Amber Capital, polite agitator of European capitalism

What if 2021 was the year of recognition for activist funds in France? In March, Danone’s board ousted CEO Emmanuel Faber, a target of criticism from the modest British fund Bluebell. In April, Vinci put to the vote, in general assembly, two resolutions on the climate at the request of the British TCI. As for Amber Capital, Vivendi announced on September 15 that it was going to buy back its 18% stake in Lagardère.

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This sale ends the most epic shareholder battle of the decade. “When we arrived we were well received, but then the situation got tense. We had to return blow for blow “, relates Joseph Oughourlian, defector from Société Générale who founded the management company in London in 2005. “Never, on any file, have we had to face such violence. “ Was the game worth the candle? “We are satisfied with the return on investment and so are our investors”, emphasizes Olivier Fortesa, partner of the fund operating in France, Spain and Italy. With Mr. Oughourlian and Camilio Azzouz, they ensure that they make all the decisions together. And to continue: “Above all, we sincerely believe that we are leaving a group in much better shape than when we took a stake in 2016.”

If Amber directly manages around 1 billion euros, the financier can intervene in co-investment with his capital providers to influence the round table: he did so at Lagardère or at Prisa, the Spanish media group (shareholder minority of World), of which it holds 29.9%. Having become president of Prisa in December 2020, Joseph Oughourlian also admits that this role ” take a lot of time “. “I am convinced that I can bring something to Prisa, in particular on the ability to change people and give meaning to this society which has been lost through constant financial restructuring over the past thirteen years. We have renewed the management and half of the board of directors. “

“We must put profitability back into the equation”

With ten tickets in the capital of French groups, Amber appears to be one of the most involved activists in Paris. Even if this label displeases those concerned. “We are looking for a constructive approach to create value for society, employees and, consequently, shareholders”, says Camilio Azzouz. “Most of the time, our positions are below the first AMF reporting threshold [l’Autorité des marchés financiers], therefore non-public, and we work in perfect harmony with the managers of the companies ”, insists Olivier Fortesa.

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