The company became Ardian.
With its employees as the largest shareholder group, Ardian continues to invest in a way that responsibly creates enduring value, superior returns and shared outcomes for investors, partners, portfolio companies and their employees. The new premium investment company has 130 portfolio companies, $47bn of assets under management, 10 offices around the world and 300 investors worldwide – more than half of which are based outside Europe.
Ardian now has 330 employees across its 10 offices worldwide, comprising people from across the world, of which 42% are female.
25% of employees began their careers as interns at Ardian, demonstrating the ability of the company to both identify potential and invest in young people. Today, a number of former interns hold managerial positions in the company. Benoît Verbrugghe, Managing Partner and Head of Ardian USA, began his career at Ardian as an intern in 1999.
Ardian opens its second Asian office in Beijing. Expansion into China continues to be an important strategic objective in the company’s international development,
with Beijing being an increasingly active commercial and financial hub in the region. Having already invested €1.3bn in Asia since 2005, the Beijing office gives the company the platform to develop deeper relationships with partners and investors in Asia, as well as take advantage of the best investment and co-investment opportunities.
The Private Debt team arranges a unitranche financing for the acquisition of Unither Pharmaceuticals by Equistone Partners Europe,
confirming Ardian’s position as one of the leading players in this type of tailor-made financing, which combines senior and subordinated debt into one instrument. Unitranche provides companies with a more flexible form of financing to pursue their capital expenditure programmes.
As part of Ardian’s commitment to wider society, the company creates the Ardian Foundation.
Each employee donation is matched by an equal contribution from Ardian. The Foundation continues to sponsor public interest associations and foundations operating in three areas: education, culture and social entrepreneurship, both in France and internationally.
In acquiring the private equity portfolios of Bank of America (US$1.9bn) and Natixis (US$900m), Ardian kick-starts the secondaries market, reinforcing its reputation as both a visionary thinker and market leader.
The company is also highly active with direct investments, selling 65.6% stake in Spotless Group, a manufacturer of cleaning products, after a six-year investment. With Ardian’s support, Spotless had acquired several brands across Europe, establishing a market leading position and more than trebling its turnover from €105m to €325. On completion of the disposal, Spotless employees receive a bonus of two months’ salary for their hard work and dedication.
By acquiring 100% of French renewable energy provider Kallista, Ardian continues its long-term commitment to green energy.
Through its diversified portfolio of assets, Ardian establishes itself as a major player in European renewable energy and the broader infrastructure sector. Between 2005 and 2013, Ardian invests almost €1.8bn in transport, energy, water supply and waste treatment in France, Italy and the United Kingdom.
Dominique Senequier begins to raise the somewhat controversial issue of how to more appropriately share the value created in investments.
She has always believed in the need to financially reward the employees of portfolio companies upon exit where they have helped to deliver value. This view struck a chord in the darkest days of the financial crisis – yet was also consistent with Ardian’s spirit of responsible investment and accountability.
As the crisis hits in 2007, Dominique Senequier and the management team understood the need for radical, yet informed action.
A detailed review of Ardian’s activities is undertaken. While the market rally continues, the objective was to make a sober assessment of the level of toxic assets in the market and how far the company might be exposed to what turned out to be the financial crisis. As a result, the company becomes one of the first to roll back over-enthusiastic investing. Caution is the watchword. In the face of some industry criticism, the management team holds off making deals and choses instead to focus on managing the portfolio. The strategy pays off. Clients’ interests are protected and the company emerges from the crisis largely unhurt – unlike many of its competitors.
The opening of Ardian’s office in Singapore gives the company a permanent presence in Asia
and a gateway into the exciting, fast-growing economies of the Asia Pacific region. It further reinforces the firm’s global ambitions.
While London was a natural destination for private equity firms expanding within Europe, Ardian takes the unusual step of also opening an office in Germany.
The move pays off. The team in Frankfurt soon completes major transactions (including Cabb, HSE 24 and Riemser) and becomes one of the leading players in the German private equity market.
Though France was the company’s home, and remains a major European economy at the heart of the Eurozone, Ardian has always had an international vision.
The company quickly became one of France’s best known private equity funds, and geographic expansion now moves rapidly to the top of the agenda. The first overseas offices are opened in London and New York in 1999, allowing Ardian to focus on developing its Fund of Funds activities in those markets.
In early 1998 Ardian makes its first investment, in IT services company GSI Banque.
Working with the company’s management, Ardian sets up an ambitious growth strategy based on the completion of several build-ups. Revenues initially stood at €12m with 80 employees. By the end of Ardian’s involvement seven years later, the company was employing almost 800 people in Europe and the US, with revenues of €100m. This acquisition is still regarded as a benchmark both for the company and its competitors.
Claude Bébéar, founder and former CEO of AXA, asks Dominique Senequier to create a Private Equity division within AXA, offering to put one euro in the fund for every two raised externally. The business begins modestly, with just 10 clients and $129million under management.