Managing Director of Pramex International since 2019, Jérôme Bonnet has since 2012 coordinated the deployment of teams around the world. A subsidiary of Groupe BPCE, Pramex International supports French start-ups, SMEs and ETI in their overseas investment projects, by creating a subsidiary or acquisition.
Can you return to your journey in general management of Pramex International in 2019?
You could say that I have spent my entire career in the field of international investment. After graduation from HEC, I worked as a project manager in the Italian offices of Datar, the ancestor of AFII – now Business France. As office director in Milan, I experienced the good old days of foreign direct investment, with productivity, structure and making projects, until 2003, when I left for London to get an MBA. I then joined Pramex International in 2007, to manage the Italian subsidiary and oversee international development. In 2012, I joined the General Management Committee.
From your privileged position, how do you view the internationalization of French companies?
More importantly, it should be clearly understood that we are positioning ourselves in a suitable market, the SMEs, ETI and start-ups, which represent approximately 1,600 annual direct investment projects abroad and if where we have a very satisfactory market share, about 15 %. In the absence of official statistics, and far from the goal of 120,000 exporters marked by Bpifrance, our activity therefore forms a partial picture of the dynamics of coverage in overseas markets. However, we have very well observed that on the one hand French companies benefit, along with the Export Team and the private actors of OSCI, from an ecosystem that is particularly conducive to their internationalization, and that they on the other hand are generally great capitalized, giving them an undeniable capacity for investment outside France – in fact, France is often a better investor than the exporter in the countries in which it operates.
You are in charge of coordinating the deployment of subsidiaries and teams around the world. What device does Pramex International currently have?
From 2007, Pramex International began the transformation to become an expert in the business of setting up support, with two focuses: the outsourcing of administrative management services for subsidiaries of French companies abroad a part , and M&A – or French mergers and acquisitions. Since 2009, my mission has been to coordinate the network of subsidiaries and we have undertaken a process of concentration of our existing subsidiaries: we have reduced their number, 13 now, to maintain stable hubs, which we raised the workers. Between 2010 and 2022, we grew from 55 to 107 employees within our overseas subsidiaries, following the example of Spain, which from being a 5 person structure has become a closely integrated branch that there are 15 people now. At the same time, we chose to close some branches, such as Algeria, Dubai or even Russia.
We closed the Russian subsidiary in 2009, following our re-training in the set-up business. By abandoning all aspects related to business development, we find ourselves with too little volume of activity to justify the structure in its standpoint. In a market characterized by regulatory complexity and opacity, it is necessary to set up an agency of 15-20 people in order to properly generate activity. There were no prospects for enough business volume to justify such an investment and we felt it was better to close and go through partners when necessary to go to the country.
How do you approach the particular context associated with the end of the pandemic?
Despite the turmoil and crisis that economies around the world have gone through, the fact remains that our business has recorded growth of 10 to 15% per year over the past 5 years. The global pandemic did not prevent most leaders from taking action. The health crisis, along with the travel difficulties it has caused, has underscored the interest of having overseas subsidiaries-and consultants installed on site, or at local hubs. This reinforces our model and the role of our 13 subsidiaries around the world, whose activity and relative weight are subject to key trends in the global economy. It is too early to measure the potential impact of the conflict in Ukraine, but until the first quarter of 2022 our support is rising, and the appetite of French companies to set up abroad does not seem to be declining.
What dynamics have you observed, by zone, regarding the appetite of French companies to establish themselves outside France?
There are several phenomena that come together in the context of the end of a pandemic that, as we have said, do not deter French entrepreneurs from investing abroad. At Pramex International, we can mention three main centers of signature flows: the USA, Asia and Europe … then Germany, which we must consider separately, due to the country’s volume and character of projects that thrive there, less connected to the world of start-ups, and more to the world of SMEs and ETI.
In Asia, the slowdown in China and the strong uncertainty associated with Covid have a definite impact on the region. Our Hong Kong subsidiary, which has seen its activities affected by the umbrella revolution, has lost little flow to the benefit of the Singapore subsidiary, which has been the center of attack across the Asian market.
For technology companies, the United States remains an important destination, often the first, and our branches in San Francisco, Chicago and New York are more active than ever. However, the international establishment barometer, which lists investment projects carried out abroad by start-ups, SMEs and ETI with headquarters in France and which we publish every year, shows that a certain refocus in Europe, which began in 2019, in a context of the trade war between China and the USA, it has been confirmed, that market share has fallen from 44% in 2018, to 52% in 2020, and increased in 2021. In Pramex, we still consider the European market as a domestic market and we believe it is important to make our range there, before taking a step towards major exports.
Your predictions for the future?
Given the dynamic growth, we are confident, even more confident that our membership in the BPCE group ensures us perfect proximity to SMEs and ETI in the territories and regions of France. The model of mutualist cooperation that characterizes us, which is deeply rooted in French society, is a key asset for Pramex International, whose services are distributed in the manner distributed by the group’s Banques Populaires and Caisses d’Épargne. Our attractiveness is fully in line with the strategic plan of the BPCE team, specifically internally through specialized enterprises, where Pramex International forms a pillar in its own right, and the solution offered for international support.
Diego Daccarett, CEO of Pramex International in Spain
What are the prospects for the Spanish market?
On our barometer, behind the USA and ahead of the United Kingdom, Spain appears in the top 5 of the preferred establishment countries for French companies. What is certain is that the phenomenon of refocusing on Europe, which seems to be merging, is clearly benefiting Spain. In this regard, the country’s proximity to France plays in its favor, in the context of reducing CO2 emissions, simplifying supply chains and focusing on production.