Case studies

Alkan

Paris
Sector: Aerospace, Defence
Activity: Design and assembly of ejection parts and systems for the aeronautics industry
Type : BIMBO
Exit : 2014

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Liberating energy

Established in 1923, Alkan develops and produces equipment for the defence aerospace industry. The company’s main activity is the design of complex mechanical systems and components to carry and/or eject all removable accessories for aircrafts and helicopters: fuel tanks, weapons, cameras, bouys, etc. Alkan provides support services to its clients and end users on all of its equipment. The company generates a third of its turnover in France and two thirds overseas. The company participates in major aerospace programmes around the world and supplies equipment for more than 35 aircraft types in over 50 countries, including the United States. Its customers include the French Defence Procurement Administration and the armed forces of many foreign countries, as well as international aeronautics firms (Dassault Aviation, SAAB, Airbus, BAE Systems, Embraer, Eurocopter, Bell and Sikorsky, etc.), and leading defence system manufacturers (THALES, EADS, SAFRAN, MBDA, etc.).

Standing on its own two feet

Alkan was a subsidiary of the MBDA group (ex-Matra Défense) since 1996, however was no longer of strategic interest. The company’s unique knowledge of aeronautic structures was not being fully exploited.
Since its exit from the MBDA group, Alkan has:
– regained its commercial reactivity and autonomy, seizing previously inaccessible opportunities,
– revamped its product range, with a strengthened R&D department,
– developed a range of services for the armed forces, capitalising on its technical expertise and its understanding of customer requirements.

armand_carlier_ALKANAlkan has experience, skills and a worldwide reputation for masts, ejectors and releases fitted to a vast range of aircrafts and helicopters. Alkan aims to lead the consolidation of this sector.”

Armand Carlier – Chairman of Alkan

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Bellco

Milan
Sector:  Medical
Activity: Medical equipment for renal care
Type: BIMBO
Exit: 2012

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Successful carve-out from a large listed group

Bellco is among the pioneer in the haemodialysis renal care, with 40 years of experience in machines and disposables. Bellco is a company with an Italian identity and an extensive international outlook, which has built a solid platform to treat both chronic and acute renal disease in a very innovative way.

At the end of 2008, the Sorin Group was suffering from heavy debt and decided to focus on cardio-pulmonary business, while selling certain non-core activities. Bellco was the Renal Care division.

Bellco’s management took the initiative and actively sought a financial partner with an International network able to structure a full-equity takeover in a period when, after Lehman Brothers collapse, bank system was stuck and not able to finance leveraged buy-outs.

A new IT system was implemented and a new managers with international experience were brought in to the existing team. A deal was structured in collaboration with Sorin, MPS Venture and Medeor Associates, to allow a smooth transition and to provide the company with the financial resources to generate growth.

An opportunity for growth

The management and Argos Wityu identified several opportunities to accelerate the growth of the company and the International presence.

  • Full support to product innovation
  • Strenghten Bellco’s image in the nephrologists and opinion leaders’ community through international symposia and Collaborative Research.
  • New hirings in key technical/commercial areas
  • Signing long-term supply and sales agreements
  • Active geographic diversification
  • Tight control of working capital coupled with high service level and new effective financial structure

“Argos Wityu actively helped us to complete a very complex carve-out and then has always been supportive and focalised on innovation and growth.”

Stefano RIMONDI and Carlo VANOLI – CEO and Chairman of Bellco Srl

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Harlé Bickford Group

France Paris
Sector: Diversified conglomerate
Activity: Pyrotechnics and radio communications
Type: MBO
Exit: 2015

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Reorganisation of business and simplification of legal and shareholder structures

The family-owned conglomerate Financière Harlé Bickford was set up in 1839 in Rouen, with the creation of Davey Bickford, a specialist in pyrotechnical initiation for mines and quarries. The group then diversified through organic growth, extending its pyrotechnic range to defence and aerospace activities as well as the motor industry. Later came the acquisition of a group of companies operating on the antennae market for mobile phone networks under the name Jaybeam Wireless.

This all led to a highly complex group:

  • At a strategic and operational level: five different businesses, industrial bases in three countries and a commercial presence in over 80 countries.
  • At a legal level: several dozen majority or minority interests in legal organisations around the world.
  • At a shareholder level: 200 individual shareholders lacking a controlling group.

Resources to pursue an ambitious strategy

In addition to providing cash to a large number of historical shareholders, the management buy-out gave fresh impetus to a group whose technologies and products have been internationally renowned for over 150 years. The MBO led by Argos Wityu produced a leaner shareholding structure which has automatically accelerated the strategic decision-making process. In parallel, the second goal of the transaction was to refocus the group on its traditional business, pyrotechnics. Davey Bickford has developed a new generation of electronic detonators using innovative and exclusive technology. Its advertising and marketing are based on a global distribution network which is able to assist customers with this technological transition. Argos Wityu intends to support management in this ambitious development. “FHB’s management has been won over by Argos Wityu’s pragmatism and its ability to listen to and understand strategic options.”

Dominique Héber-Suffrin, Chairman

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GPP

Italy
Sector: Packaging
Activity: Packaging for the luxury goods and mass retail sector
Type: MBI
Exit: 2008

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Four strong divisions

GPP is a European company active in the visual communications sector, designing and manufacturing packaging with a complex functional structure and sophisticated graphics and high visual appeal features.
GPP Industrie Grafiche S.p.A. has four divisions:

  • Milano Nuova designs packaging for mass retail products
  • Gioja makes luxury packaging
  • Display operates in point-of-sale advertising media
  • Sisar manufactures visual communications

In 2006, Argos Wityu studied the possibility of acquiring GPP by carving out the above four divisions, which at the time belonged to an industrial group experiencing financial difficulties.

An analysis of the company and its market revealed the following key points:

  • Presence of the company on highly profitable markets
  • Growing leadership of its market
  • Large customer base and strong potential for innovation
  • Low risk of customers relocating due to the high transport costs of packaging

Refocusing synonymous with growth

Argos Wityu holds a majority interest in the company after the BIMBO (Buy-In Management Buy-Out). The new Chairman, also a minority shareholder, has vast experience in this sector, having previously directed a multinational company specialising in packaging and paper.

Argos Wityu and the management team decided to focus the business mix on the luxury packaging market, where the GPP’s quality, creativity and customer service add more value. The visual communications market was also a priority in order to tap existing commercial synergies between these two units. In addition a joint venture was created in order to penetrate the lucrative pharmaceutical packaging market. A new subsidiary (initially just commercial) was subsequently launched in Poland to benefit from strong growth potential in Eastern Europe.
Argos Wityu sold its holding to another investment fund in 2008. GPP’s management team remains at the head of the company and are therefore still actively involved with their business adventure.

“Thanks to Argos Wityu and its strategic and international vision, management has found firm support to pursue GPP’s growth and international expansion.”

Cesare Tocchio – CEO of GPP

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Efeso Consulting

France Paris
Sector: Services
Activity: Consultancy in strategy and operational excellence
Type: MBO
Exit: 2010

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Reinforce the financial structure of the group

Listed on Euronext Paris, Solving Efeso is an international consultancy in strategy and operational excellence present in more than 20 countries. The Group provides advice which combines strategic vision, operational savoir-faire and transition management. With more than 350 consultants, Solving Efeso is recognised in particular for its expertise in the industrial sector (World Class Operations Management) and has a diversified clientele which notably includes large international groups and public and local administrations. In order to assist the Group in reinforcing its financial structure, resuming solid growth and ensuring an exit for historical shareholders, Argos Wityu is partnering the Management in a complex MBO, without leverage, through a corporate takeover bid.

Resume growth

Since Argos Wityu entered its capital during 2010, Solving Efeso has been able to put into place the different axes of its strategic plan, and enabled it to:

  • re-establish its financial structure
  • reinforce its sales and marketing organisation
  • regain growth in turnover
  • significantly improve its profitability

In parallel with these major changes, Solving Efeso has conquered new international markets and completed it offer through the recruitment of new teams with strong added value and strategic acquisitions.

« Argos Wityu is a partner that meets our expectations in entrepreneurial approach, knowledge of our businesses and capacity to support our development strategy. We are happy to welcome this new partner. »

Filippo MANTEGAZZA – Chairman of the Board

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Kagi

Switzerland
Secteur: Food processing
Activity: Wafer and biscuits specialties
Type: MBO
Exit: 2010

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Being part of the Kägi story

In May 2008, Argos Wityu acquired Kägi Sohne AG from Valora AG. The Swiss listed group active in the food distribution industry was divesting non-core activities including its production facilities and brands.

As a result, Argos Wityu and (together with) management acquired a Swiss “institution”. Kägi Söhne AG was founded in 1934 and is located in Lichtensteig, Toggenburg, Switzerland. The company produces wafer and biscuit specialties and positions itself as a niche producer of top quality chocolate wafer specialties and butterbiscuits. Since 1960, Kägi produces its own chocolate covering for its products using traditional machinery.

Products are sold under the branding “Kägi-Fret” or “Toggenburger Butterbiscuits” and are well-known throughout Switzerland. Over the past few years, the company has successfully launched its products abroad.

From tradition to innovation

With its roots in Toggenburg, its history and its respect for traditional recipes, Kägi has become a veritable institution in Switzerland. Kägi-Fret is the company’s “flagship” product – in existence for over fifty years it is key to the value of the Kägi brand.

Tradition does not necessarily imply standing still. By using its brand value and reputation, management has succeeded in innovating Kägi: visual rebranding in 2006, new products in recent years and success in export markets are proof enough of a progressive company and dynamic management team.

Argos Wityu bought into this notion of tradition and innovation – making sure that the exit from the Valora group was positive and straightforward and accompanying management in development projects over the next few years.

Beat SIEGFRIED – CEO de Kägi Söhne AG

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Kermel

France
Sector: Chemicals
Activity: Manufacture and distribution of meta-aramid fibres
Type: SPIN-OFF
Exit: 2007

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Successful carve-out from a large group

Kermel is the European leader in aramid fibres for heat- and flame-proof clothing with its Kermel® fibres. Kermel® fibres are used for two different applications: protection for firefighters, armoured vehicles and police equipment; and work clothes for high-risk industries (petrochemicals, metalworking, glass making, electricity, etc.). At the beginning of 2002, the Rhodia Group was suffering from heavy debt and decided to sell certain activities. Kermel, which was then part of Rhodia’s performance fibres division, was considered non-core and was put up for sale.

Kermel’s management took the initiative and sought a financial partner able to structure a takeover that would allow the company to pursue its innovation and growth policy, which had been penalised by the budgetary restrictions imposed by the Group.
A new manager with international experience was brought in to strengthen the existing management team. A deal was structured in collaboration with Rhodia and financial institutions to allow a smooth transition and provide the company with the financial resources to generate growth.

An opportunity for growth

Argos Wityu and management identified two key opportunities to accelerate growth of the company.

  • New technical applications in the industrial sector with the new Kermel® Tech fibre, mainly used in the manufacture of electric insulation filters and papers.
  • An active geographic diversification policy by furthering development in Asia and North America.

Activity was concentrated on protective clothing.

The majority of the shareholding was sold in early 2007. Argos Wityu retained a minority interest and management is continuing its business adventure with another investment fund.

“With Argos Wityu we were able to create value within the company by implementing a strategy of innovation and growth in areas where our former parent company had previously held us back.”

Markus Schwyn – Chairman and CEO of Kermel SA

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Maillefer

Switzerland
Sector: Capital goods
Activity: Manufacture of copper communications cables, electrical wires and cables and plastic tubing
Type: SPIN-OFF
Exit: 2007

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Reinventing a leader

Maillefer is the global leader in the production of solutions and systems to manufacture copper communications cables as well as electric wiring and cables. Maillefer also makes manufacturing systems for plastic tubing. The group has its headquarters in Ecublens, Switzerland, and offices in Vantaa, Finland. Agencies have been opened in Canada, Russia, Brazil and China. The group employs 280 people. The Nokia-Maillefer industrial brand is reputed on its market, particularly for its quality, performance and commitment.

In 2001, Nextrom, a group listed on the Swiss stock market and which is partially owned by Nokia, decided to focus its strategy on the fibre-optics market in which the group was enjoying significant growth. Maillefer, its subsidiary, was put up for sale.

Argos Wityu organized Maillefer’s management buy-out with a majority stake alongside the incumbent management team. The five executives in the management team, led by Mr Pentti Hatala, had more than 54 years of experience between them in the company.

A successful restructuring project

Maillefer’s strategy is based on:

  • maintaining its leadership position on the mature cables and metal wiring market, and continuing its development on the tubing market;
  • the introduction of an outsourcing plan to vary fixed costs and hence reduce the breakeven level;
  • the transition from an industrial activity to a designer and service provider.

This strategy to transform the business model has taken several years. It has allowed the company to significantly increase its reactivity and profitability, and to tap into the increase in demand of recent years.

Maillefer was sold in December 2007, via a secondary management buy-out

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Roc-Eclerc group

Paris
Sector: Funeral services
Activity:  Funeral homes, sale of headstones, life insurance policies and franchise network
Type: MBI
Exit: 2012

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An MBI to build a French leader in funeral services

The ROC-ECLERC funeral brand was created more than 25 years ago by Michel Leclerc, renowned for having fought and broken the local government monopoly in this industry. ROC-ECLERC is the second largest player in the funeral sector in France. It is present throughout the country via a network of franchises, which includes nearly 500 agencies employing 2,000 people, and generating around €140 million of turnover. The Euroknights IV fund, advised by Argos Wityu, joined forces with a team of professionals well known in the funeral sector to acquire this franchise.

The aim was to accelerate the growth of the brand in France and in Europe and continue with the gradual integration of a variety of services.

ROC-ECLERC thus intends to continue its development with the aim of soon reaching more than 650 points of sale in France. The Group will pursue the development envisaged in the French Overseas Territories (Dom-Tom) and in Europe. This expansion is tied to a clear appraisal of the evolution of the business, to the professionalism of the approach and to real dynamism in the management of the network.

ROC-ECLERC’s major concern is to propose cheaper services to families, while maintaining high quality and behaving with respect and in an ethical manner in all matters relating to the organization of funerals. The whole approach is based on the Group’s philosophy: make a smaller profit than competitors on the services proposed. This principle is applied to the commercialization of tombstones, to funeral insurance and to all services and products related to these activities.

Structure, development and build up

  • Accelerated development through the opening of new points of sale
  • Creation of a new centralised directory for network members
  • Development of life assurance products
  • Development of partnerships with banks, insurers and mutuels
  • National TV advertising campaigns
  • Network assistance and training centre
  • Potential takeover opportunities

The current demographical evolution indicates that there are natural prospects for growth in the market. In parallel with the traditional funeral and tombstone services, the market trend is to develop more and more complementary services, such as insurance and psychological and legal support for families, which go beyond the classical services.

The acquisition of the ROC-ECLERC franchise is the first stage of a build-up in the French funeral sector which is highly fragmented after the leader PFG. Following the takeover of the ROC-ECLERC Group in April 2005, the group acquired SDDM (July 2005), Million Marais (October 2005), Eternité (May 2006) and CFF (April 2008).

« Argos has a real understanding of what is at stake in the business. Our financial shareholder-manager relationship is based strongly on loyalty which is very important in a partnership. Over and above the numbers, Argos takes an interest in the business and in the field which is reassuring. Meetings are constructive, the common objective of course being the growth of the Company. »

Sandrine Thiéfine – Présidente du Directoire

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