Courtesy of MRNews *
The announcement of the sale of Ifop Group with LFPI as the new majority shareholder is one of the major events of recent months in the marketing research industry. Why such a change? And what are the implications for this key player, as the first institute of its kind in France? The CEO, Stéphane Truchi, answers Market Research News’ questions.
MRNews : A few weeks ago, LFPI became the new majority shareholder of Ifop Group. What was the background to this sale ?
Stéphane Truchi (Ifop Group): A shareholder change is always an important event in the life of a company. This one is no exception to the rule. We are living the end of a cycle lasting 6 years, with Dentressangle and Pierre Pigeon’s holding company, after Laurence Parisot sold her shares in late 2016. This came after a phase of reconstruction of our group. In particular, we decided to sell our subsidiaries in Argentina and Canada in order to focus on the redeployment of Ifop, which was a bit of a sleeping beauty. The company’s presence in China was also a major strategic choice. Dentressangle and Pierre Pigeon arrived at a time when we needed to breathe new life into the company, with a better financial base. And it was a great success, between 2017 and 2022, we achieved 50% growth, 4 times the market average. We consolidated our business and gained a new competitive drive, with the acquisition in 2019 of Sociovision, which has not happened for a long time, and the establishment of our American subsidiary in 2020.
At the end of these 6 years, our shareholders considered that it was the right time for them to sell their shares at an attractive price. This also corresponded to a strategic choice by Dentressangle: to concentrate its portfolio on larger companies. On our side, we had to move to a new stage of development. We have, therefore, spent the necessary time, since September last year, to find the most suitable actor to accompany us.
Why LFPI ?
LFPI is a French fund with a very reassuring profile. Its aim is to support companies over the long term. We are not in the race for performance at all costs, but rather in a prudent, reasonable LBO, with our management team present in the share ownership. We defined a business plan in consultation with LFPI, around a project we believe in. And we do have a growth perspective, with LFPI having about three times the capital base of our previous shareholder. This change comes at a time when the company is in good health, which is a very favourable factor. 2022 will be one of the best years in the history of Ifop Group, with 10% growth. We are having a good first year in the US, and we are experiencing very good momentum in China with the post-Covid 19 rebound, where we are exceeding our targets. This transition was agreed at the time we acquired Occurrence.
This was done according to the integration model we strive to implement, whereby the companies and brands that join us keep their own DNA and scope. Occurrence, like Sociovision beforehand, came to complement our skills in a very timely manner.
What does this fundamentally change in Ifop Group’s outlook ?
More than ever, we have a growth objective, with a new project involving three major axes. The first is crucial: our international development. It involves the global deployment of our Beauty and Luxury business. With a presence in the United States for North America, in China for Asia, and of course in France for Europe, we cover all the major cosmetics markets. This is an opportunity for us to launch a Beauty Worldwide matrix organisation, headed by Laure Friscourt. This is a decisive element for the future of the Group, with the idea of further strengthening the leadership we have built up in these strategic categories.
We will also continue to develop our Banking-Finance-Insurance business. Our perspective is to extend what we have done this year by establishing a dedicated team, under the leadership of Estelle Thomas. We have a strong legitimacy in this field, thanks to the ifop brand and the skills we can draw on. Moreover, our 2022 results are very positive, with good referrals from major accounts. This work, which extends beyond the BAF sector to the services field, is combined with the use of our expertise around CSR.
Ifop is one of the first institutes to have taken an interest in these issues, as Lise Brunet (Sociovision) recently mentioned in our dossier on “Good”. Is it a strategic field for Ifop?
Absolutely, it is! As Lise (Brunet) rightly pointed out, we have been pioneers in these matters. We were the first to create a Sustainable Development Observatory in 2002. At the time, Ifop one of the only companies to talk about this, and it puzzled a lot of people! We have never stopped working on this, and have acquired enormous expertise in brand and corporate responsibility, with barometers dedicated to these issues. Occurrence is also very involved in this with its founder, Assaël Adary. This is also true for Sociovision, which has an exceptional knowledge and database. Romain Bendavid, as part of his Corporate and Work Experience expertise, has developed an important role in the field of corporate responsibility. Therefore, this is clearly a priority area for Ifop Group.
The third major area of development concerns Occurrence, with its historical activity of evaluating communication systems and the consulting associated with these issues. Similarly, Deep Opinion, our subsidiary company enables us to operate in the field of Social Listening, an area where we want to strengthen our presence.
Will this growth project involve acquisitions ?
It almost certainly will. We have several projects to go over currently and we will study external growth opportunities with LFPI. However, our idea is not to grow for the sake of growing, but rather to seek out lines of business and expertise that are complementary to our own. We will, therefore, undoubtedly look at social listening, or related fields. However, we will probably not go into the “Tech” field per se. This is not within our scope, and the difficulties experienced by the large groups in bringing this expertise to life within their own organisations do not encourage us to do so. The geographical axis will certainly be present in this growth, in particular to consolidate our business in the USA or in Asia. There are also undoubtedly some very good things for us to do as an extension of our IQ business – Inspiring Qual. This activity is at the crossroads of quality, prospective studies and strategic planning, with a strong international dimension thanks to the background of Ilana Dupeyron, who is in charge of it. This is also one of the areas we want to develop.
What are the other major projects for Ifop at the moment ?
Isabelle Grange is doing a lot of work on the Ifop brand, in terms of coherence, digital presence, and the employer aspect. We are now very strong on the corporate level. This is reflected in the number of surveys we publish and the volume of visits to our site. During the last elections, we passed the milestone of 1,600,000 visits, which is incredible when you consider the size of our company. We have a strong presence on digital channels, including broadcasts on Twitch.tv. We now need to translate this strength into our employer branding. We will also embark on a major project to transform our workspace, Ifop Work. This will involve reorganising our premises to coincide with the arrival of the Occurrence teams.
As you can see, we have a lot on our plate. We have a lot of projects and there is a lot of creativity in the teams. I certainly don’t want to hinder this creativity, but rather encourage it as much as possible. It is part of Ifop’s charm. Not only do we have considerable assets, with the skill-set I mentioned, but also an extremely stable management team. We also have outstanding people with real intellectual influence in the company. We value the fact that we now have a shareholder who enables us to create while giving us the means to do so.