Founded in 1984, Hardis Group currently generates sales of approximately €116 million and has 1,115 employees based in Grenoble (the group's head office), Paris, Lyon, Lille, Nantes and Bordeaux, as well as in Spain, the Benelux region and Switzerland. In 2013, a management transition process was initiated by the founders, handing over executive management to Nicolas Odet and Yvan Coutaz, who joined the company in 2000. With founder-chairman Christian Balmain looking to retire in 2019, the two managers prepared a buyout, determined to continue with the strategic, human and economic project of the company with the support of responsible, committed partners that share the group's values.
The technological and industry expertise developed within the group enable it to offer differentiating solutions and integrate software components addressing the key challenges of its target sectors (finance, insurance, retail, logistics, manufacturing, energy). Hardis Group is committed to make the most innovative technologies available to its clients and put them at a competitive advantage. Its Reflex software suite and Eyesee inventory drone allow international companies to address the challenges of efficient logistics at their warehouses, factories and stores all over the world.
The two investors were attracted in particular by the relevance of Hardis Group's model and the singularity of its capacity for innovation, which have allowed it to achieve strong growth over the last five years in a highly competitive sector, in Europe and worldwide. They have entrusted the group to guarantee its independence and support its expansion by means of controlled organic growth and targeted acquisitions. Right from the launch of its 2019-2021 strategic plan, this new Hardis Group will be able to rely on the support of its financial partners to accelerate the transformation of its clients' trade, IT and logistics activities using technology and artificial intelligence.
"We have joined forces with Crédit Mutuel Equity for its ability to make equity investments with a long-term view, as well as for its agility and sector expertise. Furthermore, Bpifrance will work with us as an institutional investor, giving us access in particular to its ecosystem and know-how in innovation and international expansion. This will enable us to remain autonomous alongside larger companies in the sector and expand, primarily in Europe, with the aim to grow by more than 10% a year", explains Nicolas Odet, future Hardis Group chairman.
Yvan Coutaz, Chief Executive Officer of Hardis Group, adds: "The success of our strategy lies in the resolutely human model that has characterised us for nearly 35 years. This buyout aims to ensure our long-term independence and develop our social project. Our targets in terms of growth and profitability remain unchanged. In structuring this project, we were able to appreciate the fact that these values and aims were shared with our partners Crédit Mutuel Equity and Bpifrance".
"Benefiting from real and unique expertise as a software publisher specialising in applications development and integration, Hardis Group has managed to demonstrate the relevance of its model in a fast-growing and challenging market, helping its blue chip clients with their business transformations," explains Jean-Christophe Vuillot, Principal at Crédit Mutuel Equity. "Thanks to the relationship of trust we have built with its ambitious and experience managers, we have been able to carry out this strategic investment which fits in fully with our portfolio, in synergy with our other investments and their own digitisation challenges. Our support as long-term majority shareholder will enable Hardis Group to increase its capacity for intervention and step up its growth. Crédit Mutuel Equity also has around 20 investments in the digital sector, allowing us to offer further added value".
Alexis Guinard, Investment Director at Bpifrance, comments: "A medium-sized business that has seen strong growth over the last five years, Hardis Group offers innovative and robust solutions to support companies in their digital transition, an issue that is important to Bpifrance. At the crossroads of trade, logistics and the industry of the future, Hardis Group has a unique positioning and presents an organisational structure able to adapt to rapidly-changing business needs. We wanted to support this buyout centred around a high-quality management team whom we will work alongside to ensure with Crédit Mutuel Equity that the group maintains its independence and future international expansion."
The deal remains subject to approval from the competition authorities and should be effective by the end of March 2019.
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Financial review: EY (Guilhem de Montmarin)
Strategic review: Roland Berger (Jean-Michel Cagin, Yaroslav Stetsenko)
Legal and corporate review: Duteil-avocats (David Merlet, Cristian Rawlins)
Employee and contractual reviews, competition and financing: BCTG (Séverin Kullmann)
Tax review: Arsène Taxand (Frédéric Teper, Charles Dalarun)
Financing advisor: Pretium (Bénédicte Leneveu)
Managers' advisors: Fiducial Legal by Lamy avocats (Eric Baroin, Julien Hollier) and CVS (Pierre-Jean Ferry)
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