Article

02.06.2022

Karim Hajjar of Solvay is the 'Trends CFO of the Year 2022'

Trends and BNP Paribas Fortis highlight the performance of a Belgian financial director with this award, which was presented for the eleventh time on 1 June. Recticel won the 'Deal of the Year' award.

Photographer: Christophe Ketels

Karim Hajjar, CFO of the Solvay Chemicals and Materials Group, accepted the 'CFO of the Year' award at the Brussels Expo on Wednesday evening following Ingrid Daerden from Aedifica. The 59-year-old Brit has been the financial rock in Solvay’s branding for nine years, and has helped transform the traditional chemical group into a world player in high-tech plastics.

Fighting spirit and drive

In 2013, Hajjar joined Solvay as CFO. He first worked under CEO Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, with whom he completed over fifty deals. Since 2019, Hajjar, a father of five, has been assisting Clamadieu's successor Ilham Kadri through the pandemic and other crises, and streamlining the group. As part of this streamlining, a breakup of Solvay is planned for the second half of next year. One part, provisionally called EssentialCo, would include historical activities such as soda ash and the Silica branch, which focuses on the car tyre sector. The other part, SpecialCo, will include the fast-growing special polymers for

smartphones, the composite business in the aerospace and automotive industries, among others. “A no-brainer”, says Hajjar, who has faced much hotter fires in his life. Born in Beirut, he grew up during the Lebanese civil war. His family lost everything, which formed the breeding ground for Hajjar's fighting spirit and drive.

Karim Hajjar won out over four other strong candidates: Kristiaan De Beukelaer (Media House), Maud Larochette (N-Side), Geert Peeters (Greenyard) and Johan Vankelecom (Belfius).

Recticel wins the 'Deal of the Year 2022'

For the fourth time Trends also awarded a 'Deal of the Year' award. All mergers, acquisitions and capital operations (stock market introduction, capital increase, private placement, etc.) involving a Belgian company in 2021 were eligible. The most important criterion is the financial and strategic added value that the operation created for the stakeholders.

There were five deals in the running, and the one from Recticel emerged as the winner. This major player in polyurethane solutions is active in the furniture, automotive and construction sectors and sold its Engineered Foams division to the American company Carpenter for a final net proceeds of 606 million euros. This was an exceptionally strategic operation, with which Recticel was able to avert a hostile takeover attempt by the Austrian Greiner.

Partnership

Since 2012, BNP Paribas Fortis and Trends have been putting the spotlight on the exceptional qualities of a CFO of a top 500 company in Belgium. In 2019, the 'Deal of the Year' award was created. Because rewarding and encouraging contributors to our economy is also Positive Banking.

Congratulations to the winning CFO, the team behind the winning “Deal of the Year” and to all the other candidates.

Read the full interview with Karim Hajjar, CFO of Solvay (Dutch, French), and Olivier Chapelle, CEO of Recticel (Dutch, French).

Article

21.10.2021

Ingrid Daerden of Aedifica is the new ‘Trends CFO of the Year’

With this award, which was presented on 20 October for the tenth year in a row, Trends and BNP Paribas Fortis are highlighting the achievements of a Belgian CFO.

Ingrid Daerden of Aedifica won the award this year, succeeding Nicolas De Clercq of Kinepolis. She owes this to a miracle 2020 in which, despite corona, Aedifica raised more than 700 million euro and got a Bel-20 listing.

In addition, the Walloon biotech group Univercells received the award for ‘Deal of the Year 2021’. Univercells raised 120 million euro from a number of prestigious investors and is preparing an IPO.

Ingrid Daerden’s great track record at Aedifica

The jury named Ingrid Daerden ‘CFO of the Year’ because of her contribution to the strategic development and financing of Aedifica’s growth. Since she joined Aedifica as CFO three years ago, the healthcare real estate specialist has enjoyed remarkable growth. During that time, the 47-year-old commercial engineer paved the way for seamless financing and built her finance team into a solid foundation for Aedifica’s growth. In 2020, the healthcare real estate company became a fixture on the Bel-20, raising over 700 million euro in capital. In June this year, it raised another 286 million euro, and in September Aedifica issued a 500-million-euro bond. In times of COVID-19 this all went smoothly. The jury also saw the integration of sustainability and ESG criteria in the financial policy.

Ingrid Daerden won over four other outstanding candidates: Charles Jacques of Masthercell, Jean-Pierre Mellen of Recticel, Nadia Messaaoui of Technord and Geert Peeters of Greenyard.

Univercells wins the 'Deal of the Year 2021'

Vincent-Vanderborght-Univercells-CFO

For the third time, Trends also awarded a prize for the ‘Deal of the Year’. All mergers or acquisitions and capital operations (initial public offering, capital increase, private placement, etc.) in which a Belgian company was involved in 2020 qualify for this award. Univercells received the award. The Walloon biotech group managed to persuade KKR, an American investment company, and funds linked to the foundations of Bill and Melinda Gates and Georges Soros, to enter into its capital. This complex operation earned Univercells the ‘Deal of the Year 2021’ award.

 

Partnership

Since 2012, BNP Paribas Fortis and Roularta have been highlighting the exceptional qualities of CFOs in Top 500 companies in Belgium. The jury’s choice is primarily determined by the strategic vision and leadership shown.

Read the full interview with Ingrid Daerden, CFO of Aedifica (FR-NL), and with Hugues Bultot, CEO of Univercells, and Vincent Vanderborght, CFO of Univercells (FR-NL).

Source: Trends

A subscription to build customer loyalty, reinvent yourself in times of crisis and buy better: Emna Everard saw that as exactly the right way to launch and maintain her Brussels-based start-up.

Born into a family of dietitians, Emna Everard knows what it means to eat healthily. "At the age of 12, I was already deciphering packaging labels. My dream was to open a supermarket one day where you could shop with your eyes closed", she recalls.

And because Everard has entrepreneurship in her bones, that’s exactly what she did. In 2016, just before the end of her university studies, she launched the “healthiest online supermarket on the market”: Kazidomi. Her standards are high, both in terms of composition and taste. Kazidomi selects products carefully, enabling its customers to buy healthy, mainly organic, plant-based products with complete confidence.

The loyalty programme

Six months after its launch, Kazidomi’s growth is accelerating thanks to the launch of its loyalty programme. A 59 euro subscription offering 20–50% discounts on all food, cosmetics or care products available online. Profitability and savings guaranteed.

This was followed by a first fundraising of €50,000 in 2017. Kazidomi is growing, expanding the size of its stock and developing its marketing. Everard hired her first two employees. Sales grew rapidly and literally exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic. "Consumers suddenly had time to think about their health and well-being and were doing most of their shopping online," she adds.

How did you reinvent yourself?

The post-crisis period was a turning point. "Kazidomi had to reinvent itself. We wanted to have financial stability and avoid any dependence on external resources," continues Everard. Together with her teams, she looked at their cost structure, operational efficiency and marketing. After these reflections, the aim was no longer growth at any price, but the company's long-term viability and financial health, thanks to an intelligent reorganisation.

Two acquisitions would subsequently enable Kazidomi to boost its growth, creating significant synergies: "Smart Fooding" in August 2022 and "Bébé au Naturel" a few months later, a business specialising in healthy products for babies and their parents. "With Bébé au Naturel, we doubled the volume of orders sent out," adds Everard. "This has allowed us to get a better rate from our carriers and reduce costs."

A responsive and attentive bank

As the Brussels start-up’s bank, BNP Paribas Fortis granted it three loans for its launch, between 2016 and 2019. This support came naturally, with Kazidomi’s commitments in terms of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) objectives perfectly aligned with the bank’s strategy. "We joined the BNP Paribas Fortis Innovation Hub programme and our relationship manager – who knew the start-up environment extremely well – was immediately enthusiastic and very attentive. He believed in our project, followed it closely, advised us to participate in a series of events to meet other players whose background and profile would be of interest for us," explains the Entrepreneur of the Year 2019.

But the support didn't stop there. "In December 2022, it was thanks to BNP Paribas Fortis, among other things, that we were able to acquire “Bébé au Naturel”. Start-ups like Kazidomi need a high level of responsiveness from their bank. When there is a company to buy, or another opportunity, things have to move fast. Analysis of the file, provision of funds: BNP Paribas Fortis has always been responsive and enthusiastic and has supported us in 99% of our requests," says the CEO enthusiastically.

Eight years since launching, Kazidomi today has 4,000 products that it delivers across Europe. The Belgian start-up makes 90% of its sales on its website and 10% via external resellers, such as Delhaize.

Kazidomi has also launched its own brand “Kazidomi”, which has 200 products on offer. By working directly with producers, we can offer the best possible quality products at the best price.

https://www.kazidomi.com/en

Kazidomi is ready to change the world. Discover even more inspiring entrepreneurial stories.

Cosucra is investing in the decarbonisation of its production processes. Their focus is on using plant-based protein from chicory and peas for a healthy and less polluting diet.

Belgium’s Hainaut-based Cosucra has been operating since 1852. The company is quite small with 365 employees, but its activities have evolved over time. From the 1980s onwards, sugar beet processing gave way to chicory and yellow peas. Also, sugar was replaced by inulin and pea protein.

"Many families lack the time to put a fresh meal on the table every day. With our products, the industry can offer them easy, quick and nutritious meals," says Eric Bosly, CEO of Cosucra. "Nutritionists stress the importance of fibre and plant proteins for health, and such a diet has a positive impact on our carbon footprint."

New investors

To take their decarbonisation a step further, in 2023, the company launched a seven-year investment plan worth EUR 150 million. “We are keenly aware of the climate crisis, so we wanted to make this transition fast,” says Bosly. “That's why we brought three investors on board who share our values and are willing to commit in the longer term.”

Long-term relationship

Cosucra and BNP Paribas Fortis have a long-standing partnership. "The bank has supported us in expanding to Denmark and the United States. It's of great value to have the same contact person for setting up the financial structure of subsidiaries, opening accounts abroad, etc. We also meet regularly, which means we can count on the expertise of teams specialised in the food industry. Their macro vision complements that of our local account managers who know our business well."

Same market conditions

Cosucra’s efforts will result in a 55% reduction in CO2 emissions within three years. Yet, decarbonisation is just one of Bosly’s bold ambitions. "We are pushing for the same market conditions as animal proteins. Why, for example, is 20 per cent VAT levied on pea-based milk while for cow’s milk, this figure is under 6 per cent? Plant-based products are also more expensive because you can't achieve economies of scale due to the lower quantities required. If you consider all the “negative external effects” of animal products on human health and the environment, our sector deserves support until we reach a certain scale."

Change of mindset

The entrepreneur also laments how the retail sector uses meat as a decoy product, lowering its margins to offer consumers an attractive price. "In times of inflation, that price difference is all the more detrimental to us. This is why a change of mindset is essential. Nutritionists say that a weekly serving of just 200 to 250 grammes of meat is enough to get the nutritional benefits with no negative impact. But at the moment, most Belgians consume 200 grammes of meat per day."

Bosly also cites competition from imported agricultural products as an obstacle.

Cosucra is ready to change the world. Discover even more inspiring entrepreneurial stories.

"The European Green Deal aims to reduce inputs by half, leading to the ban of many herbicides, among other things. Farmers should be supported in this transition. And a company like Cosucra, which buys chicory and peas within a 200-kilometre radius, is not on an equal footing with strong Chinese competition."

Since 1796, Brepols has been producing diaries that allow you to better plan your time. The team is fully committed to people, the planet and prosperity.

"From Turnhout to a branch in Paris, our 110 employees create tools that help our customers manage their time better. And that benefits their work-life balance," says Finance Director Philippe Pissens. "Quality, craftsmanship and creativity are at the heart of our products. Brepols’ diaries, calendars and notebooks are not disposable products - they easily last a year. We also make business leather goods under the Maverick brand and and we have launched a brand-new collection of high-quality notebooks under the brand name "de KEMPEN". In addition, we distribute the famous Moleskine notebooks. Finally, there are our bookbinding activities," he says. Brepols’ main markets are the Benelux and France.

Financially on track

Since starting out in 1796, Brepols has seen many trends and developments come and go. The last few years have been marked by growth. This is thanks to the Financial Director, who came on board in 2000. With turnover of EUR 17.4 million in 2021, EUR 19.6 million in 2022 and EUR 20.8 million last year, the company is clearly on the right financial track. "These figures are not just a result of price increases. We are a strong company with a solvency of 70 per cent, which means that we only finance 30 per cent with external funds," he explains.

More than planting trees

"Since 2009, we have only used Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-labelled paper. For every tree cut down, a new one replaces it. But there's always room for improvement. In 2022, we launched a project group comprising staff across the company. We call it P3, because we focus on people, the planet and prosperity."

The project group analysed the company’s strengths and weaknesses, with the employers’ organisation Voka acting as a sounding board. “We certainly didn't want to make the mistake of greenwashing,” says Pissens. Specifically, Brepols developed 18 action points, which means it already covers nine of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. In addition to a charter, there is a code of conduct that suppliers must sign and respect. Other initiatives include focusing on local production, limiting residual waste, reducing energy consumption and developing a HR policy that takes diversity and inclusion into account. “The aim of this project group is to create internal and external support and communicate clearly with all our stakeholders.”

Fluid organisation

"Honesty and transparency towards our employees are top priority," Pissens continues. "We have intensive consultations with them, both formal and informal. We deliberately opt for a fluid organisational model, between the hierarchy and the self-managing teams, and there has been a high level of participation. This is crucial as a quarter of our employees will be retiring in the next three years. In this context, we also purchased cobots, which makes the work less physically demanding for our staff."

Clear communication

Pissens emphasises the importance of clear communication to all stakeholders, including its financial partners, such as BNP Paribas Fortis. "The bank has become key to our business operations. We provide our relationship manager with detailed figures and keep her up to date with our sustainable ambitions. Our contacts at BNP Paribas Fortis not only provide us with information about financial products; they also give us tips, such as measuring our energy consumption and the possibilities for subsidies to install solar panels, for example. We have an effective two-way communication. Our collaboration has grown into a real partnership. In our business, paying attention to Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) aspects is the benchmark in every consultation," Pissens concludes.

Quote

"The bank has become a key figure in our business operations”
Philippe Pissens, Finance Director Brepols

Brepols is ready to change the world. Discover even more great stories from entrepreneurs.

Discover More

Contact
Close

Contact

We would like you to answer a few questions. This will help us answer your request faster and in a more appropriate manner. Thank you in advance.

You are self-employed, exercise a liberal profession, are starting up or managing a smaller local company. Then visit our website for professionals.

You are an individual? Then visit our website for individuals .

Is your company/organisation client at BNP Paribas Fortis?

My organisation is being served by a Relationship Manager :

Your message

Type the code shown in the image:

captcha
Check
The Bank processes your personal data in accordance with the terms of the Privacy Notice of BNP Paribas Fortis SA/NV.

Thank you

Your message has been sent.

We will respond as soon as possible.

Back to the current page›
Top