On 12 October, our bank and the Belgian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association put the winning companies in the spotlight. With the support of Private Equity, all three completed a remarkable growth track.
The winners of the 2022 Private Equity Awards have been announced. It was the fifth time that BNP Paribas Fortis organised this event together with the Belgian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (BVA). In addition to rewarding Belgian growth companies, this is also a good opportunity to highlight the added value of venture capital for start-up, fast-growing and mature companies.
And the winners are...
The three winners were selected from nine nominees in three categories: Venture capital, Growth, and Buy-out company of the year.
Qover was voted 'Venture Company of the Year'. This award was created for young companies that develop and market an innovative product or service with the support of a venture capital investor.
Qover enables any digital company to embed insurance in its value proposition. The company has built a tech platform that can launch any insurance product in any market, language and currency in a matter of days. The company is ready to scale up internationally and was praised for its innovative and disruptive business model.
Lansweeper was named 'Growth Company of the Year'. This category is for companies that have significantly expanded their activities through organic growth or acquisitions. They bring a financial partner on board who does not want control.
Lansweeper is an IT Asset Management platform provider that helps companies better understand, protect, and centrally manage their IT devices and network. The company has developed a software platform that can be used to create an inventory of all types of technology assets, installed software, and users. Besides setting an excellent financial track record, the company succeeded in gaining a solid foothold internationally.
Sylphar was the winner in the 'Buy-out Company of the Year' category. These are companies that achieve growth through involved management with the backing of a private equity investor with a controlling interest.
Sylphar develops and packages innovative and consumer-friendly OTC products worldwide. OTC products are medicines that are sold directly to the consumer without requirinng a doctor's prescription. Examples include tooth whitening products and skin, hair and body care products. Their spectacular digital transformation of the sales process, strong international expansion, and rapid product development were decisive factors.
"As a financial instrument, private equity is perfectly suited for boosting innovation and sustainable growth. The three winners have all proven this", says Raf Moons, Head of BNP Paribas Fortis Private Equity.
Find out more about Private Equity at BNP Paribas Fortis.
Source: press release
Who will win a Private Equity Award this year?
The Private Equity Awards will be presented on 12 October 2022. We are organising this event for the fifth time, together with the Belgian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (BVA). Check out this year’s nine nominees.
The Private Equity Awards reward Belgian companies that have received support from a private equity or venture capital investor for their growth and development. This is the fifth time that the Belgian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (BVA) and BNP Paribas Fortis are organising this prestigious award ceremony.
The nine finalists were nominated based on criteria such as sustainable growth, authentic leadership, and active ownership. They are divided into three award categories: Venture capital, Growth, and Buy-out company of the year.
Venture company of the year:
Aerospacelab is an innovative scale-up specialising in satellite platforms and information obtained from geospatial technology. The company designs, manufactures and operates a constellation of satellites for remote sensing, collecting useful information.
Precirix is a biopharmaceutical company and a spin-off of the VUB. It is dedicated to extending and improving the lives of cancer patients by designing and developing precision radiopharmaceuticals.
Qover enables any digital company to embed insurance in its value proposition. The company has built a tech platform that can launch any insurance product in any market, language and currency in days.
Growth company of the year:
Efficy has developed a complete and highly customisable SaaS (Software as a Service) CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solution. The company wants to become five times bigger, increasing its market share to 5% of the independent CRM market in Europe, within five years.
- Fedrus International
Fedrus International is an international building materials group that manufactures and distributes roof and façade materials and services with a focus on EPDM rubber and zinc. The company wants to become the preferred partner of building professionals, with high quality standards and a great sense of innovation.
Lansweeper is an IT Asset Management platform provider that helps companies better understand, protect, and centrally manage their IT devices and network. The company has developed a software platform that can be used to create an inventory of all types of technology assets, installed software and users.
Buy-out company of the year:
- Baobab Collection
Baobab Collection sells diffusers and candles made from hand-blown glass or metal clad with precious leather. The Belgian brand remains true to its values of craftsmanship and excellence by supporting European expertise and craftsmen.
Sylphar develops and markets innovative and consumer-friendly OTC products worldwide. OTC products are medicines that are sold directly to the consumer without requiring a doctor's prescription. Examples include tooth whitening products and skin, hair and body care products.
- House of HR
House of HR is a leading European HR service provider focusing on Specialised Talent Solutions and Engineering & Consulting. Their goal is to connect people’s talents and dreams with successful companies.
Drive innovation and sustainable growth
"Private equity is a financial instrument that is perfectly suited to boost innovation and sustainable growth. The result is strong growth. But private equity involves after all so much more than just raising capital. Venture capital investors also share their knowledge and network, opening many doors. All the nominees have a solid track record and are all in with a chance to win. I am very curious to see which companies will take home an award", says Raf Moons, Head of BNP Paribas Fortis Private Equity.
Find out more about Private Equity at BNP Paribas Fortis.
Source: Press release BVA
Private equity: a versatile form of financing
Private equity can also be a convenient way for SMEs to strengthen their equity and finance their further growth. But how do you attract private equity investors? And how do they operate?
Private equity can refer to many things. Which investment techniques are involved in private equity and in which cases are they used?
Private equity is an instrument used by FPE to acquire an equity interest in a company, either alone or together with other investors. This does not involve a passive investment, but active share ownership: the aim is to engage in a partnership in the medium or long term. In concrete terms, this means that FPE is represented on the Board of Directors as a minority shareholder and in that capacity provides strategic and financial guidance and/or further professionalization of the company.
After a few years, FPE will withdraw from the company again. How this happens exactly is decided in consultation with the co-shareholder(s). They can buy the interest from FPE, but FPE may also sell it to another private equity investor or industrial player.
A company may decide to attract capital for various reasons. A common reason is that the company seeks to finance growth by increasing its activities, internationalising or acquiring other companies. The advantage is that no new private funds or excessive leverage are necessary. Other options are a business transfer or a (partial) buyout of family or less active shareholders.
Venture capital, also referred to as start-up capital, is a form of private equity used to finance early-stage, high-tech companies. These are mainly innovative start-up companies with promising growth prospects. FPE mainly provides venture capital through investments in university venture capital funds.
Mezzanine financing is a long-term subordinated loan for which the company is not required to provide any interim repayments, but makes one lump-sum repayment at the end ('bullet'). These factors mean that the risks of mezzanine financing are higher, which makes it more expensive than a conventional loan with a shorter term, a repayment schedule and securities.
The company does have to generate sufficient returns and liquidity in order to bear the interest charges. The total payment usually consists of a combination of the following elements:
- Cash interest: Interest that is paid at regular intervals during the term.
- 'Payment in kind' (PIK) interest: Capitalised interest that is not paid in cash during the term, but is added to the payable capital and repaid along with the principal.
- Warrant: An instrument that entitles the provider of mezzanine financing to acquire a small percentage of the share capital later. This allows the provider to enjoy a variable payment too.
The exact relationship between these elements depends on the type of company, its future plans and the arrangements it has made with the financier. A company generating a lot of liquidity will be able to cope with a higher cash interest, while a company with a great need for working capital will tend to go for a higher PIK interest or more warrants.
Mezzanine financing is often used for companies facing a financing gap: an investment need that cannot be fully covered with capital or conventional leverage. A company can also opt for this form of financing if does not need external capital injection because there is sufficient equity present or because the company prefers not to open up the capital to new shareholders, for example.
ESG becomes law: what you need to know
Experts from 16 cities around the world shared their insights at the Sustainable Future Forum. In Brussels, we heard from Virginie Frémat, Senior Partner at law firm CMS, who specialises in ESG and corporate responsibility.
Environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors have moved from being a niche concern to a strategic board-level priority across all sectors and jurisdictions in a short space of time.
ESG implementation and reporting are no longer things companies do to be socially responsible: they have a legal obligation to embrace them.
From financial institutions to energy companies to tech start-ups, from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to publicly listed companies, all businesses need to focus urgently on ESG.
While the impact of ESG regulation is indisputable, the business and investment environment is opening up new opportunities and will continue to do so in future. Existing and future ESG regulation is about making people and the planet an integral part of a company's long-term strategy. This development creates opportunities for companies to do better for people and the planet, while creating greater value for investors.
A changing playing field
Not only are governments becoming more demanding on ESG issues, shareholders and civil society movements are also making their voices heard. Consider the Urgenda Foundation, which took the Dutch state to court: it demanded that the government do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and was successful. Whether the Belgian climate case can force the government to take action on climate change is currently being decided in the Court of Appeal.
The push for companies to adopt more concrete, measurable and enforceable ESG initiatives is coming from three directions:
- Stakeholder activism
- European directives
- National legislation
Sustainable finance action plan
In March 2018, the European Commission launched its Action Plan on Sustainable Finance, which aims to:
- Direct capital flows towards sustainable investments for inclusive growth
- Manage financial risks related to climate change and social issues
- Promote transparency and long-term thinking in finance
Key features include a single EU classification system (taxonomy), investor responsibilities, low-carbon benchmarks and improved sustainability guidance, all aimed at promoting a more sustainable financial future.
Non-financial reporting directive
To support the transition to a more sustainable economy, the European Parliament adopted the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) in late 2022. This is an extension of the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD), both in terms of the number of companies that have to comply with the standards and the number of topics they need to report on.
The NFRD came into force on 5 January 2023 and will eventually apply to around 50,000 companies. In the same way that companies are now required to carry out financial reporting, they will also have to report on sustainability. The largest companies will be the first to report, with smaller companies following later. On 3 September 2017, the Belgian legal system incorporated these requirements, which are now part of the Belgian Code on Companies and Associations.
The EU Taxonomy Regulation introduces a classification system for environmentally sustainable economic activities. Article 8 of this regulation imposes disclosure requirements on companies subject to the NFRD. These include the obligation to disclose the extent of a company’s engagement in environmentally sustainable activities and certain key performance indicators.
Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive
Companies subject to the CSRD must include non-financial information in their annual management reports, covering environmental, social, human rights, anti-corruption, bribery and diversity issues. The CSRD also requires a brief description of the company's business model, policies, performance, key risks and non-financial performance indicators.
Sustainability reporting will follow mandatory EU standards: the first set of standards was published on 30 June 2023 and a second set with additional and sector-specific information will be published by 30 June 2024. Reporting must take into account the principle of double materiality, covering both how a company’s business is impacted by sustainability issues and how its business impacts society and the environment.
The CSRD emphasises the value chain, strategy, stakeholder interests, implementation of sustainability policies and progress towards sustainability goals.
It requires disclosure of due diligence processes, adverse impacts throughout the value chain, actions taken to mitigate such impacts, material sustainability risks and relevant indicators.
The CSRD has introduced comprehensive sustainability reporting requirements for large public-interest companies, so that they provide detailed and transparent information on their sustainability practices and impacts.
Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive
This directive applies to large EU and non-EU companies. It requires them to carry out due diligence and to act on any findings. There are sanctions for non-compliance. The new civil liability regime allows direct claims by individuals who are harmed by a company's non-compliance.
For companies incorporated under the law of an EU member state, the CSDDD applies to companies with an average of more than 500 employees and a global turnover of more than €150 million in the last financial year. Alternatively, it applies if a company has an average of more than 250 employees and a global turnover of more than €40 million in the last financial year, with at least 50% of that turnover generated in sectors deemed to be high-risk. High-risk sectors include those involved in the manufacture of textiles, leather, agriculture, food, minerals and related trade.
In addition, the CSDDD introduces measures applicable to SMEs involved in the value chains of companies covered by the Directive, recognising the indirect impact on them.
I run an SME: what should I do?
Unlisted SMEs fall outside the scope of the CSDDD, so they are not directly subject to its provisions. However, SMEs with securities listed on an EU regulated market (excluding micro-enterprises) fall within the scope of the CSDDD, although they can opt out until 2012
. In addition, a specific set of EU sustainability reporting standards tailored to SMEs is being developed, which non-listed SMEs can adopt on a voluntary basis.
It is important to note that even if SMEs are not directly covered by the CSDDD, they may still be affected by it through their involvement in the value chains of larger companies. Both EU member states and companies within the scope of the CSDDD have an obligation to support SMEs in these value chains.
I’m a director: what does this mean for me?
The CSDDD has wider implications for directors of companies that fall within its scope. Directors have a fiduciary duty to promote the success of their companies, but they also face risks such as criminal and civil liability and sanctions, particularly if they are directors of listed companies. In addition, the focus on ESG and sustainability issues can lead to reputational damage. The CSDDD increases the regulatory burden on companies, both in terms of time and cost. There may also be a negative impact on share prices and the cost of directors and officers insurance premiums. Articles 25 and 26 of the CSDDD, which relate to the duties of directors of EU companies, remain subject to ongoing discussion and refinement.
New mobility: the benefits of technology
Is technology the key to moving towards more sustainable business travel? Here’s what Philippe Kahn, Mobility Solutions Expert, thinks.
Now more than ever, businesses need to rethink mobility so that it forms part of the sustainable transition that needs to take place in our societies. Since 1 July 2023, the regulation meaning that company vehicles with combustion engines will no longer be longer tax-deductible by 2026 has started to have an impact. At the same time, Belgium’s Federal Mobility Budget and its recent developments are making this (r)evolution much more concrete and practical. And one thing is for sure: technology – and especially apps – have a key role to play. Philippe Kahn, Mobility Solutions Expert at Arval BNP Paribas Group, explains why.
1 July 2023: a key date
“In the few weeks that have passed since the pivotal date of 1 July 2023, we have already seen a change in the needs expressed by our corporate customers,” says Kahn. "Some of them had already taken practical steps towards sustainable transition. But nowadays, more and more of them also have to address the specific questions and concerns of their employees. How will I be able to use an electric car when I live in a city and have no charging stations available? Do I want to search for a reliable place to charge every day? And am I ready to fundamentally rethink how I get around? Providing a satisfactory answer to these questions is inevitably a priority for employers. As well as the end-to-end management of company electric vehicles – including the question of charging them – more and more companies are starting to rethink their overall mobility policy, analysing all existing alternatives, particularly multimodal solutions. And that’s great news, because it’s essential for their future. So I think the demand for such solutions is only going to grow. Technology, and apps in particular, are key tools for a smooth transition".
Anticipating change to serve companies better
Whereas this issue is only just emerging for many companies, it has been a priority for Arval BNP Paribas Fortis and Philippe Kahn for years. "For more than five years now, we have been anticipating the changes that are now taking place, ensuring that our vision of mobility and expertise go far beyond leasing. We now have an entire department that deals with these matters exclusively. This enables us to meet and even anticipate the needs of companies that have no experience of these issues, and who sometimes feel a little lost when it comes to this revolution in travel.”
A simpler, smoother experience thanks to technology
But why and how is technology playing an important role in this transition to more sustainable business travel? "It’s making the experience of new mobility easier and smoother for its users. And that's where the latest developments in the market are heading," says Kahn. "In fact, that's also what our new Mobility Arval App now offers our corporate customers. It makes it easier for employers to manage the mobility budget established by the federal authorities. This budget, its three pillars and recent developments are crucial factors when a company is rethinking its mobility. But at the same time, it involves some regulatory complexity. That’s why, five years ago, we started developing a whole range of technological tools to help companies deal with these matters. For example, we make it simple for our customers to manage the combination of an electric car and bicycle within this mobility budget. In this spirit of innovation, and aiming to improve the user experience, our app integrates all facets of new business mobility, which are all accessible from a smartphone. Use of public transport, shared mobility, taxis, and even parking – even though this is not one of the pillars of the mobility budget – everything is in one place. The app also makes it easier to manage transactions: low-value mobility transactions, such as buying a bus ticket, are automatically captured and validated, so manual checks are no longer needed. Similarly, there is no longer any need to advance money to employees or reimburse them for anything, and no need for them to keep and present tickets or any other proof of purchase. In short, our app translates the entire mobility budget, which can be pretty complex, into a user-friendly tool where all the important components are taken into account: car, bicycle, scooter, multimodal solutions, public transport, shared mobility, etc."
Technology as a strategy accelerator
Arval Belgium’s innovations perfectly illustrate why technology is an important accelerator when implementing new mobility strategies. And it goes without saying that what exists today will evolve very quickly, leading to an ever-richer user experience. As Philippe Kahn says, "there are a lot of innovative tools out there already. But one of the challenges, linked to the complexity of the situation in Belgium, is to bring together all the players involved under the same umbrella, so that the result of this collaborative work can be found in a single 'magic' app. The solutions that exist today in Belgium are often local in scope. This is a limitation that doesn’t exist in the Netherlands, for example, thanks to their OV card. Belgium’s urban planning realities are also a challenge: outside the major urban centres, it’s less easy to set up mobility hubs in which all modes of travel are accessible."
One thing is certain: for companies, the transition to new forms of mobility is well underway. And the new Arval Belgium app is a valuable tool for those companies. “This technological innovation now makes it possible to mitigate the regulatory complexity for employers, and to make multimodal transport a very fluid experience for employees,” concludes Kahn.
Arval Belgium SA, Ikaroslaan 99, 1930 Zaventem – Registered with the Brussels trade register – Belgian VAT number 0436.781.102. Company with an ancillary insurance brokage business, registered with the Belgian Financial Services and Markets Authority (FSMA) under number 047238 A. Subject to acceptance of your request.
Arval Belgium SA is a subsidiary of BNP Paribas Fortis S.A.