Let’s dive into an investment group that we hear little about, although it is led by well-known experts with a track record of helping fellow entrepreneurs succeed. A member of HLD Europe’s board of directors is none other than serial entrepreneur Xavier Buck.
(Featured Image: Xavier Buck / Image Credit © Olivier Minaire)
An entrepreneurial approach
HLD is an investment group created by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. Founded in 2010 by Jean-Philippe Hecketsweiler, Jean-Bernard Lafonta and Philippe Donnet, HLD was born out of a desire to support, with no restrictions on duration, the development of European companies from all sectors. From the very beginning, several shareholders – leading entrepreneurs – joined the project. Since then, as true partners, the group has invested with the aim to support companies in their growth across Europe and abroad. It focuses on the long term in order to strengthen their leadership. HLD Europe was opened in Luxembourg in 2015.
“When they approached me to join them in 2015, I was initially surprised because their funds did not look like any of those with which I worked or which had invested in my companies. The entrepreneurial approach really appealed to me,” Buck said.
Chosen for his knowledge of the Luxembourg ecosystem and his vast experience in the internet sector, Buck recently joined the boards of two startups in the fund’s portfolio: Gekko and Alchimie. A few weeks ago, Gekko made headlines when it was acquired by AccorHotels for €100 million. The startup specializes in hotel reservation services and impressed one of the leaders in the hospitality industry. After investing in 2015, HLD has just completed one of its most impressive “exits” thus far.
“A big difference at HLD is that it doesn’t force itself to sell at a set time, as other investment funds usually do after about five years.”
An investment capacity of €250 million
“A big difference at HLD is that it doesn’t force itself to sell at a set time, as other investment funds usually do after about five years. The Filorga example is the most telling. In 2010, the company generated €10 million in sales and we invested to support the development of their business. Today, the company is still in our portfolio, with an average growth of 30 percent per year, a presence in the Chinese market and many interested buyers. However, we keep Filorga in our portfolio. For Gekko, the AccorHotels Group offer seemed appropriate, as did the price. That’s why we sold the company,” explained Buck, who will leave its Board of Directors following the acquisition. “It’s a beautiful story. Together we launched the service in Spain, Portugal and Belgium and experienced more than 15 percent growth each year.”
All of HLD’s investors and shareholders are entrepreneurs or have an entrepreneurial background. Thanks to their respective networks, everyone plays their part in the business by proposing projects. With around twenty files to review per year, the HLD Group makes three to four investments ranging from €10 to 50 million.
Play the Luxembourg card
For the record, HLD does not have many projects in Luxembourg, if any at all, though the Luxembourg administration is currently presenting some promising files. The group invests in fast-growing projects in buoyant markets and in managers with common sense and a great deal of ambition. This is the case with Alchimie, a company that designs and distributes entertainment applications for mobiles and tablets, generating a turnover of €80 million. The investment made by HLD enabled the team to conduct a management buyout and become a shareholder of the company.
At the moment, HLD Group’s investments are mainly French. Among them are Coyote, Elivie, SVR, Funbridge and Le Couvent des Minimes.
“This is one of the scenarios HLD likes because it supports a team that will be more motivated if it becomes a shareholder. HLD brings knowledge and partnership,” Buck said. “I’m learning a lot. The quality of the people I deal with is remarkable. For example, we made a takeover bid earlier this year for Tessi, the French leader in the digital transformation of document and payment flows, customer marketing and the processing of currency and gold transactions. This is the very first time I saw such an operation from the inside. It was exciting!”
At the moment, HLD Group’s investments are mainly French. Among them are Coyote, Elivie, SVR, Funbridge and Le Couvent des Minimes. The company remembers its first European investment, an investment in Italian company M-Cube, specialists in digital marketing and point-of-sale multimedia. With the Decaux family among its shareholders, there is no doubt that HLD made a smart investment.
“We continue to attract more and more companies and startups to Luxembourg and create a favorable ecosystem, which allows the emergence of companies with strong growth potential.”
Luxembourg, home of HLD Europe
“The banks have warmly welcomed us, including BIL and Rothschild with whom we have made a bond issue, listed on the stock exchange (euro bonds), with its clients/investors. We are playing the Luxembourg card because we have become a real Luxembourgish fund and are working with local banking institutions. We have a real desire to invest in a Luxembourgish project. For the moment, the opportunity has not presented itself, but I’m sure it will come. We continue to attract more and more companies and startups to Luxembourg and create a favorable ecosystem, which allows the emergence of companies with strong growth potential,” Buck concluded.