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Factoring: a robust financing solution in an economic downturn

In the January edition of Magazine Décideurs, Thibaut Robet and Gaëtan du Halgouët, founding partners of Fibus, outline the many benefits of factoring, including during an economic downturn, and share their precious experience in corporate restructuring.
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Fifteen years ago, Gaëtan du Halgouët and Thibaut Robet founded Chateaudun Crédit, a French specialist in factoring consultancy. They have agreed to share their experience of corporate restructuring with us.

Décideurs. What was it that led you to set up a factoring consultancy firm?

Thibaut Robet. Negotiations for a factoring agreement are often complex and technical to set-up. Unlike traditional bank loans, factoring has wider impacts over company organisation. The financing which it creates will depend on a multitude of factors such as the client risk ratio, payment terms, invoicing method, recovery method or the type of agreements signed between the company and its clients. In 2005, to assist companies in rising to these challenges, we decided to set up the first specialist factoring consultancy firm.

Where is Chateaudun-Crédit today?

Gaëtan du Halgouët. Today, our team of 35 employees supports over 1,000 French and international clients in helping them to negotiate, set up and optimise their financing of receivables or stock. This financing all tolled represents around 6 billion euros. Down the years, we have integrated and developed the skills and tools necessary to be a success in our stock factoring and financing operations for our clients.

T. R. In June, 2018, we took over Cetrafact, a factoring coordination software programme. The development and integration of this software with our clients is led by a team of ten consultants and developers. Cetrafact has seen sharp growth and will hire four new employees by March 2021. It is a genuine asset for our clients.

"Our role is to help clients choose the right partner"

You regularly work alongside companies undergoing restructuring. What are the primary challenges at stake in such situations?

G. du H. What matters, more often than not, is the urgency on the one hand, and the scale of financing on the other. If a factoring agreement is already in place, we work out whether it is possible to gain more significant financing from the existing partner and, if not, quickly change factors. Faced with bankruptcy and legal administration, factoring companies do not all respond in the same manner. Some of them offer support, whilst others restrict their financing, and some even prefer to pull out altogether. Our role is to help clients choose the right partner. In the framework of a corporate restructuring operation, financial management is under immense pressure. We ensure that the company, despite its financial difficulties, is not imposed any particular financing strategy by its environment and can make an enlightened and objective choice.

T. R. Precisely, banks around the negotiating table often seek to impose their own factoring subsidiaries. And yet, the choice of a factor is key to the company. Calling on our services allows companies to better use the leverage of competition between market stakeholders to gain the best possible offer, as well as to transfer the pressure imposed by banks towards a third party over whom they have less control. In the framework of insolvency proceedings, companies also have a very effective negotiating lever with creditors.

Can you provide us with examples of some solutions suited to the context of corporate restructuring?

G. du H. We recently carried out an assignment for a French automobile parts manufacturer who employed 600 people. This subsidiary of a US group who could no longer withstand the sharp drop in business during the Covid lockdown had to file for bankruptcy. As is often the case, the company already had a factor, which was a subsidiary of one of the banks in its pool. Initially, our role was to seek a new factor as an emergency, to deal with a suspension or financial stoppage by the factor during the observation period. Very quickly, we set up a new factoring agreement for the Newco which took over the assets under the assignment plan in court. In this very complex case, the court accepted that the shareholder also make the takeover.

T. R. We also supported a company in the para-petroleum sector for the takeover of French drilling activities from a large group. As these business activities were suffering heavy losses, we had to convince a factor to support the turnaround project, whilst also negotiating competitive rates. The oil and petroleum sector has been heavily affected and we had to actively negotiated with credit insurers to ensure we had sufficient guarantees to cover the company’s clients and ensure financing of receivables by the factor.

G. du H. These examples show that we are far from simply negotiators. We coordinate projects from start to finish. Several core professions and skills are required to implement a factoring programme from legal to IT, and also negotiation. Our role is to co-pilot and coordinate operations with management and all related departments in the company, teams of factors, credit insurers, and all the time respecting often tight deadlines.

T. R. Companies who are turning around financial difficulties, their shareholders or legal teams, call on our services thanks to our ability to diagnose margins for manoeuvre, to recommend concrete solutions and implement action plans. Our advanced knowledge of factoring stakeholders and ability to launch urgent negotiations allows us to secure the very best conditions.

What is your position in this market?

T. R. Originally, our work was focused on assessing the potential of financing and negotiation of terms and conditions with factors. It expanded down the years, going on to include all project stages, including negotiation of clauses and revision of agreements, discussion with legal teams and auditors, technical implementation and coordination of the daily agreement via our factoring software. Moreover, we support companies during the entire lifetime of a factoring programme. And finally, with Haro, our stock pledge entity, we assist companies in seeking additional financing by using their stocks as security.

"We are far from simply negotiators. We coordinate projects from start to finish"

What was the purpose behind creatin Haro in 2010?

T.R. The creation of Haro was part of our desire to expand our factoring consultancy business to include another important component of rolling fund requirements, namely stock. With Haro, we consolidated our national coverage with five regional offices. Haro became the second largest market operator and offered an innovative alternative to the usual practices in stock securities.

What is the contribution made by Haro in the stock securities sector?

T.R. We observed that the securities market was undergoing constant growth, with very few stakeholders and innovation. We developed a new auditing and stock valuation method so as to offer banks increased security. We also innovated by creating an extranet, "mongage.com", aimed at automating and computerising all discussions between a company, Haro and the bank. This collaborative online platform allows us to supervise and value stocks in a constant manner. It manages all legal documents, visit reports and stock performance indicators. As a result, web ring increased security, more services and more implicitly to stock financing stakeholders.

Read the full interview
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