The holding company of the Frère and Desmarais families ready to seize the opportunities of the crisis

Neither its wave of acquisitions in 2021 nor the current geopolitical upheavals are quenching GBL’s thirst. “We will be attentive and agile in the very uncertain context that we are going through today,” said Ian Gallienne, CEO of the holding company of the Frère and Desmarais families, during the presentation of its annual results. We are actively working on investment projects involving quality private assets with high growth potential”. The environment caused by the war in Ukraine could offer “new opportunities”, estimates the investment company which has 4.4 billion euros in liquidity.

GBL, which saw its revalued net assets (key financial performance indicator for holding companies reflecting the valuation of portfolio companies restated for debt) climb by 10% in 2021, to 22.5 billion euros, judges the direct impact on its restricted activities at this stage. “The war in Ukraine and the sanctions being deployed towards Russia, and the strong financial tensions that ensue have direct repercussions that are still limited for most companies”, indicates the holding shareholder of the inspection specialist SGS , active in Russia, but also Pernod Ricard, Adidas, Holcim and Imerys.

The spirits group has announced that it will suspend its exports to Russia, a country which represents 2% to 3% of its sales, as well as the sports brand. GBL’s stake in these two companies alone represents more than 45% of its revalued net assets in listed companies, which reached 16.93 billion.

10% increase in dividend

Like the rest of the market, the investment company anticipates on the other hand “indirect effects on the activities of its portfolio companies”. “Dedicated monitoring is in place,” she adds.

GBL is in any case determined to move forward with its roadmap, and to strengthen its position in private assets, such as Canyon and Voodoo. From 17%, their share rose to 25% of its assets to 2.4 billion last year, and the holding company wants to further increase their weight to 40%.

Its profit last year fell by 112% to 279 million euros, due to the change in debts to minority shareholders of Webhelp (506 million euros), whose value increased. Also weighed mark-to-market derivatives associated with bonds.

This does not prevent the investment company from remunerating its investors comfortably. “This confidence in the future leads us to increase returns to our shareholders with a proposed dividend up 10%, to 2.75 euros, and share buybacks of 407 million euros in 2021, which continue in 2022”, announces the leader.

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