Engy KHALIFAEngy KHALIFAMarch 14, 2018
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9min17530

Our interview guest is Mr. Alaa Samaha, a well-known Egyptian Economist. His main specializations are strategy planning, risk management and banking in addition to Mergers and Acquisitions. He started his career at Chase National Bank- Egypt as assistant manager operations. He then moved to Saudi Arabia where he worked at Saudi Investment Bank and Saudi Cairo Bank. 

He also worked for the Commercial International Bank Egypt “CIB” for 14 years from 1992 till 2006 where the last position he held there was General Manager and high policies committee member. In March 2000 he became the chairman of Commercial International Life Insurance till July 2006. Then he was the managing director and CEO of Blom Bank Egypt and chairman of Blom Egypt Securities and Arope Insurance.

He was responsible for building and managing the country three years’ strategic plan and working in both the customers and contents acquisitions. Samaha was nominated as advisor of the Minister of Finance in Egypt from 2009 till 2011. In 2013 he was the chairman of the Principle Bank for Development and Agricultural Credit (PBDAC). 

Afterwards from 2013 to 2015 he was the chairman and managing director for Tropicana for Food Industries. Currently Mr. Alaa is the co-founder and partner of K&S for investments, founder of Experts for consultancy and supporting services and the board director for Porto Group holding company.

economies

1. Mr. Samaha, a lot of effective employees working in banks, investment, and insurance companies say that they follow the school of Alaa Samaha. Will you tell us more about that?
Actually I don’t have a school, I was part of a school where I was well trained, coached, motivated and supported based on my continuous sincere efforts and my dedication to the institution I serve during my whole career. Equality, fairness, sometimes tough and sometimes generous creates team confidence in their Leader. People always seeks & search for their role model whom they would like to be, I always worked on being that leader that people seek to find during their career.

2. Your thoughts about John Maynard Keynes?
One of the best British economist in the 20th-century, known as the father of Keynesian economies. One of his best principals is that if an economies  investment exceeds its savings, it will cause inflation. Conversely, if an economy’s saving is higher than its investment, it will cause a recession which simply means that an increase in spending would, in fact, decrease unemployment and help economic recovery which also means that more spending creates demand which is the true driver for production and not supply, which I actually strongly believe to be true.

3. And Joseph Schumpeter?
An economist and one of the 20th century’s greatest intellectuals in economies. His theory of “Dynamic Economic Growth” also known as “Creative Destruction” which is an increase in the capacity of an economy to produce goods and services, compared from one period of time to another. In my opinion within the current economical global situation it is difficult to be achieved.

4. And Milton Friedmann?
An American economist and statistician best known for his strong belief in free-market capitalism who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics. I am a strong believer to his Theory of the “Consumption Function” meaning that a person’s consumption and savings decisions are more greatly impacted by permanent changes to income rather than changes to income that are perceived as temporary. Also he published pioneering books on the modern economy, as well as numerous influential articles, changing the way economics is taught.

5. What is in your eyes the greatest Economist of Arabian Origin? Or are Muslims weak on the subject?
Other than Ibn Khaldun, as much as I know actually Arabs or Muslims generally has not been well known or famous of creating or developing economies theories but of course you will find a lot of successful implementers.

6. What do you think about the actual financial inclusion in Egypt?
It started lately with a strong support from the highest political & monetary level, although it still needs a lot of effort and a long way to reach an acceptable level but with the increase of its importance and how it simplify dealings the trend will increase.

7. How do you evaluate the investment situation now in Egypt?
Investment is an environment; laws are important to regulate business relations but will never alone attract investors. Investor’s choices focus on main 5 factors, easy entry, easy exit, stable situation, calibres availability and access to markets.

The new investment law has resolved major difficulties facing investors, and despite that Direct and Indirect investments in Egypt are increasing and it will also improve, however, we still need to work on simplifying the needed documentations and face the burro-curacy in the governmental sector.

8. What are the main challenges of the next ten years for Global Economy and for Egypt?
Egypt will pass its current economies situation and but the main challenges that it faces can be summarized in shortage of technical skilled calibres, quality of service and products, competition, research and economies and development and marketing.

9. What are your criteria about the effective employees?
Has the will to succeed but ethically, the willingness to achieve and impact don’t stop learning and define his role model.

10. From your previous experiences, we can see that you are a man of power and challenges. What is your strategy of success?
Believe in yourself & capabilities, learn from your mistakes and avoid it in the future, maintain your values & principals accept challenges, face & mitigate risks, love what you do and always be fair to yourself & others. It’s not necessary to be the best but be one of them.

11. You have been working in Mergers and Acquisitions, would you tell us how did you face their challenges?
Lots of challenges, the most important one and a killer for any deal of these types is the acceptance of the other party which creates conflicts and disturbance.

12. Which was your best case in Mergers and Acquisitions?
Actually most of the cases I went through was not successfully completed either due to disagreement on valuations or due to different cultures.

13. What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs based on your experience?
Be patient, focus on your target and insist to achieve even if you face some failures.


Engy KHALIFAEngy KHALIFAMarch 10, 2018
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22min12810

Hossam El Gamal is an Egyptian Entrepreneurs, passionate to technology and innovations. He has a huge experience with start-ups companies, and more than 17 years’ experience in the Egyptian Marketing. Currently; Hossam is the Country Director of Anghami. Anghami is the number 1 music platform in MENA region with the largest catalogue comprising for more than 20 million songs available for more than 40 million users. 

Anghami is the number 1 music platform in MENA region with the largest catalogue comprising for more than 20 million songs available for more than 40 million users. Hossam was responsible for building and managing the country three years’ strategic plan and working in both the customers and contents acquisitions. Hossam was responsible for building and managing the country three years’ strategic plan and working in both the customers and contents acquisitions. 

Hossam has a Bachelor of Mechatronics from the high technological institute in Egypt. He is also certified from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM). Hossam has also obtained his post graduates studies (MBA) from one of the principal French business schools “ESLSCA Business School” specializing in Global Management.

How do you see Music?

Music is a living experience. The music is the background of our lives. So, you must live it; it’s not just to listen to it. And this part I call it the humanalization of the brand; how an intangible brand you make people feel it’s tangible.

Years ago, only few people knew about ANGHAMI, then now it has more than 15 million followers, a huge advertising campaign. Can you tell us how this sudden change has happened?

It wasn’t of sudden at all, it took us 2 years of hard working as entrepreneurs, commitment, and persistent to transfer Anghami to the version that everyone can see now. My journey with Anghami started in September 2015 as I worked there as a consultant and starting from January 2016 I joined Anghami team as “Egypt’s Country Director”. From the first day I joined we started executing the strategic plan which was about three stages synchronizing together.

We set three main fronts and started to put a plan to achieve them. These fronts starting with neutralizing the content and bringing the missing contents of Egyptian music, as we were concentrating on the content acquisition. Then we enhanced the relations with the Egyptian artists and empowering the bond with the mobile operators in Egypt. Finally, we worked on building a strong relationship with music producers and labels.

Afterwards we started setting pillars to be achieved. These pillars were divided into three categories. First, raise the Awareness through educating people about rights and intellectual properties. Second, working on Language Localization, through designing a platform that helps in protecting the language and saving Egypt’s identity. Finally, setting the tone of the brand by setting who we are talking to and what do we want to achieve.

What are the challenges that you have faced, and how did you overcome them as entrepreneurs?”

Well the main challenge was to change the habit of the people from insisting to have music downloaded on their devices, and they do that through piracy to listening to music through the internet through the legal channels aiming at protecting the intellectual property. So, we started on working on the people culture by trying to change it.

Another challenge was the weak “ARPO” in Egypt which is the rate of average revenue in comparison to the expenses as it was very weak in the digital music in Egypt. So, we put a plan to attract more audience and to create new ways to generate more revenues. Finally, the adoption process of the product takes huge time, but through analyzing the insights about people habits, deploying the plan and with persistence we managed to succeed. As to be successful is all about data, and by using insights to engage more and strike harder.

In Egypt’s media we saw a huge advertising campaign, would you tell us more about the stages that this campaign passed through to be on the ground?”

The campaign started with the idea that we need to localize, and that’s was the idea as to how to localize aggressively on the ground, we needed to strike strongly as its very important that the message enter the DNA of the society, as to not make them feel that the idea is strange or coming from different culture. At the same time the idea must protect the positioning message people have about Anghami; that it is large entity and works internationally as the Egyptian audience prefer to be part of something that is big and internationally recognized.

So, we must keep this in the tone of the brand as entrepreneurs does, however it had to be localized. As we are targeting the youngsters, so in our campaign we had to stress on them. As I said before, we got all of these from the insights. From these insights we were able to analyze our group ages, and what to target them for, and what are the problems in the society. So, what we did was to take slice of life problems and use it in our advertisings and show to them that music is their background and you combine every aspect of your life with music.

Also, it was critically important to deliver a message to the social class and that was very essential to the creative and the artwork team. Also, in the concept we are building as not to harm anyone. Everyone feels themselves in the ad. Through the creativity in the visuals or in the videos. We were trying to show the youngsters that we are always with them, we are always with you on the mobile, and solving their problems like traffic, studying, and many others.

At the same time, we did the visual appealing as most of the visuals in Egypt are strange and dull, and they are always repeating other ads. With no creativity; we tried to go to the extra mile of innovation. To be innovative in the message, color, even the composition of the ad. You will find the heroes of the ad. Coming out of the phone as at the end we are telling our audience “Live the Music with Anghami”.”

What are the benefits that you, as entrepreneurs, give to your users?

Well, we in ANGHAMI we are the main way that will help millions of audiences to enjoy millions of sound tracks with the easiest way of user experience and have fun with some ads. In between, and if you don’t want the ad., you can pay for a monthly subscription. These procedures were very useful to use as it has put us in another level which is the subscription.

How did you move into subscription?

Well, to be able to start with the subscription, first we had to analyze the subscription method in Egypt. This was part of the study we did during our initial planning. As the payment method of Egypt is very limited due to the limited usage of credit cards and the social class has a great impact on our business. As in Egypt around 10% only owns credit cards and large portion of them fear the usage of credit cards online.

Thus; we decided to go to the method of “Direct Carrier Billings” where it is connected to the mobile operators’ services. Users can pay through their mobile operator where the subscription fess is deducted from their mobile credit, in addition we set an agreement with “FAWRY”; a money transfer company providing POS machines all over Egypt where users can pay for ANGHAMI service.

ANGHAMI is making an agreement with Vodafone; will you tell us more about it?

We did launch with Vodafone an agreement to make it easier for subscribers to pay for ANGHAMI services then with “FAWRI” then “ETISALAT”. The purpose of these agreements was to make it easier for subscribers even the pricing we made it suitable for the society. We created a daily, weekly, and monthly subscriptions. This was also done to deliver the message that you can listen to music which is cheap as we were aiming at protecting the intellectual properties or music rights.

By only small fees you can support the artist that you love as at the end this money returns to the producer to enable him to produce more songs, and more albums; in return he will pay more in creating more music and will enable us to create more civilized music and films. For instance, the movie of “Fast and Furious” how the film makers were able to produce 8 series of the movie and branding all over the world, all these due to their protection of their intellectual properties where it generates more revenues to them.

This is the power; how we understand the purpose of content rights and how it will reflect on producers, writers, artists, and the whole industry.

What could you tell us about the Revenue streams for your streaming services?

In the revenue stream there are two methods. The first one is the freemium where the free user can listen to ads., after every couple of songs, where we generate our revenue from those ads. The other method is the paid subscriptions where the user doesn’t want to listen to ads., wants to listen to music offline, and download music. Since we are still in an emerging market, so the subscriptions are not that much so we depend mainly on ads. That’s why we are trying to be innovative in the ads.

They are not just ads., as we are using interactive advertisement where we create features where the client can use it. The most powerful features are that we link the offline with the online as the user can use ANGHAMI to capture a photo or interact with something offline and the feature turns it online. The last campaign was with “Nescafe” and before with “Miranda” as with captured photo users can win a prize from ANGHAMI; and many other experiences.

For example; “Lipton” designed an ad., where users can set their favorite song as their daily alarm, as “Lipton” is a brand for tea and their message were “we will help you wake up” and it also gives a forecast for the weather and that shows how much “Lipton” is user friendly.

We also have lots of brands who did engagement with users through doing competition with them; where it enables users to engage more with ANGHAMI. As this is scientifically true as there is a research done that proves that brands that are bonded with music, people always miss them if they went out of the market. When you make music part of your day to day life, it affects people a lot. A good example is “Bershka” the music you listen to in Bershka you will find it on ANGHAMI users are playing it a lot.

After the challenges you have faced; what would you say to young Entrepreneurs?

The new fashion of entrepreneurs I don’t like it, as everyone is calling themselves entrepreneurs. It’s not bad but Entrepreneurs is not a word; the entrepreneurs must have a specific personality, has its own characteristics, and many dimensions. We have seen in our lives while we are working a lot who introduce amazing ideas and when they gain some profit they just go and spend it and forget about the project, and the project dies. A lot of youth are missing the major characteristics; which are the enthusiasm, passion, believing in what they are doing.

It is very natural that they face challenges and failures, people will discourage them and puts them down, its natural as they are doing something that is strange from the traditional. The most important trait is to have huge patience, love to what you are doing, and great enthusiasm. Also, the ability to take over the ups and downs, have vision, and always try to be different. There is always a concept called “Differentiation” as the market is full of many players. Also, the innovation of the idea is essential, also to continuously develop it.

From the most interesting ideas were the Chinese; where they are always developing the packaging and people are astonished by it. So, lots of aspects that affect the product or service, most essential of it is the innovation in communication. So how to be innovative, have enthusiasm, and to hire the right people. As there is nothing called that one person do all the job, you must hire the most powerful people to help you. At that time, you will find your brand flying like a plane.

Entrepreneurs must believe in themselves and in others, build a powerful team, and to take into consideration that they will not win immediately. It’s very normal that you take time till your idea is being sold and understood by many.

What does ANGHAMI expects their employees to be?

In ANGHAMI we all work as one family, we all love each other and support each other. We are all cool. As we are working in music industry, employees must be trendy, innovative. We can’t hire someone who is rigid or uncreative. They must do more trials, do crazy stuff, and have the love to try new things.

What motivates you?

That’s very difficult question, as for me “Hossam” I have a problem that I personally can’t be satisfied easily. But generally; what motivates me is that I always see a dream in front of me or something I am chasing and trying to find it and achieve it. I get motivative with things that contains challenges and innovations, I don’t like ordinary things.

I have never imagined myself as being a part of a traditional job with fixed hours and just wait for a salary. I really love to do the job that contains lots of thinking. I like to use my mind and how to do edge differentiation between the product or a service I am working in and between others in the market.

This excitement is what attracts me, in all aspects of my life. I never liked the normal things, may be that’s my personality. But what motivates me is that I always feel that there is something coming, something I must be doing.

How do you measure your performance as an entrepreneurs?

I always have a problem in performance, I have known to measure my own performance, as all the time its never enough for me. Although I plan for myself and sets targets, but all the time I am under the pressure that I am running after something and want to chase it more and more.

What are your future plans for ANGHAMI?

For me thinking about ANGHAMI in Egypt; there is a big room to reach and to cover, as actually our target segment is still extremely large. As we have 380 million audience eligible to use ANGHAMI and currently we just acquired 50 million users from them. So, we still have a long way to target all those audience, specially that we are full of features that we haven’t announced about them yet, there are still huge efforts to be made.

Do you like competition?

I love competition, competition is in my blood. When I was young; I used to run and participate in competitions. Thus, this taught me to run all the time after things, and there are lots of competitors around, so I will never stop running.

Does competition like ANGHAMI?

Of course competition likes ANGHAMI; we work in a very competitive industry that are full of competitors and entrepreneurs. Regarding our region; it wasn’t full of competitors but recently everyone wants to enter the market, to compete, and ANGHAMI is the fastest growing start-ups in the middle east so the eye is now on it.

Competitors ( entrepreneurs ) now are looking forward to either competing or partnership with us. As they have realized how much the market is growing and to how extent it’s a potential market. Now, there are lots of competition and this so healthy for us to compete, as at the end it leads us to develop more, innovate and think more of taking market share from each other. A successful platform like ANGHAMI is the catch for everyone to compete with.

Thank you very much for your time.


Ismail HAJJIIsmail HAJJIApril 21, 2017
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12min6380

BONDS & SHARES has contacted the candiates at the French presidential level to help enrich a focused debate on economic and financial issues. Jaques Cheminade is the first of the candidates who answered us. He is the founder of the Solidarity and Progress political party and candidate for the French presidential elections in 2017. Jacques Cheminade is a graduate of HEC Paris and ENA and holds a law degree. He was a civil servant at the Ministry of Economy and then Commercial Attaché of France in New York. Since 1996, he has been president of the Solidarity and Progress political party.

What are, in your opinion, the most important economic issues for the French? ?

The economic and social situation in France is catastrophic. The list is long! The unemployed who have lost all hope, the retired living below the poverty line, the workers who suffer at work because of ever-increasing numerical pressure, the farmers who commit suicide because they work without counting for a miserable salary, the factories that close, the homeless… The same devastating logic is at the root of these very worrying examples: that of profitability, austerity, that of the devious finance that F. Holland denounced at that time and that he did not fight. The French are no longer in control of their destiny, finance is in charge and has infiltrated its logic into all strata of society. She is gradually dehumanizing her. That is why France’s major economic challenge is to free itself from financial occupation and the logic of short-term profit. The second issue is unemployment, and there is an urgent need to get the French back to work in order to boost the dynamics of society and make our social security system viable. To this end, the third challenge is to restore a long-term vision of the development of our country and the world that will make it possible to set objectives and have job-creating projects.

How can your program address these issues? >

I propose solutions that have proven their effectiveness in history. Like Roosevelt in his time, after the 1929 crisis, we will put in place a real banking separation law that will protect us from the game of big casino banks by prohibiting states and taxpayers from bailing them out. Then we will have to free up credit when we leave the euro and the ECB, which impose these austerity policies on the Member States, and then we will create a national bank to be free to allocate credit to finance major projects for the future that bring jobs and opportunities, in cooperation with other countries in Europe and the world. In particular, we will discuss the ecological urgency of cleaning the oceans of the plastics that man has thrown into them. Africa and its development will become a priority, we will put an end to the recurrent humanitarian scandals affecting the continent, including famines and the water crisis. Finally, space must also be a major axis of development for our country: our space programmes enable us to make considerable progress in medicine (with the artificial heart or insulin pump), telephony and digital technology, which guarantees us a comfort that few of us would be ready to return to, and above all, which enables us to welcome future generations. We must continue along this essential path.

What are the limits of the economic programs of your main competitors for you?

A program, most candidates have one. The problem is that they don’t have a project to support him. They have a programme without a vision of the future, a sum of measures and compromises to ensure that our country reaches the famous golden rule, the 3% deficit, even if it means making the human being an adjustment variable. On the contrary, a project is about having a certain idea of the world and the main lines of development that are needed so that people and future generations can have a better life. Here is the first limitation common to all my competitors: the absence of a project.

In detail:

Emmanuel Macron : one of the main limitations of E. Macron’s economic program is the absence of radical measures against finance. Under the Dutch Presidency, he clearly gave in to pressure from the big banks by producing a banking law that was useless and complacent towards finance, although in private he agreed with me that we really had to cut the banks in half. In addition, it supports the uberisation of work, which allows Internet platforms beyond any labour legislation to hire workers whose precariousness is constantly increasing. Finally, if we refer to its economic law passed under the Dutch presidency, the very telling example of Macron buses is symptomatic: it is a clear step backwards that increasingly widens the disparities between the French who have the means and those who do not.

Marine Le Pen Like E. Macron, M. Le Pen does not really tackle the financial issue. By choosing Bernard Monot as its economic advisor, it has betrayed its intentions and undermined its entire policy of independence. Indeed, the one who is at the origin of all the economic policy of Mr Le Pen’s programme has clearly expressed his position with regard to the markets that were concerned about the exit from the euro advocated by the NF: “We are very attached to the monetary stability of the markets. I am a man of markets” (Le Figaro). Finally, Mr. Le Pen remains a true monetarist, a national monetarist whose economic policy would be catastrophic.

François Fillon : F. Fillon is an ultra-liberal and although he agrees that France is facing a serious financial crisis, he focuses his solution on drastically reducing all public spending. It is economic austerity: cutting civil servants’ jobs, cutting social security… unlike him, I believe that there can be no recovery of the country without massive investment in major development projects. F. Fillon, it is the ECB candidate who asks people to tighten their belts at any price: debt, even unfair as in Greece, is more important than human debt.

Benoît Hamon B. Hamon’s program reveals a willingness to adapt, to fix a little social on the unfair system in place. Its flagship measure of universal income or the taxation of robots are typical of this: it does not believe in the possibility of truly creating jobs in France or in increasing wages.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon : J-L Mélenchon opposes the world of finance and financial capitalism. However, in the final stretch (meeting of 18 April), in order to win in the electorate, he backs down about the exit of the EU and the euro by saying that we can change the Treaties. I do not think we can change the Treaties: we need to get out of these Treaties to rebuild a real Europe. Moreover, his program has become far too green! In particular, he wants to get out of nuclear power, which would be a disaster for France. Nuclear power is the energy of the future provided that we focus on clean nuclear power of 4ème génération and nuclear fusion.

Thank you, Sir, for answering our questions

Interview conducted by Ismail Hajji and Bernd Oliver Bühler, members of the editorial staff of Bonds & Shares


Ismail HAJJIIsmail HAJJIApril 19, 2017
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8min4380

Arnaud Scarpaci has a master’s degree in management sciences from the University of Dauphine since 2002, a postgraduate degree in Finance, Trading and International Trade from ESLSCA since 2004 and a DU AUREP degree in Wealth Management from the University of Clermont Ferrand since 2015. After his first experiences in investment banking with SG DEAI in the equity derivatives department and with Natexis in the fixed income and broad corporate client trading desk, he joined the Reuters group in 2005 before joining Agilis Gestion, a company specialising in quantitative and systematic management, as Managing Partner. Since November 2012, following the merger Montaigne Capital -Agilis Gestion, he is now Portfolio Manager for the mutual funds of the new structure and advises clients invested in life insurance and management mandates.  It was in his capacity as an expert and professional in the business world that he decided to answer our questionnaire:

Public finances are among the major topics of this campaign. What do you think are the most pragmatic solutions to address this issue?

The problem facing France and the eurozone countries is how to reconcile growth and reduction of public debt.

The problem of public debt in recent years has moved back to the background of growth as the ECB’s unconventional policy through its quantitative easing has made it possible to reduce the interest burden. The question will come up again when interest rates rise, particularly for peripheral countries and France.

It is therefore important to choose the type of model today: a model where the additional growth can offset the increase in debt (the model followed by D. Trump) or, on the contrary, if not, consider reducing public debt before rates rise.

To reduce public debt at a national level, public spending must first be reduced by reforming the public sector (as in Sweden, which halved its public debt-to-GDP ratio between 1997 and 2011), reviewing the social security system by combating fraud, and controlling pension expenditure. France’s problem arises in relation to the structural deficit (insufficient public revenue in relation to expenditure)

An alternative solution is also to take advantage of the rise in inflation to increase tax revenues via price-indexed VAT. The idea is therefore to increase inflation faster than the social benefits paid.
Unemployment has never been so high in France. The business world is accused of all the wrongdoings. What solutions do you think are needed to change this state of mind in terms of investment philosophy and policy within companies?

To change the perception of the business world, I think we must now integrate three concepts: the growing regulation in the financial sector in particular, the increasing development of technologies and the phenomenon of digitalization and finally the tax aspect currently weighing on French companies compared to Anglo-Saxon companies which results in a brain drain towards these countries.

On the regulatory side, capital requirements are constantly increasing. But at the same time, mechanisms such as the CICE (tax credit for competitiveness and employment) are a lever to trigger the recruitment of employees and make technological investments. The CICE has benefited supermarkets but the banks have not played the game and this mechanism has not been transferred from the financial to the economic sphere.

In terms of digitisation, the arrival of robo advisors and robots more generally will cause massive waves of redundancies in banks but also in other sectors. It is therefore important to prepare employees for more flexibility but also to become more multi-tasking through training. Today, particularly in investment banks, it can be observed that many employees remain confined to a specific task and this is the main threat in the coming years.

Finally, on the tax side, the corporate tax rate in France is 33% while the United States is considering increasing it to 15%. It is also important to note that tax revenues in France related to corporate income tax represent 12% of total revenues. The IS rate will increase to 28% by 2020 according to the 2017 Finance Act, which will allow French companies to be more competitive, but the margin compared to Anglo-Saxon countries is still high.

For some candidates, Europe and the Euro are accused of all evils. What is your opinion of the European construction and what are, in your opinion, the projects that remain to be filled?

The most urgent thing at the moment is to take advantage of the narrowing spreads between the rates of the peripheral States and Germany to set up a Federal Europe today. The current low rates are likely to promote growth. It is necessary to take advantage of the fact that the focus is less on the debt situation to harmonise tax systems in order to protect the competitiveness of companies in the euro zone and to redirect investment flows from the ECB to Europe via a European Treasury and finally to guarantee with banks the monitoring of flows from the financial sphere to the economic sphere to facilitate credit to companies.

What economic policy do you think needs to be put in place to ensure the success of the next five-year period?

The lull in the debt crisis will only be temporary and we must take advantage of low rates to reduce public debt (by reducing public spending on health care spending and overhauling the pension system, inflation generated by growth), assert ourselves at European level for the establishment of a Federal Europe to enable European and French companies to become more competitive.

Thank you, sir, for your answers.

Interview conducted by Ismail HAJJJI, editorial staff member


Ismail HAJJIIsmail HAJJIApril 12, 2017
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14min4940

Thomas Péran is professor associated with the Paris School of Business, he is also cteacher in finance at Sciences Po Bordeaux. He is aauthor of the classic Bank managementEditions Dunod. And it is by his quality of expert and actor of the economic world that we decided to interview him and to have his opinion on the economic offer of the presidential.

Public finances are among the major issues of this campaign. What do you think are the most pragmatic solutions to address this issue?

Indeed, this presidential campaign has very particular characteristics. It no longer follows the traditional scheme of the Fifth Republic based on the over-valuation of cleavages: government/opposition parties and left-wing/right-wing parties… Today, political postures are above all thematic. And that is the real good news of this campaign. For example, Emmanuel Macron is particularly representative of this recent trend. In addition to his statement “neither from the left nor from the right”, it is his willingness to embody the “Mr. Economy” that is striking.

Of course, the campaign also brings its share of bad news. Never before had the candidates’ legal cases taken such a place in a campaign (in number, fortunately not in intensity, because on this last point, the beginning of the 20th century remains the champion). And it is here, among the bad news, that we must mention the public finances of the State. Their level and the lack of policy consideration on this point is distressing. Since you are asking me about the solutions to be provided, the answer is simple: the universal vocation to change the doxa majority policy is displaced. We already have all the tools necessary for sound management of public finances: parliamentary and Court of Auditors reports, benchmarks, audits, cost calculations and ratios… We have never quantified so much, and yet the world has never known less where it was going. The instability of the political programmes put in place since the first use of the presidential five-year term in 2002 is a major factor. The distortions resulting from the presidential use of our system, even though it is constitutionally parliamentary, are also responsible for the state of public finances.

Just a reminder: the Stability and Growth Pact is a simple tool that advocates a 3% excessive government deficit and a debt ratio based on GDP of 60%. However, we are now at 3.4% and 96% respectively. It’s amazing! Reducing expenses is on paper a child’s play. It is to do it sustainably and consistently that is complicated.

Unemployment has never been so high in France. The business world is accused of all the wrongdoings. What solutions do you think are needed to change this state of mind in terms of investment philosophy and policy within companies?

Here again, the radicalization of the vocation to change is not to be encouraged. France is a more interventionist than liberal state. This is a historical fact, which in the end calls for few comments. It is necessary to deal with, and above all to integrate this component well into political action. In a state whose social and political constitution is fundamentally interventionist and “human rights”, the budgetary mass is logically large and the debt ratio more difficult to contain. Two measures seem interesting to pursue in order to improve employment policy.

First, the introduction of a single employment contract that is simpler and more adaptable seems, according to serious econometric studies, to be a credible approach. Some see it as an emanation of a powerful neoliberal regime, but this is not the case. The French seek equality, a strongly affirmed constitutional value (preamble and article 1 of the 1958 Constitution, among others), and this measure seems capable of responding to it. You refer to the “philosophical” aspect of employment and investment policy, and that is exactly what this type of contract is all about: the egalitarian philosophy of work and the end of a cleavage of the labour economy.

Second, in a perspective of permanence of political action, to be preferred over the permanence of institutions and guarded places which ultimately does not matter, a return to the Plan could be recommended. This should not be seen as a return to the dogmatism of the 20th century, but rather as a measure of consistency over time in public spending and investment. It is well known (and also well forgotten) that taking into account the time factor in the implementation and success of economic programmes is essential. We have established as a fundamental managerial trend, both in the public and private spheres, the functioning in “project mode”. But this does not always lead to coherence. The new economies (the concept of emergence is inappropriate), particularly the Gulf and Asian countries, whose growth figures Europe envies, are now intelligently implementing multiannual strategic plans, as we did a few decades ago. Multi-annuality and program laws are indeed components of our public finances (see the Organic Law on Finance Laws of 1er August 2001), but the instability of policies does not allow them to have full effect.

For some candidates Europe and the Euro are accused of all evils. What is your opinion of the European construction and what are, in your opinion, the projects that remain to be filled?

It is true that the Member States of the European Union do not have the same economic fundamentals. For example, in order for the euro zone to be balanced, experts recommend that the current account balance of States should not exceed 6% of GDP. France is now at -0.5% while the Nordic countries are getting closer to 10%. It is therefore difficult to pursue a single economic policy (although this is the aim of the European Union). The observation and imitation of federal states seems essential here to better understand how we could meet the challenge of heterogeneity. Let us recall that Europe is not legally a Federation since it does not have a Constitution that would be superimposed on the national Constitutions (it is the criterium of the Federation).

But it seems essential to affirm that, in the case of France, which has a public debt of 2147 billion (I borrow the figures of my colleague and brilliant economist Jean-Paul Betbeze), it is the fundamentals of the national economy that are responsible for the impasse. The reflection must also be carried out internally, and not only within the European Union. Europe is an opportunity and a strength, we must not deny what our predecessors have been creating since the 1920s. In this respect, the approval by vote of the framework of the Brexit 5 April 2017 and a demonstration of all the appeal and the fundamental place of Europe. By suspending the establishment of the United Kingdom’s trade relationship with the Union until its definitive withdrawal, the desire to preserve the euro is clearly put forward.

Finally, to increase the performance of the European Union’s economic policies, the focus on companies must be increased. This requirement is well understood by the European institutions (see for example European Commission Memo 11/879). Acting on rates as the European Central Bank does without building the regulatory framework to facilitate access to credit and financing for SMEs is illusory. The AIFM Directive 2011/61/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council, as well as the EU Regulation 345/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council, have effectively led the way. We must now go further.

What economic policy do you think should be put in place to ensure the success of the next five-year period?

On a strictly economic level, the room for manoeuvre is extremely limited in terms of public spending, as is the redefinition of the trade balance within the single market. It is on innovation and tax exemption for privileged sectors that we will have to focus on. The French industry is, for a while to come, powerful. It is fully capable of winning tenders for major European and global projects. The impact of these major public and private markets is both strategic and reputational. The size of France in recent centuries was strongly correlated with the size of its industry. That is why we talked about an industrial revolution. In terms of energy production, the construction of transport infrastructure and technological innovation, France can still contribute to the world and the next President must be the main market. Providing strong support for competitiveness clusters such as Finance Innovation, at the head of which Joëlle Durieux is doing a huge job, is for me “the” lever for action for the next five years. The financial health and the role as a model played by the French FinTechs are the best indication of this.

Thank you, sir, for answering our questions


Ismail HAJJIIsmail HAJJIApril 11, 2017
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5min2710

Founder of Haussmann Venture, Julien Zerbib began his career in Product structuring at OFI Asset Management.  He then joined UBS for 5 years in Paris and Monaco as Portfolio Manager and Head of the Structured Products Department.  Julien Zerbib holds a double degree from the Magistere Finance of the Sorbonne University and an MBA in Asset Management. His company, Haussmann Venture, is a Parisian investment bank. Created in 2015 by former wealth management and financial engineering executives, Haussmann Venture supports entrepreneurs, managers, shareholders, investment funds and industrial groups in all stages of their company’s growth and wealth management challenges. His skills are private management, family office, private equity, mergers and acquisitions and LBOs. Based on his experience and knowledge, he decided to answer our questions:

Q: Public finances are among the major topics of this campaign. What do you think are the most pragmatic solutions to address this issue?

By definition, improving the state of public finances consists, for a state, in increasing its revenues (or keeping them stable) while reducing its expenditure. Historically, this has been done through a drastic increase in tax revenues, including income taxes – without witnessing a decrease in spending. The French are tired of paying more taxes every year, and we are witnessing a flight of our country’s wealth to countries with low taxes.

To improve the state of public accounts, the next President of the Republic will have to undertake a concrete plan to reduce spending: reducing the number of civil servants, tightening up monitoring of social assistance recipients, and above all completely rethinking our social security model, which presents a financial gulf for the State every year.

Q: Unemployment has never been so high in France. The business world is accused of all the wrongdoings. What solutions do you think are needed to change this state of mind in terms of investment philosophy and policy within companies?

As the creator and manager of my own company, I realize that it is impossible to hire, and therefore naturally to create jobs. Indeed, hiring an employee on a basis of 100 net of taxes represents a cost of 180 for the company (after application of the various charges & social contributions). (source: https://entreprise.pole-emploi.fr/cout-salarie/)Almost twice as much! Under these conditions, how can you hire? These costs must be significantly reduced.

In terms of SME investments, good things have been done in the past with the MADELIN & TEPA schemes that allow investors wishing to invest in the real economy to reduce part of their taxes. We must continue on this path and propose new mechanisms to encourage momentum.

In terms of employment, too, the status of JEI (Young Innovative Company) allows certain companies to benefit from hiring subsidies. But not everyone has the status of a JEI… We should create a generalized system allowing companies under 5 years old to benefit from both tax and contribution reductions to encourage them to hire!

Q: For some candidates, Europe and the Euro are accused of all evils. What is your opinion of the European construction and what are, in your opinion, the projects that remain to be filled?

There is no doubt that Europe & the Euro remain an opportunity for France but it is necessary to know how to take advantage of it. European cohesion should be strengthened on defence and internal security issues. The energy transition and digital projects are to be completed on a European scale. All states must join forces to meet these challenges.

Q: What economic policy do you think needs to be put in place to ensure the success of the next five-year period?

Ask Emmanuel Macron.

Q: Thank you very much for answering our questions.

 

Interview conducted by Ismail HAJJJI, member of the editorial staff


Ismail HAJJIIsmail HAJJIApril 10, 2017
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10min2840

Alain Pitous is General Manager of Talence Management, an independent management company, approved by the AMF. Mr. Pitous has worked in the asset management industry since 1986. A graduate of EDHEC, he began his career in a stock exchange company in Lille.  It a then joined Société Générale as a bond portfolio manager. He then managed diversified management teams, followed by equities and fixed income until 2009. At that time he actively participated in the creation of Amundi (Crédit Agricole Group), an entity combining the management activities of Société Général and Crédit Agricole. Member of the Amundi Executive Committee until 2014, he joined an entrepreneurial adventure by joining Talence Gestion as Managing Director. Talence Gestion, a fully independent management company, has two business lines, fund management mainly “equity” and discretionary management for private clients. And it is in his capacity as an expert and through his experience that we have decided to have his opinion on the economic offer for election to the Supreme Court.

Q: Public finances are among the major topics of this campaign. What do you think are the most pragmatic solutions to deal with this problem?

From the current situation and subject to major upheaval in the political field, no “shock” type solution is possible; no one has a majority for such measures. That is why the only valid solution is to set a course, and gradually reduce the progression of public spending.

Example : set a public expenditure increase below the 0 growth.5%.

Q: Unemployment has never been so high in France. The business world is accused of all the wrongdoings. What solutions do you think are needed to change this state of mind in terms of investment philosophy and policy within companies?

There too we can always hope for the big night but it remains illusory. Supported jobs and such measures do not work. What we need to do is to act massively on training because it is an urgent matter if we want to maintain social peace and put the unemployed back into permanent employment. Bringing together under one authority the current budgets allocated to vocational training could perhaps facilitate the reintegration of the long-term unemployed and young people without a diploma into the labour market. It is these socio-professional categories that pose a problem and run the risk of exclusion without return. Other simple measures that do not cost the State too much are possible for small structures with less than 50 employees. This would encourage business leaders to create jobs.

In addition, we must also act upstream on education. We have 150,000 young people leaving school without a diploma every year, or 1.5 million people over the last 10 years. To remedy this, learning must be encouraged, which is also a way of facilitating the integration of young people into the world of work.

And to conclude, I think that the 35 hours are a disabling measure for the productivity of our economy and to remove it is in my opinion a necessity.

Q: For some candidates Europe and the Euro are accused of every evil. What is your opinion of the European construction and what are, in your opinion, the projects that remain to be launched?

The French economy suffers above all from a lack of productivity and quality towards its European neighbours and the reasoning that attributes this deficit to Europe is for me a simplistic reasoning. We can only be credible with our European partners if we are able to take the bull by the horns and face our problems.

Taxation and its corollary tax fraud are subjects on which urgent legislation is needed. It is inconceivable in my opinion that companies that generate turnover in one country take advantage of legal loopholes to not pay any of their tax due in another European country. Similarly, Europe must act without trembling on tax evasion for a simple matter of justice and equality before the law. Politically, subjects like these could justify a confrontation and the establishment of a balance of power within the European Community.

Q: What economic policy do you think should be put in place to ensure the success of the next five-year period ?

For me, a “liberal” economic policy on the economic level is the key success factor for the next five-year period. This will allow those who have the capacity to be free to undertake. But on the other hand, we must not forget that there are 6 million unemployed and 9 million people living below the poverty line whose social and economic conditions can only get worse if we do nothing. A balance between the welfare state and a liberal policy must be found. It should be borne in mind that France is the 5ème world economic power. Our country must offer guarantees of a decent life to its citizens, including the least privileged among them. This includes access to housing and the fight against malnutrition. The issue of disability remains a major issue for me. The State must be able to support the 12 million French people with disabilities in order to guarantee decent living conditions for this category of the population.

Q: Thank you very much for your answers.

The interview was conducted by Mr. Ismail HAJJI, member of the editorial staff



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