EuroBusiness Media (EBM): Altran, the global leader in innovation and high-tech engineering consulting, reports results for 2013. Philippe Salle, hello, you are the Chairman & Chief Executive of Altran. What are some of your takeaways from your results and the highlights from 2013?
Philippe Salle: 2013, for the Groupe Altran, has been a year of investment. We started the year quite badly, slowly and we decided to launch some productivity plans. For me, I would say the image of the year was in two parts: the first part of the year, H1, was quite difficult. And H2, the second part, was much better in terms of business, and also in terms of profitability.
EBM: You mentioned the productivity improvement plan. What was the impact of that plan launched at the beginning of 2013?
Philippe Salle: The impact started already in H2, because we have been able to post, for the first time, 11%, or even more, EBIT for the group and also it will continue to have some impact in 2014. We definitely think that half of the impact was in H2 and the full impact will be in 2014.
EBM: What is the state of the R&D market, the outsourced R&D market, today? Where do you sit vis-à-vis your competitors and why do you think that this is still a growth market for Altran?
Philippe Salle: First, it is a growth market, and it is a sizeable market. We estimate the size of the market, the outsourced R&D market, around €100 billion plus at worldwide level, with big zones: the first one being North America, and specifically the United States more than Canada; the Euro zone, of course; and Asia, particularly China, India, Korea and Japan. But this market is growing, also because more and more clients are spending more and more on R&D, because it will fuel the growth of their customers. We are quite a unique company on that landscape because we have a truly global company, we have also presence in the US, in Europe and in Asia, and we can cover the needs of our international clients on all continents.
EBM: You recently acquired Foliage, a US company specialised in innovative product development. What are you hoping to gain through this acquisition and how does it fit in with your overall acquisition strategy?
Philippe Salle: It fits with the strategy of innovative product development. In this area, we have a company named Cambridge Consultants that is right now working mainly in the UK and in Europe. And the strategy we have with Cambridge Consultants is to have a three-fit strategy: one in the US, one in Europe, and one in Asia. We opened in Asia last year, mainly in Singapore, to tackle the Asian market, but it’s still small, of course. And we decided to accelerate the growth and the presence of Cambridge Consultants in the US with Foliage. So Foliage fits with the strategy to be big in the US, which is important for Cambridge Consultants.
EBM: And finally, what is your outlook for 2014 and are you still on track to meet all of the targets you set for yourself in your strategic plan for 2013?
Philippe Salle: First, the start of this year is much better than the start of 2013, and even the start of 2012. So, we think that with the productivity plans we launched last year we are also better positioned to take part of the growth in this market. The sentiments, the confidence of the clients is much better this year than it was last year. And we are still quite confident on the target of 2015. We still think we can reach €2 billion in sales and we still think we can reach the 11% EBIT next year.
EBM: Philippe Salle, Chairman & Chief Executive of Altran, thank you very much.
Philippe Salle: Thank you.