On 13 October, together with the Belgian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (BVA), we will present awards to three companies supported by private equity or venture capital. Discover the candidates.
This fourth edition once again recognises successful Belgian companies that used private equity or venture capital to finance their growth. BNP Paribas Fortis is also supporting the Private Equity Awards for the fourth time as a member of the BVA. The bank will both host the event and serve on the jury.
Raf Moons, Head of Private Equity at BNP Paribas Fortis and juror: "We believe it is important to reward the growth companies in question and also highlight private equity's usefulness as a financing solution. Private equity is an excellent tool to boost the economy. For 40 years now, we have used it to offer companies opportunities at all stages of their life cycle. Besides this, BNP Paribas Fortis also supports companies that aim to use additional investments to increase their sustainability. This type of investment will only show financial returns in the longer term, which is why we wish to support them through our private equity offerings. In this way we can make a positive contribution to the Belgian economy and to society. We are actually freeing up additional resources for this and intend to double our private equity portfolio to EUR 1 billion in the next five years."
Pierre Demaerel, BVA Secretary General: "In the past few years the global private equity market has grown considerably. In Belgium, 1,400 deals amounting to over EUR 10 billion altogether were concluded in the past six years. And this trend is increasing. It involves EUR 1.5 to 2 billion annually. However, we have noticed there is a wider audience that is still insufficiently familiar with the possibilities offered by this form of financing. That is why for the fourth time, the BVA is proud to be highlighting, together with partner BNP Paribas Fortis, several Belgian companies that have exhibited remarkable growth thanks to the support of private equity or venture capital investors."
Who will follow in the footsteps of iStar Medical, Cegeka and Destiny?
The jury has nominated nine companies. There are three nominees each for the categories 'Venture Company of the Year', 'Growth Company of the Year' and 'Buy-out Company of the Year'. The jury will announce which companies they feel have achieved the steepest growth trajectory in each category on 13 October. We are pleased to introduce the nominees:
- The ‘Venture Company of the Year 2021’ category focuses on young companies developing and marketing an innovative product or service with the support of a venture capital investor.
- AgomAb Financials is a Ghent-based biotech player that develops drugs to repair damaged human tissue.
- Deliverect, also a company based in Ghent, creates software that allows restaurants to manage their online orders and integrate these into their existing cash register system.
- Imcyse is a Liege-based biopharmaceutical company that pioneers the development of a new class of immune technologies for the treatment of serious auto-immune diseases.
- The category ‘Growth Company of the Year 2021’ is for companies that expanded their business significantly through organic growth or an acquisition policy. They brought financial partners on board without the latter desiring control.
- Odoo from Ramillies in Wallonia develops open-source management software for SMEs. With over 10,000 fully integrated apps, the company offers solutions for the full automation of business processes.
- UgenTec from Hasselt develops pioneering lab software for the automation of DNA analyses, making it possible to detect respiratory infections, STIs and various types of cancer much faster.
- Charleroi-based Univercells develops technologies for the production of low-cost and large-scale vaccines. This company has won the confidence of many (inter)national investors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
- The category ‘Buy-out Company of the Year 2021’ focuses on the transmission and growth of companies achieved by management and a private equity investor with a controlling stake.
- Anzegem-based Abrios-Jiffy is a leading manufacturer specialising in the extrusion of sustainable, innovative, protective and insulating materials for the packaging and construction industry.
- Corialis in Lokeren designs and manufactures high-quality, technologically advanced aluminium systems for in-wall (windows, doors, sliding elements, roofing systems, curtain walling), indoor (partition walls, walls, fire protection doors) and outdoor (balustrades, greenhouses) applications.
- Esas from Wilrijk, which will be renamed Circet Benelux in future, is a service provider for the installation, maintenance and management of smart devices in sectors such as telecom and energy. The company also handles the construction and maintenance of coax, optical fibre and mobile networks for large telecom companies.
Het Anker, ready for a 'golden' future
Achieving sustainable growth and professionalisation and yet retaining your individuality? Het Anker Brewery did just this with the support of BNP Paribas Fortis Private Equity.
Het Anker, established in Mechelen city centre, is not just a brewery. Within the walls of the ‘Grand Beguinage’, designated a UNESCO world heritage site, stands not only the brewery but also a three-star hotel and a welcoming brasserie with a shop. Guide tours of the site are also organised.
The Mechelen family brewery that has been producing beer for five generations is known worldwide for its ‘Gouden Carolus’ specialty beers, which have won multiple awards. Since 2010, Het Anker has also been making single-malt whisky based on the mash from Gouden Carolus Tripel beer at De Molenberg distillery, the 17th-century family farm in Blaasveld.
These successes did not happen just like that. To record this growth and further develop the activities, manager Charles Leclef sought advice from the firm’s main bank, BNP Paribas Fortis. The many years of cooperation, the bank’s knowledge of this sound Belgian SME and a shared vision of sustainability resulted in an even closer relationship. In June 2016, BNP Paribas Fortis Private Equity joined the business via a capital increase. This gave Het Anker the financial scope to implement its expansion plans for the brewery and the distillery activities along sustainable lines. The cooperation with BNP Paribas Fortis Private Equity led to further professionalisation in terms of reporting and governance, while still enabling the business to retain its family identity.
Financing companies and supporting their growth: this is the aim of BNP Paribas Fortis Private Equity. “We provide a financial input in the form of capital or mezzanine financing and we assist and support companies in the long term with the implementation of their strategy and business plan”, says Laurens Boriale, Investment Manager at BNP Paribas Fortis Private Equity. “In every business, we strive to create value by offering our operational and financial skills, placing our international network at their disposal or enabling them to call upon our expertise, which we have built up over several decades.”
Private Equity is an excellent way of investing in the real economy and reinforcing the SME fabric. What is more, it complements family shareholdings and bank financing. “Our investment is a solution to ensure that the business retains its family anchorage in the future. So the capital increase at Het Anker is a perfect illustration of the BNPP Fortis Private Equity investment approach.”
Het Anker was immediately won over by the private equity idea. Charles Leclef: “We are grateful that the bank wants to work with us so closely and shares our vision of the future. Sustainability is a central concern for us, too. BNP Paribas Fortis has been our financial partner for over 30 years and once again this time, they thought very constructively and creatively about options for the further growth of Het Anker. I am convinced that the new investment round is preparing us for a ‘golden’ future led by the next generation.”
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.
Shipping: focus on the impact of decarbonisation and energy transition
At the end of May, BNP Paribas Fortis and the University of Antwerp brought together a number of experts to discuss the many challenges involved in decarbonising the shipping sector. What are the key points to remember?
Established 12 years ago, the BNP Paribas Fortis Chair in Transport, Logistics and Ports - linked to the University of Antwerp - conducts in-depth research to find concrete and innovative ways of creating an increasingly resilient – and sustainable – maritime ecosystem.
Building on the success of its first two major events in 2017 and 2019, the Chair has decided to do it again this year. On 25 May 2023, a number of experts and stakeholders from the port and maritime transport sector gathered at the BNP Paribas Fortis premises in Antwerp to discuss the impact of decarbonisation on the maritime ecosystem.
Here are their main findings...
1 – We need to move up a gear
Shipping is currently the most carbon-efficient form of commercial transport in terms of CO₂ emissions per tonne and kilometre. But it can do better.
So far, industry players have favoured quick wins, such as modifying ship propellers and adjusting speeds. But on 25 May, the experts agreed that now is the time to experiment with new fuels and technologies, and move towards (near) zero emissions. The pace of change is accelerating, but there's no silver bullet yet. The costs (and risks) are huge.
2 – International regulation, please (and only one)!
The regulatory framework is complex and constantly evolving.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which reports to the UN, is committed to reducing the carbon emissions from all ships by 40% by 2030 and by 70% by 2050 compared to 2008.
The European Union has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from shipping by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. By 2024, an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will apply to all ships of more than 5,000 gross tonnes sailing to or from EU ports.
In short: things are moving, and in the right direction. The problem, according to industry players, is that numerous regional and supra-regional programmes continue to coexist. This leads to administrative and financial overload.
On 25 May, all those involved agreed on two points: firstly, that a single international policy is essential, as this is a global sector; and secondly, that players who do not comply with the rules must be sanctioned.
3 – The transition to carbon neutrality will be costly
The investments required to build new greener ships is estimated at $5 trillion by 2050. The cost of modernising the existing fleet is not yet known, but it will not be zero. In addition, the investment required to renew port infrastructures promises to be huge.
4 – Fuel and/or preferred technology: uncertainty reigns
What will be the fuel or technology of the future? Opinions are divided.
Many types of low-emission fuels are likely to coexist for some time. Electricity will only be used on coastal vessels, ferries and some tugs. Large ships will use liquefied natural gas (LNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), methanol, ammonia and possibly even biofuels.
Long-distance shipping will initially depend on heavy fuel oil, possibly with carbon capture and storage. Hydrogen has potential, but its density, storage and handling raise questions. Wind, solar and nuclear power are also in the mix.
But the real problem at the moment is that while the number of ships that can run on cleaner fuels is increasing, these fuels are not yet sufficiently available internationally. In other words, supply is much lower than demand.
5 – Banks play a key role
Banks have a key role to play in financing the energy transition. In 2019, eleven financial institutions – mostly European, including the BNP Paribas Group – launched the Poseidon Principles to support the transition to low-carbon shipping. This global framework makes it possible to measure and disclose the carbon intensity of bank loans in the maritime sector. There are now 24 signatories, including Japanese financial institutions. And that’s good news.
Want to know more?
Presentations, videos and photos from the 25 May event are available on this page.