Customer relationship: acquired by a Belgian fund, Webhelp now targets a pan-African clientele - JeuneAfrique.com

In early August, the Brussels Lambert Group took control of Webhelp, a French specialist in five countries on the continent, for 800 million euros. The aim of the GBL investment fund is to make it the first pan-African player in the customer relationship by 2025.

Less than a month after entering into exclusive negotiations with the US investment fund KKR, the Belgian investor Groupe Bruxelles Lambert (GBL) has signed a contract to take majority control of French Webhelp, a global player in the relationship customer. Cost of the operation: 800 million euros. The founders Frédéric Jousset and Olivier Duha remain minority shareholders.

Time and capital

After having experienced an all-round development (+ 240% of turnover between 2015 and 2019) and doubled its size in four years thanks to the arrival in the capital of the US investment fund KKR in 2015 - carrying its figure of 2018 business to 1,3 billion euros -, Webhelp now wants to take advantage of the longer term commitment (between seven and ten years) of a family holding company controlled indirectly and equally by the heirs of Belgian billionaire Albert Frère and the Canadian Paul Desmarais.

Africa is growing

"We needed time and capital to open up new countries and make acquisitions," said Vincent Bernard, president of Webhelp for the French-speaking area. Very "opportunistic" in his own words, the group's African strategy is now more involved: "Africa is growing and we want to be more proactive by becoming a player in business development".

Invest new countries

In other words, the group 55 000 employees in 35 countries including about 18 000 on the continent, intends to continue the implantations in countries where it is already established. A new center will open in Morocco in Marrakech in October. Algeria, Madagascar, Ivory Coast and South Africa will also have one more center by the end of 2019.

He also wants to invest new territories. Among the potential countries: Benin, Senegal, Cameroon or Togo where Majorel recently beat him by grabbing the Amazon client. East Africa is also one of the regions surveyed for its English-speaking clients.

Beyond internal growth, the group founded in 2000 by Olivier Duha and Frédéric Jousset also probe the continent in search of acquisition. The ultimate goal is to establish itself as a pan-African player for Africa by attracting local SMEs and international clients located on the continent. "With the United States and Latin America, Africa is one of the three pillars of our development," confirms Vincent Bernard. By 2025, Webhelp intends to double its revenue 2019, estimated at more than 1,5 billion euros.

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