Changing the business portfolio: between the risk of inertia and the risk of strategic mistake

Large corporations which are stuck into Western mature markets and traditional businesses can hardly grow above 4 to 6% p.a. They do not create value.
Strategically and financially, they need to deeply change their portfolio of businesses and geographies to reposition on high-growth market and to re-allocate resources accordingly. Many groups give up when faced with the difficulty and risks of such a strategy. Why?

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Decrease costs to accelerate growth

Periods of economic downturns often highlight the obvious. Every company must regularly adapt and reallocate its resources. It must do so not only in the choice of its activities, trades, business models and geographies, but also in terms of its costs. Only a significant decrease in costs allows investments for growth.

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Three stakes for the presidents of family businesses

Family businesses are often mentioned as companies which have a high performance and which succeed in combining short-term resuls with a long-term vision. This generally holds true. However, it is often forgotten that family businesses must be led with three specific stakes which can be contradictory: the company strategy, the wealth management strategy of the family and the governance.

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Growing through crises (2)

Valuations are at their highest. Economic growth is strong (except in Europe). Companies are investing. Interest rates are beginning to rise. Hence, the next crisis is coming.
What are the right strategies today in order to get through it and be even stronger when it ends?

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Jack Welch or the value to an active management of the business portfolio

General Electric experienced a strong growth of its revenue, profitability and stock price between 1980 and 2000 under Jack Welch's leadership. Since then, its performance has been weak ; its return to shareholders has been nil. Why has his successor not experienced the same success even though he had seen Jack Welch run the company for 20 years?

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False perspectives

The industrial situation of France seems worrying from a macroeconomic perspective. It would lack competitiveness both in low and high value-added industries All this is true. However, this is a biased perspective, based on export industries. The share of manufacturing in the French GDP keeps decreasing. France is no longer a major industrial power. All this is true. However, this is a biased perspective, based on export industries.

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The winners take it all

A few politically incorrect insights, derived from the fact-based analysis of public data regarding the key drivers of the global economy: energy resources, agricultural resources, demography, intellectual capital.

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Growth beyond the niche

Long-term growth is the key element and driver for companies to increase their enterprise value. However, in the long run every market offers only limited potential for growth: market growth decelerates, innovative power declines, commoditization tendencies set in, established competitors concentrate the most attractive segments, margins erode and offer less opportunities for profitable growth.

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Energy and growth

Economic growth and growth of energy demand are correlated. Besides, global energy resources are mainly fossil, and therefore limited. As a result, future sources of economic growth will rely on access to energy resources (existing or new) and on energy efficient usages and businesses. Which industrial or public players have the financial means to invest and influence the evolution of the energy offer and demand? What should we do?

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Micro vs. macro strategies

Micro strategies make it possible to concentrate an activity. Macro strategies make it possible to concentrate an entire industry. The two types of strategy are complementary and must be rolled out over different time horizons. Without the former, there will be no profitability. Without the latter, there will be no growth over the long term.

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Where are the middle classes going?

In 2030, the middles classes in emerging Asia will represent 60% of the world's middles classes. The center of the industrial, economic, cultural, financial and political world will have moved in 15 years. This represents an unprecedented event for the modern economy. What company could possibly want to stay away from this this tremendous opportunity?

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Who can beat Amazon?

Founded in 1994, Amazon has experienced strong growth of over 20% per year since then; its revenue now exceeds $100Bn. Its geographical locations have developed at a robust pace and its product offering has expanded as far as to fresh groceries in the US. Its success has been based on technological leadership, competitive prices and outstanding service. Consequently, is there a strategy to bypass Amazon for an Internet player selling products to consumers? What are the possible strategies for Internet players?

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Growth must come from the CEO

To create value, it is necessary to grow faster than 10% a year. To reach such a rate, the role of Top Management is critical. Without it, growth ambitions cannot be achieved. Leaving them up to the organization generally results in failure. How can Top Management create a growth dynamic?

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The illusion of low interest rates

Interest rates on 10-year US Treasury Bonds are at 1,6%. They have decreased continuously since their peak in 1982 (at 6%). Are those levels a harbinger of a major crisis, the bursting of a financial bubble, a series of bankruptcies, a lack of economic growth or increased expectations of volatility? Do they, on the contrary, warrant optimism, as a sign of a transition between two major economic cycles? Only one thing is for sure. Those rates will rise back up. Their average level is at 5% over very long periods. A hike back to those levels will strongly challenge the value of assets.

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Growing through acquisitions: two disruptive models

To create value over the long term, it is necessary to grow. More and more, acquisitions form an integral part of growth strategies. Two models exist: the systemization of strategic acquisitions and the industrialization of organic (bolt-on) acquisitions. Those two modes require a strong, driven approach from management.

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The magic of long-term growth

Strategic theory has always differentiated between high-growth and low-growth businesses. It is a useful perspective, especially to anticipate investment needs as well as the ability to gain market shares and to change competitive structures. However, the most discriminating perspective as to value creation is not the magnitude of growth, but its duration.

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Strategic acquisition or merger, what value?

Large external growth deals are back: AB InBev's public bid to take-over SABMiller in the beer industry, the acquisition of EMC by Dell in technology, the merger of Holcim and Lafarge in
cement, ... These major acquisitions and mergers are often criticised for both the high price and the low probability of success of their synergies. Why pursue such strategies? What is their value?

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Where does value come from?

Over the past ten years and despite two economic and financial crises, the average annual TSR of the Western Stock markets was 8% per year (with an average inflation of 2%). A sample of 250 major Western corporations reached a TSR of 10% per year. How was value created overthis period? Where will it come from in the next five, ten and twenty years?

Published in Challenges, October 2015

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The new barbarians are attacking the core of the market: what should be done ?

Successful classical mass market models based on innovation, brands and volumes are attacked by new players that focus on a part of market, resegment it and that bypass the traditionnal retailers and distributors. Facing a risk of losing valuable customers and crucial operational leverage, what can established players do to avoid value outflow?

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Do pure players still have a future?

No industry can grow faster than 8-12% per year in the long term. All products, technologies, business models, uses, etc. follow lifecycles of different lengths, sometimes as long as decades. After having grown strongly, their growth stabilises and then reverses, even disappearing to the gain of other products, technologies, business models and uses.

Published in La Jaune et la Rouge, November 2015

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Organizations and growth

Companies cannot create long-term value without growth. More than ever, growth depends on speed. Today, it has become the key element of strategy. An analysis of companies with a long track record of success shows that these companies not only move in the right direction but, more importantly, do so faster than their competitors. It is also observed that they succeed in this because of, or rather in spite of, their organization. How can an organization become a driver for growth?

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Growing in Retail: what German retailers can do

After a long period of strong development, German retail "champions" are currently experiencing low rates of growth. How to resume strong and long-term growth, without diluting profits? Which growth initiatives are to be pursued and how to fund them? How to gear the organization for growth?

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Zero growth

What is a "cash cow?" It is a business area that has experienced strong growth over a period of ten to twenty years, or even more, by innovating regularly to develop its market, breaking into new countries and customer segments, concentrating its target market and securing a leadership position within it, and, in doing so, making a critical contribution to value creation for the group.

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German Mittelstand: what next?

Small and medium-sized enterprises (Mittelstand) from the German-speaking region have made skilful use of the opportunities offered by developing markets. Thanks to successful business models, they have been able to achieve above-average growth in recent years and develop into niche market leaders.

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Growing in Retail - Thrive Against "New Barbarians"

Amazon, Asos, Kiko, Fressnapf, La Plateforme du Bâtiment ... are all retailers that barely existed in Europe ten years ago and now are threatening incumbents that were once considered unbeatable. How best to detect new "barbarians" when they are not yet at the gate? How to react to their disruptive business models and how to win?

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China: the world's largest E-tailing battlefield

While China was a late comer in the nineteenth-century-industrial revolution, the same cannot be said about China's Internet era in the twenty-first century. Even though China's Internet penetration rate, proportion of consumers who shop online and average online spending still lag behind developed countries, China's large population base indicates an unbalanced market with huge potentials.

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Winning vs Competing

In 2005 Peugeot-Citroën sold nine times as many cars as Dongfeng and was worth five times as much on the stock exchange. The Chinese car market was 9% of the global one. Eight years later, it has grown five times as big. It is the largest market in the world, twice as large as the North American market in volumes. It represents a quarter of the global car market and will represent a third of it in 2020.

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Ten sources of growth

For a company with revenue in the millions of euros, there are almost always new sources of growth available, provided it is willing to change its perspective on the market and redefine its business model. For a European group with revenue in the billions of euros, the issue is different. For such groups, it is difficult to find sources that can significantly impact the growth of the group outside of the sources that hold the key to growth for the decade.

Published in La Jaune et la Rouge, February 2014

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Oil & Gas offshore: there will be growth

The oil & gas industry has demonstrated a long period of steady growth. Since the 1950s, oil
demand growth has only been negative three times: during the two oil crises and, more recently, in 2008.

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Strategy and speed

In today’s markets, the success of a business strategy depends more than ever on the speed and the ambition at which it is carried out, rather than simply on identifying the right direction for the strategy. Ex post analyses of company or project failures generally show that the chosen strategy was directionally correct but that it was not carried out quickly enough. This often leads to the conclusion "we pursued the right strategy but we failed." This is a mistake.

Published in ESCP Magazine, January-February 2014

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Winning strategies

Crises definitely put to the test companies business models. Most of these firms are afflicted with a vicious circle: low revenues growth (or revenues decrease...), margin compression, investment cuts... and so on. However, a few players manage to navigate these troubled waters, with an even reinforced strategic positioning accompanied by significant value creation! What are the key levers to build a winning strategy across crises?

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Winning in E-commerce and Digitalization

Sell and advertise on the Internet is now a must have for brands and retailers. However, although most companies have seen the growth of viewed pages and "Like" translate into growth of sales, Amazon is the sole player that has experienced similar growth rates for profits and cash flows! Therefore, the question of Digitalization is not only "how to deploy on the Internet?", it is also "how to deploy to win on the Internet?".

Published in Le Cercle les Echos (L'espace débat des Echos), May 2013

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Chinese companies at a crossroads

The largest Chinese companies have arrived at a crossroads. How should they now prioritize their geographic development? Should they look to compete on a worldwide basis to achieve global leadership positions, or first focus on consolidating their positions in their national market?

Published in La Jaune et la Rouge, June-July 2013

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Growing in Retail: what French retailers can do

After a long period of strong development, France’s retail “champions” are currently experiencing low rates of growth. How to resume strong and long-term growth, without diluting profits? Which growth initiatives are to be pursued and how to fund them? How to gear the organization for growth?

Published in Le Cercle les Echos (L'espace débat des Echos), November 2012 and in Reflets Essec Magazine, December 2012

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The cost of growth (2)

Growth can quickly become dilutive if its large potential costs are not taken into account. Where do these costs originate from? How can they be optimized and mitigated?

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Electricity production in France - Who will pay?

The State and the national collectivity, just like any company, have to make choices.
In terms of electricity production, they will not have it all.
They have to define priorities. And decide who will pay for them.

Published in La Jaune et la Rouge, October 2012

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The cost of growth

Costs do not depend solely on scale effects or factor costs. They also depend on growth, its level and its speed. How to correctly account for growth when assessing profitability and making decisions on corporate portfolio ? How to redeploy costs and resources intelligently to achieve non dilutive growth ?

Published in Le Cercle les Echos (L'espace débat des Echos), April 2012

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Three growth models

There are three growth models: the organic growth model, the bolt-on acquisitions and the growth through strategic acquisitions. No one is better than any other as each growth model is appropriate for specific situations. The aim is therefore to combine them in order to adapt to individual context, especially with regards to mature countries and emerging countries. Now more than ever, growth requires making choices in terms of allocation of resources and organization.

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County-level city economics: China's next three golden decades

County-level city economy will play a more and more important role in China's economic development. What are the implications for Chinese and foreign companies? Which adaptations to their business models and customer access strategies?

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Why brands should now be investing in retail

Historically, brands’ core skills have been focused on innovation, design, developing and renewing product ranges, production and communication. They sold to retail channels, which dealt directly with consumers. Their role was to innovate and communicate, thereby encouraging consumers to buy their products.
Today, four trends are forcing brands to reconsider this position and to consider investing in retail, either physical or via the internet. This sea change applies not only to luxury or clothing brands, but to all brands.

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Five sources of value creation (and some benchmarks)

CEOs and shareholders have five value creation levers at their disposal; each one implies different priorities and combinations between growth, growth acceleration, acquisitions, industry consolidation, restructuring, industry cycles' management and corporate portfolio management. They also require different durations in order to maximize value creation. What are those five levers? What typical returns can be achieved? Why do most large European corporations do not use them?

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Emerging countries: the new wave

Finding growth means, at least for another decade, looking at emerging markets, that is China and the rest of the BRIC but also a "new wave" of countries.
Who makes up this amalgam of hopes and energy? And what impact will their "cloud emergence" have on the strategies of decision makers?

Published in Le Cercle les Echos (L'espace débat des Echos), October 2011

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Pricing: technique alone is not enough

Pricing is now recognized as a key lever to improve a company's bottom line. Why do so many pricing optimization attempts fall short of expectations ? How to reap actual, significant and sustainable gains?

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Why Europe won't grow (and what to do)

Europe macroeconomic fundamentals will stay bleak for the ten years to come. Inside such a closed « box », European companies must act. The best ones will act : they will migrate, diversify or reinvent themselves.

Published in Le Cercle les Echos (L'espace débat des Echos), August 2011

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Excess growth

Let’s get back to basics. Value creation is not tied to profitability. It is tied to profitable growth. Analyses on all stock markets show a correlation between TSR and growth (at a given profitability level). Developing the Gordon-Shapiro formula shows the components of TSR more precisely. TSR is equal to the cost of capital plus the firm’s additional medium-to-long-term growth above the average growth of the economy (based on a constant level of profitability that is higher than the cost of capital). TSR= Ke+ΔG.

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Which business models can deliver growth in emerging countries?

In the next few years, emerging countries are going to present a significant challenge to Western groups. The lion's share of growth in most capital goods and consumer goods industries will come from these regions.

Published in ESCP Europe Magazine and in CFNews, March 2011

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Which business models can deliver growth in developed countries?

Nowadays, many Western groups have a portfolio of businesses with a significant component tied up in slow-growing regions and businesses. In order to grow, these groups will have to shift their portfolios into faster-growing segments.

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Should we plan for crises?

The crisis is behind us and, more than ever, the critical issue is growth and the corresponding decisions about investments and allocation of resources. Should we therefore ignore the volatility that is inherent to market economies, and is even stronger when they experience major shocks, such as the rapid rise of emerging economies and energy and commodity pressures?

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The new Japanese

Yesterday they were small low-factor-cost sub-contractors; today they are industrial giants using up-to-date processes, unleashing economies of scale and consolidating their markets sector by sector; tomorrow they will be global technology pioneers in many fields. They are leading Chinese companies, who, with a 40-year lag, are now retracing the footsteps of the Japanese majors. longons.

Published in La Jaune et la Rouge, October 2010 and in La Tribune, August 2010

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Energy and raw materials prices: no panic

The crisis seems to be behind us (at least the global macroeconomic crisis), but raw materials prices appear to be evolving irrationally, with highly variable increases or decreases even though underlying demand is identical.

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Why we must keep demanding 15% profitability

In a world where the medium- and long-term growth of Western countries risks being low, at 1-2% a year, and where consequently companies will be less profitable, there is a great temptation to lower expectations of the minimum return required from a company or an investment. The cost of capital will be lower, the opportunities for obtaining higher profits will be fewer, and over-ambitious targets will discourage long-term investment and could undermine the future of a company. However, this fails to take account of the fact that world growth, led by emerging nations, will remain strong, at 5-6% per annum, and that capital moves around. The cost of capital will not decrease in the long term. Western companies that settle for weaker profitability and growth will simply disappear in the long term, giving way to more ambitious Western competitors or emerging nations.

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Growing in mature economies by developing innovative business models

Most Western groups' business portfolios are structurally stagnant. 80% of their activities are positioned in low-growth segments and geographical markets. Only 20% of their businesses are expanding at more than 10% to 15% annually. As a result, they are unable to achieve overall growth of more than 5% annually.

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A comparison between French and Chinese leaders at the end of 2009.

Commodity prices: the worst is yet to come

Although there is a relief that commodity and oil prices have moved back to "normal, a new take-off in these prices is likely in a few years if emerging economies, especially China, continue to grow strongly. It is even likelier if more mature economies grow sluggishly. The steep surges in commodities in 2006 and 2007 were followed by very sharp drops in 2008, which coincided with the beginning of the contraction in the global economy and general destocking, particularly in China. And yet, this (undesirable) correlation masks two very different trends: the investment cycle in mining and the unstoppable rise in crude oil prices.

Celsius vs. Euro

Global warming is inevitable. At least that is the prevailing scientific view today. Putting aside the current undeniable uncertainties on the precise nature and extent of the impact, the consensus view among experts and political leaders is that global warming will lead to rising sea levels and harmful climatic upheavals, given the extreme difficulty in adapting current farming practices, modifying infrastructures and relocating populations. So there are two battles: 1) to attempt to mitigate the negative impacts of these future upheavals (some of which, by the way, will be positive); and 2) to try to tackle the problem at the source by combating the causes of global warming (beyond the actions that have already been taken).

The strategic trough

Leading western companies are faced with a paradox. Although their strategies are probably aimed in the right direction, they are not producing results fast enough: growth is slow, and their value is scarcely increasing. In most cases, they have achieved concentration in their European or North American markets, and their market share is large enough to produce significant cash flow. They have invested in emerging markets, where they have already achieved strong or growing positions. The problem is that these positions still represent only a small percentage of their global business portfolio. For many of them, emerging markets still represent a low volume, and hence even lower value.

The return of strategy

In the coming years, global growth is likely to be as strong as it has been previously. However, it will not be in the same industries and geographic areas as currently. Before and after the current economic downturn (and that of 2001-2002), the companies with the highest TSR are still the same. They are the ones that are positioned in industries and/or geographic areas undergoing significant growth, or they have strategies and business models that enable their strong growth in mature industries, and they have the competitive edge and profitability that finances their growth.

How will groups exit the recession?

The current crisis reminds us that cycles are an integral part of the market economy. This is the 14th recession since 1945, and certainly one of the most severe. The global economy has nonetheless grown at an annual average rate of 4% (excluding inflation). Which groups have the mix of activities and competitive positions that they need to survive and grow through increasingly volatile economic cycles?

Published in La Jaune et la Rouge, October 2009

Should you lower your prices?

Lowering prices to defend market share and utilise capacity is a natural reflex during a recession. But is this really a good strategy? Is it worth defending market share at all costs? How low can prices be slashed the prices to prevent situations of excess capacity? Only one intelligent pricing policy exists for any given strategy and capacity level, based on the value and positioning of a company's product or services, the competitive environment, and customers' price sensitivity. A well-designed, differentiated pricing policy is key during a recession, along with managing costs and investments.

Cost restructuring versus business portfolio restructuring

What are the key decisions that will give successful companies an edge over their competitors by 2012? Classical cost restructuring (slashing overheads, optimizing procurement, improving industrial productivity, reducing indirect costs…) is a normal response to a normal crisis. When facing a recession, such restructuring is nonsense as it rapidly reaches its limits. The only issue at stake throughout the crisis is growth and its financing.

Growing through crises

The western economy has undergone 14 crises since 1950, i.e. an average of one crisis every four years. This did not stop it growing 7.5% per annum over a half century (including inflation). It is therefore difficult to achieve long-term growth without being prepared to resist transitory slowdown or even use them to one's advantage. One thing is certain, one or two years after crisis, markets will be better or different! Will a company's position in its market be strengthened or weakened?

A return to the post-war boom

Just for a moment, let's look beyond the current and inevitably transient crisis. After all, we have the next best thing to the post-war boom to look forward to. Strong growth, higher spending power for wage earners, infrastructure expansion, household appliances, a modern and growing retailing network, growth in financial services and favourable demographics going forward… but all of these good things are happening in China!

Bursting bubble or cycle turnaround: a necessary choice

The theme of growth, or rather its slowdown, is more than ever the focus of all discussions. Are we in the presence of a speculative bubble that is bursting? Or is it just a one-off economic glitch? Are we experiencing a much deeper trend reversal? The appropriate conduct is not the same for each case. It is necessary to take a closer look. Agendas were full during the period of euphoria. They will be even more so during the downward phase of the cycle. Even though we are entering turbulence, it is not the time to take a passive stance until the return of better days.

Have large firms forgotten how to grow?

Growth is essential to deliver a strong return to shareholders. It requires a clear strategy. Investments must be focused on growing activities and business models adapted to new geographic markets. The portfolio must be regularly recalibrated towards growing markets. Besides the question of which strategic choices to pursue, western companies in addition face cultural and managerial challenges. During the past several years, management teams have dedicated their time to improving profitability and may have lost sight of how to deal with the high levels of growth experienced in emerging countries.

Published in La Tribune, January 2008

Three Rules for growth

Most the major European corporations are not growing- and this is because they have taken the decision not to. There are, however, 3 very simple rules to follow in order to grow, and grow profitably. Growth is primarily a strategic decision to be taken at the very highest level, and these 3 rules show how easy it is to understand why so few European corporations grow faster than the average rate of the economy.

Published in Challenges, January 2008

All growths are not equal

Companies that wish to create value for their shareholders must show profitable growth that is far greater than average economic growth. But certain types of growth are more profitable than others. The active management of the business and geographical portfolio is an essential element of growth and therefore of value creation.

Published in La Jaune et La Rouge, November 2007

Private Equity funds: the rebirth of capitalism?

Everything seems to be going wrong for Private Equity funds at the moment. But are they really all that bad? Private Equity funds are both the instigators and the engine of change. They are portfolio companies that purchase firms in order to turn them around or boost their growth while maintaining strong profitability. In this respect, they are contributing to the (albeit weak) growth of the European economies in which they operate.

Published in ACQ, November 2007

Growing in China

For the last 10 years, China has experienced annual growth of over 10%. This growth allows the development of Chinese players which, in terms of volumes and price, results in an increase in competition on European markets. These players represent a short- and medium-term threat. However, China is no longer simply a location to expand production to. It is also the market of the future and therefore an opportunity for profitable growth. Today, the question is no longer "Should we enter the Chinese market?" but rather "When should we enter the Chinese market?"

Published in La Revue des Mines, September 2007

The stakes of globalisation for food-processing companies

European food-processing companies are growing at a slow rate in Europe. Simultaneously, emerging countries are undergoing profound changes in their food consumption patterns, leading to rapid growth in these markets. A food-processing company must develop its model beyond its borders or risk weakening its overall position. But there are obstacles to this strategy, either at supply level or in terms of the economics of this development.

Published in ESCP–EAP magazine, March 2007

A sustainable scenario

In a scenario of sustained world economic growth, driven by the emerging countries, energy prices could double, the impact of which would be manifold. Some industries, such as oil and gas, could profit directly from this trend, however the pressure on household discretionary spending is likely to impact negatively many sectors such as telecoms and media, hotels and food services, leisure, …In order to survive, companies will have to radically change their offer and their positioning in the value chain.

Published in Centrale magazine, March 2007

Long term growth is essential

The only sustainable way to create value over a long-term period is long-term profitable growth. There are three ways to achieve such growth: Developing on the fastest growing segments of a profitable market, replicating a successful business model on new segments (geographies, products, clients) or managing a long term portfolio of activities financing fast growing activities with very profitable ones.

Published in Colloque ENA – X – HEC, March 2007

All businesses are not equal

Over a long period, certain businesses earn more for their shareholders than others. Growth and competitive structure account for the differences between different businesses' values. Businesses that are growing and are "well" structured earn more for their shareholders, even after taking into account the cost of capital. To create value for shareholders, the choice of businesses is as important as a good strategy or the quality of the operational management.

Published in La Jaune et la Rouge, January 2007

Utilities: How to have your value continually confiscated ?

European utilities operators have little growth potential but a high potential for profitability gain. Unfortunately for them, prices are regulated and tariffs are lowered in proportion to profitability increase: better to be a client than a shareholder.

Published in La Revue des Mines, September 2006

Value Waves

At a specific industry level, constant growth and profitability is an illusion. Value is evolving in waves through industries, segments and geographies. That is why diversified companies exist. Conglomerate management teams must then focus on surfing the best value waves and have implemented efficient and persistent strategies on each wave they have taken. To reconcile the two is not easy.

Published in Centrale magazine, September 2006

Is it still worth investing in R&D?

R&D is generally considered as a shield against competitors from low cost countries. Sadly, this is not the case. R&D is only valuable as a component of a strategy, which must be analyzed and precisely defined as such, and made coherent with the other levers and investments of the company, beyond the simple optimization of its organization and internal processes.

Published in La Jaune et la Rouge, June 2006

European Energy industry manoeuvres: when winning means losing

European energy operators are being pushed to consider large acquisitions in Europe as their only way to create value. Their cost reduction potential is very low and European market growth and extension opportunities outside Europe are limited. But what is the real value creation potential of such operations?

Published in Centrale magazine, June 2006

Three Ways and means to relocate production

Chinese competition and competitiveness has extended to all manufactured products, even value added ones. Facing this pressure, European and American manufacturers cannot just close their production facilities and purchase from their Chinese competitors. There are three sophisticated strategies to relocate production, each one corresponding to a specific business model and positioning.

Published in ESCP-EAP magazine, May 2006

The Fourth dimension

For the past 30 years, strategic analysis has explained structural profit through three key concepts: competitive advantage, differentiation and growth. A fourth dimension has now arisen: localization. The geographic mix of production facilities, coupled with the geographic mix of sales, is the deciding factor of growth and profitability for globalized industries.

Published in Colloque HEC-X-ENA, March 2006

Commodity prices do not preclude profit

Commodities are often seen as high volume, low margin products for which price differentiation is limited. However, there are ways to make a commodity business profitable, by having a global understanding of the individual elements and how to combine them, so as to make the most from each situation and every client.

December 2005

Europe in a squeeze

European companies are currently under attack on two fronts: on one side margins are being eroded, under pressure from Asian competitors; on the other, costs, in particular raw materials and labour restructuring costs, are rising. Margins are falling, and with them the means to invest in innovation and differentiation. In order to counterattack, timing is the critical factor.

Published in La Jaune et la Rouge, November 2005

Single brands or portfolios: how can you optimise brands?

Brands are amongst the main assets for certain companies. Too often, they are only managed with an eye on the past. However, a successful brand strategy can lead to growth and increased profitability by coordinating the number of brands, their positioning, their business model and their operational components.

May 2005

Electricity trading: from gentleman's agreement to global optimisation

Electricity trading has experienced fundamental changes over the last ten years. Today, trading occupies a key role in electricity companies, following the example of oil giants. Only the traders in a company know the totality of production costs, expected final prices, the price-volume curve by client segment, competitive positioning on the market, etc. Trading started taking over the management of power stations in the 90s and is now moving towards having sole responsibility for an electricity company's turnover and margin.

Published in Energy News, May 2005

Creating value: strategy vs. economy

The performance of Western stock exchanges over the last 15 years can be fully explained by economic growth and reduced interest rates. Some companies have considerably exceeded the average thanks to either fundamental re-positioning strategies or active portfolio management strategies, even in the least buoyant sectors. Classic leadership strategies have only created value for well-structured businesses in high growth sectors.

Published in Colloque X – HEC – ENA, March 2005

Will the core market disappear?

Core market brands and distribution formats have constituted the majority of market growth in developed countries over the last 30 years. Their continued success is currently being brought into question by the rise of low-end and high-end competitors. Price boundaries are being stretched out, selections are becoming broader and more complex, and the value of global brands is being eroded. What are the possible levers to combat these structural changes?

Published in LSA, January 2005

What is the value and durability of distribution concepts in the clothing industry?

The success of the large retailers in clothing relies on a clear positioning with a differentiating value proposal and an economic model that is coherent with this positioning. Their durability depends fundamentally on three structural variables: the age segment, the style and the level of integration within the distribution.

Published in ESCP-EAP magazine, December 2004

It is not only necessary to manage costs, but value as well

Cost reductions have constituted an important lever for increasing competitiveness for a number of years. However, this lever is generally short-lived. Three other more differentiating axes exist, and yet are not systematically used by companies: prices, discretionary costs and investments.

November 2004

Survival strategies in a low-cost world

The emergence of low-cost players is nothing new. The phenomenon has existed in the civil aviation sector in the US for over 30 years. It has also appeared over the ensuing years in mass distribution (hypermarkets, and more recently hard-discounters), in mutual insurance companies, telecommunications, mail services, hotels, financial services and, very recently, in high-speed trains.

Ultimately, only one or two low-cost players survive in a given market. However, in the short-to-medium term, significant value destruction can occur across an entire industry. In order to survive in a low-cost world, it is essential for established players to leverage the right strategic tools – namely, pricing, lobbying and restructuring.

November 2004

Competitive regulations and the decline of consumer prices

The aim of competitive regulation is simultaneously to promote economic efficiency and to lower prices for the end consumer. However, these two objectives are not automatically linked, and authorities regulating competition have to operate in a complex manner between two poles each as undesirable as the other: a fragmented industry which does not allow for long term investments and a monopoly rendered inefficient due to lack of competition. Ideally they should enforce an oligopolistic situation with a limited number of players, in the framework of a rationalised industry where costs and prices are low, and where the competition provokes the pursuit of these reductions in costs and prices. The problem is then to avoid such an oligopoly turning into a cartel!

Published in La Jaune et la Rouge, October 2004

The real impacts of the development of CCG

Numerous CCG power stations have been or will be built in Europe, and will substantially increase demand for gas. Gas prices for CCG will increase as a result, but without bringing with them a revolution. The real revolution is the smoothing out of cost differentials between producers on the supply curve, which critically lowers the profitability of production. Independent producers, not integrated downstream, are thus becoming much less attractive to investors. After extolling regulatory break-up ten years ago, has the hour of re-integration now arrived?

Published in la Revue des Centraliens, April 2004

Germany falls into a trap

The "German machine" is damaged, but it allowed this country to become the third largest economic power in the world, fifty years after the Second World War disaster. There are a lot of explanations : absence of new technology development, relocation of traditional industries, cost of Eastern Germany's integration…However, these causes are also consequences and do not explain the German "case".

Published in Colloque X-HEC-ENA, March 2004

Should a luxury leather goods brand diversify into ready-to-wear ?

Expanding into ready-to-wear sector provides a strong exposure and offers growth opportunities. However, there is also a number or risks. Trying to apply the leather goods model to ready-to-wear is a risky business because these sectors do not follow the same economic patterns. There are four possible strategies.

Published in Journal du Textile, January 2004

China : some figures

Chinese GDP has grown by 9,6% per year for 10 years and by 8,3% for the 5 past years. The Chinese economy will be equal to the European economy in 2040, but the standards of living and salary costs will become equal only in 2070. For a corporation, China is not only the place to develop its facilities, but it is also the market of the future.

December 2003

Pricing strategy for industry followers

Since they have no cost advantage, industry followers have few pricing options. Effective strategies usually involve re-segmenting the industry, which allows an industry follower to individualize costs and/or value and to set prices significantly lower or higher than average on specific segments.

Published in La Jaune et la Rouge, October 2003

Deregulating electricity in Europe: splitting up the commercial value chain is not a sustainable model over the long-term

The splitting up of production and supply, and the creation of wholesale markets between them, will fail to allow new entrants into former electricity monopolies. Trading is not a valuable activity per se. Wholesale prices are structurally set too low for production to be profitable.

Published in Energy News, September 2003

How best to optimize advertising expenditure?

Advertising budgets are often fixed completely intuitively. Yet "industry standards" for advertising expenditure can be defined for any given positioning, channel, country and market share. Deeper analyses can even help determine the best allocation of advertising expenditure.

July 2003

A simple tale

He arrived at the head of the group at the bottom of the cycle. He introduced new managing tools and results grew. Then, the cycle turned downward and results collapsed again. What could have and should have he done differently ?

July 2003

The real beneficiaries of Wifi

Public Wireless Fidelity networks (or Wireless LANs) are all the rage in the telecoms sector these days. But what are the real economics of these offerings? Do they stand to coexist with or cannibalize future 3G services? How will they impact the results of incumbent mobile telephony operators ? Who will ultimately benefit?

Published in La Jaune et la Rouge, May 2003

Prices - the other lever for improving the bottom line

In each industry, prices vary greatly between segments and between clients within each segment, even for products that appear very similar. A rational and systematic optimization can add up to 10 percentage points to a company's gross margin! It requires a selective adjustment of prices taking into account competitors, customers and costs.

Published in Colloque X-HEC-ENA, April 2003

Daily press in France, from craftsmen to industrials ?

The daily press financial performance in France is poor in comparison to the other European countries. The actual profitability, the downsizing of the number of readers, the evolution of the competitive environment and the advertising market and new potential linked with new technology should induce the restructuring process. There are opportunities for players who know s how to become industrials.

March 2003

Speculative Bubbles

Crashes in the Telecoms, Media and Technology (TMT) sector have made for dramatic headlines of late. Bubbles have occurred throughout history, yet managers and investors continue to make the same errors. For some major bubbles, we identify a trigger event, as well as the conditions for and the process leading to a market crash.

Published in La Tribune, December 2002

Creating value in chemicals

Most chemical companies display low margins and slow growth. The main culprits are business cycles, excess capacity, industry relocation, lack of visibility and margin migration. Remedies are more tactical than strategic; they involve better management of customer, product, capacity and margin mixes.

Conference to ECMSA (The European Chemical Marketing and Strategy Association), November 2002

Pricing strategy for industry leaders

There are very few pricing options for industry leaders. The choice between these options depends on the structure of their industry.

Published in La Jaune et la Rouge, November 2002

Shareholders are not customers

According to a recent theory, companies can increase their market value by segmenting shareholders and adapting to their risk profiles. This is doomed to failure as companies' valuation and stock quotes are based upon much deeper roots. It only risks adding more confusion, eventually turning into higher stock volatility.

October 2002

What's a P/E ratio worth?

P/E ratios are not that simple. Many unrealistic valuations stem from a misunderstanding of their underlying structure.

Published in l'Expansion Management Review, September 2002

Does management control help in taking the right decisions?

The tools of management control have experienced major improvements over the course of the last ten years. Nevertheless, they are not always used advisedly. If they are necessary for following operational performance, they cannot be used for taking strategic decisions. For that, ad hoc, economic, strategic or financial analyses are inevitable.

Published in ENA Alumni review, June 2002

Business ratios-showing the way ahead?

Despite the recent sophistication in financial controlling tools, these still lead to many common shortcomings. Thus, strategic decisions should only be based on customized analyzes.

May 2002

The deregulation of the electricity market in Continental Europe:

An elusive reality Deregulation is not yet a reality in Continental Europe's main electricity markets. But for governments to press ahead for positive reforms, major obstacles must be overcome.

Published in Energy News, May 2002

Why the distribution strategy of major luxury brands has reached a dead end

All the players in the luxury industry are trying to own their distribution network. But the cost induced is growing faster than the anticipated benefits. Five options can help find new profitable business models.

Published in Journal du Textile, March 2002

Is Zidane financially worth more than 69m euros?

Zidane's record transfer to Real Madrid is an astute move. But what happens on the field is not as important as financial calculations behind.

Published in l'Expansion Management Review, March 2002

What are the perspectives for the luxury industry's players: consolidate or be consolidated

Five major evolutions drive the luxury industry's current wave of mergers & acquisitions. As they increase capital intensity, size becomes critical.

Published in Colloque X-HEC-ENA, May 2001

Why process industries do not create value

Process industries cannot, on average, create any value. Traditional strategies are worthless because these industries do not work in the same way as others. Six types of strategy can yet help create value in these sectors.

Published in La Jaune et La Rouge, March 2001

Creating value in the football industry

Football is emerging as an industry in its own right, attracting investors and able to create value. The challenge for the clubs is thus to look beyond sport itself, investing to ensure regular revenue growth over time.

Published in Le Figaro, January 2001

Long-term growth

Simply improving your bottom line through rationalization and cost cutting is only a temporary measure. Growth is fundamental to create long-term value. Yet it requires drastic and controversial choices.

Published in La Jaune et La Rouge, October 2000

Strategy stages a come back

In the 80s and 90s, senior executives of large international corporations were focused on restructuring for short-term profit improvement. Today, they seek to create or maintain profitable growth: allocation of resources and strategic choices have become critical.

Published in La Jaune et La Rouge, October 1999

Economic Value Added - drawing the line

EVA is a simple but often misapplied yardstick, more useful in operational management than in strategic decision-making.

Published in Le Figaro, July 1999

M&A: What's the point?

It is now commonly observed that most mergers and acquisitions do not create any value. But that is not the problem. As organic growth, they must only be considered as tools, serving strategies.

Published in l'Expansion Management, June 1999