Chinese fund to support French companies that seek to penetrate China and Chinese companies that would like to enter France. Supported by Cathay Capital staff in Europe (Paris and Munich), China (Shanghai and Beijing) and the United States (San Francisco and New York), the Franco-Chinese fund is now worth 1.5 billion.

“It is not only about money,” Dufourcq says. “Consulting missions, training and networking days have become an important part of Bpifrance’s offer. We act as a social network of businessmen with a bank around it.”

The bank is a founding partner of the French Tech banner and its red rooster logo that unites technology start-ups. French Tech inspired the creation of the industry equivalent French Fab and the blue rooster, which has just been launched by the French government’s minister of economy.

Leveraging its network and the French ecosystem characterised by deep intelligence, financial expertise and young talents with globalised mindsets, Bpifrance anticipates growth and stable economic cycles. “Returns will be huge. It is time to come to France,” Dufourcq says. “Bpifrance is the best gateway to the French economy.”