Altéa Packaging is a Tunisian group that is not experiencing crisis.. Specialized in packaging, the company is a” beautiful success story “. It has just bought an Egyptian company after buying back a French one.
Leading the group along with his father Hedi, Slim Zghal is level-headed and doesn’t get full of himself. The young man draws up calmly, wider international perspectives. We met him in Sousse on the sidelines of “Enterprise Days”,
Asked about the group recent moves, he said that the latter had just took over the sector leader in Egypt, namely two companies called “Porta Roto Pack” having good technical skills, which will be a platform for expansion in other countries, namely Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Turkey.
In terms of funding, the group cannot , for the time being release figures. Nevertheless, he added, I can say is that we are leader in Egypt. We have a consistent market share; the company is growing well and has much potential for development. Its turnover amounts to nearly 40 million dollars.
“We have invested heavily in Tunisia in 2007 and in particular we have made major investments outside Tunisia, as much as fifteen million dinars in the same business, that of flexible packaging. This is our fourth acquisition since our first one was carried out in Tunisia. We started by boosting our activity in the Tunisian market. We are involved in a market were clients are in general big ones who are ordering parties for many multinational or regional companies. Even at the domestic level, they are large-size ordering parties .We have suppliers that are also large-scale enterprises, and if we remain small, we will not be efficient. We are between a rock and a hard place”.
“There is a problem of size which makes business reliable , knowing that our international competitors are often beyond 1 billion turnover. I am proud to say that we succeed in France to take a stand in the face of people of that dimension. . The second aspect is related to the size which is important to attract skills. We have recruited a number of people having a very good level, both for Tunisian and foreign side, but with many Tunisian home. That is also another way to enhance these Tunisian skills and their know-how so they can go international. It allows us to consolidate a number of functions within the group, including R & D which is the development driving force. Third aspect; we are in a market involving global key players, well anchored in other parts of the world. As for the region we are interested in now, the southern Mediterranean which has access to Europe, there is no major player and the market is particularly crumbled. We also check the opportunity to be a single player in this market, and we are so from Morocco to Egypt, with a presence in Europe. That already makes us a regional leader in this sector, but we are not involved inn many sectors, due to several development strategic choices”.
“In Tunisian companies and groups record, some groups may have developed by opportunism and thanks to tax incentives and reinvestments. That was probably a good approach, but for the time being, we must decide what kind of business we have to be involved in. At the very beginning, we were a SME, we were not a large group and we remain very modest compared to our size, but we found out that we have a larger potential . So we set up “COGITEL” a leader in our sector in Tunisia and that made us hold a good position to develop as the regional leader in this business. The Tunisian market, although interesting, has its limits, including only 10 million consumers”.
“ We have drawn up a number of market studies involving the entire region, and we found out that that the biggest market in the region is that of Egypt, the second market is that of Saudi Arabia and the third is Algeria, these markets represent strong growth rates. Our strategy is to be present in the markets having very important development potential Being leader means that we can apply for a double digits growth. Along with “Roland” in Europe, we also export from Tunisia, and tomorrow from Algeria, Morocco or Egypt”.
“We have a huge market ahead of us where customers require certainly services, but also price, and we have a solution that can bring both, because we are not involved only in storage in France, but also in production and industry, so we can provide relevant service that goes with”.
“As far as half-finished products are concerned, Tunisia can feed a number of these sites that we have bought back, so, for example, when we sell a product to Egypt, its added value is shared between Tunisia and Egypt, and it helps develop both sides.
“In the area we are operating, unfortunately, the Sub-Saharan Africa, apart from the South Africa is not really large size We will obviously face logistical constraints in terms of export even if we export to Senegal, to Djibouti as well as to a number of countries. For the time being, our driving force is the South Mediterranean which is a huge market within our reach, and so is Europe that we prefer to enter rather than Africa”.
“I want to say that on the one hand we got a tremendous support provided by our Tunisian bankers. We carried out our development thanks to the participation of two investment funds in our capital which accelerated the management of the operations we launched abroad.
Unfortunately, for operations that may be of a certain size, there is a constraint in Tunisia that we understand, which deals with exchange. This means that if one must go through a number of permissions, which is still the case in Tunisia that can slow down certain operations in terms of external growth. Things will probably change. Omar Kabbaj who was African Development Bank chairman and now adviser to His Majesty the King of Morocco advocates the full liberalization of exchange in our countries (Morocco Algeria Tunisia). He believes that our economies are quite able to undergo such prospect”.
There are a lot of opportunities today, particularly in Europe. including France, which is culturally easier and accessible in terms of language, law, etc.. We can operate there. Personally I encourage my fellow citizens to go to work there and buy back companies in France. Today, there are a lot of companies facing bankruptcy, but there are also healthy firms, where the succession is not assured due to an aging entrepreneur or because he has no family for takeover. So these are all opportunities for us to go and buy back business in Europe”.
“Let me emphasize one thing. The banking sector provides a lot of advantages. Today we are very satisfied with the relationship. For stock market, the approach is different. When you raise funds in the banking sector, you must repay loans, and you must ensure the funding balance ; too much banking leverage becomes dangerous to entrepreneurs as well to lending banks. So we should not abuse the banking leverage. But if used correctly, relations with banks can lead to excellent financing . Now we must ensure the proper proportion of equity funds within the company”.
“We are endeavouring to gain maximum synergies from acquisitions we made. We tried to work on very interesting things such as know how because the companies we are owning today involve different expertise, we have extraordinary opportunities in terms of cross sailing between countries, there are many challenges we are concerned about. As for acquisitions, we do not reject opportunistic ones if they come to us”.