Helping China Inc to master M&As

Updated 2017-11-13 10:02:58 China Daily
Olivier de Clermont-Tonnerre, chief strategy and corporate development officer at China National BlueStar (Group) Co Ltd. (China Daily)

Olivier de Clermont-Tonnerre, chief strategy and corporate development officer at China National BlueStar (Group) Co Ltd. (China Daily)

Clermont-Tonnerre aligns BlueStar's chemical expertise with national quest for quality of growth

Mergers and acquisitions, or M&As, are akin to raising a child-they take time and require wisdom. That is the philosophy of Olivier de Clermont-Tonnerre, 66, chief strategy and corporate development officer at China National BlueStar (Group) Co Ltd, which is engaged in new chemical materials and animal nutrition.

The Frenchman must know-he is an expert in cross-border M&As, and has been involved in many such deals featuring Chinese companies.

The mild-mannered, charismatic corporate executive believes in preserving and synthesizing corporate cultures of companies that merge or are involved in acquisitions.

So spectacular is his track record in effecting successful M&As in a way that strengthens local industry and boosts economic growth that the Chinese government included him among this year's Friendship Award winners.

"I'm very proud (to receive the award) as it is given to only a select few, all experts from different sectors," said Clermont-Tonnerre, sitting in a meeting room at the company's Beijing headquarters.

He joined BlueStar, a subsidiary of China National Chemical Corporation, or ChemChina, in 2007. He now holds the additional post of director, which means he spends loads of time trying to strengthen the company in every conceivable way.

He has been instrumental in BlueStar's acquisition of Rhodia Silicones, Elkem and REC Solar and founding of BlueStar Silicones International or BSI, all major deals that helped consolidate the company's silicone business worldwide.

"The most important part of the acquisition is to make sure that the management of the target company is supporting the vision you have. And we cooperate fully in order to create one company from two different cultures and two different backgrounds," he said.

The post-merger integration is the most difficult part to manage, he said. "Making an acquisition takes time. But integrating a company into a totally 'new baby', which is the combination of your own business and the business your acquired, is most difficult."

Adept at integrating managements and cultures, he also participated in ChemChina's billion takeover of Swiss agrochemical giant Syngenta AG. It remains China's biggest foreign acquisition to date.

Chinese companies including State-owned enterprises or SOEs have to tread the path of overseas M&As with care and caution, he said.

Companies must "pay a premium" to acquire leading companies with good technology and management. They must focus on their core business, their strengths, rather than using M&As to diversify, he said.

"Chinese companies need to target strong, not troubled, companies. Sometimes, Chinese companies acquire French firms that are in serious trouble. It's almost impossible for Chinese managers in China, which is so far away from France, to fix the problems.

"Don't only look at the assets and the plants. Make sure they have strong management, customer recognition, technology or know-how and cost competitiveness."

Asked about his views of the Chinese economy, Clermont-Tonnerre said: "It's obviously amazing. I admire how the huge country ensures it has the necessary infrastructure, energy, water and raw material supplies in order to sustain, year after year, the growth rate of about 7 percent.

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