TFG heard from Bpifrance (formerly under the CoFace umbrella) around the current market and appetite for lending to French exporters, discussing market opportunities and France’s largest trading partners, as well as the biggest worries for SME exporters in France and how the ECA is supporting them.

Featuring: Maëlia Dufour, Director – International Relations, Business Development, Rating

Host: Deepesh Patel, Editor, Trade Finance Global

Deepesh Patel: Maëlia, thank you very much for joining us on Trade Finance Talks TV. A pleasure to have you on the show. Could you give us a brief introduction?

Maëlia Dufour: I’m Maëlia Dufour, from France and my role at Bpifrance, is Director of International Relations, Business Development and Rating in the ECA division.

Bpifrance is a public investment bank, with 3000 employees, that has three subsidiaries: one that provides financing to companies, the second one that provides investment, and the other one is the ECA; the French Export Credit Agency.

The Export Credit Agency was transferred from Coface on the 1st January 2017, creating what is now a subsidiary within Bpifrance. 

From Coface to Bpifrance

DP: Why did the ECA move from Coface to Bpifrance?

MD: Good question. This was a government decision – they wanted to create a ‘one-stop shop’ for companies, particularly SMEs, in order to find access to finance, investment and credit insurance in one single place.

Moreover, within Bpifrance there is also an export finance department which can provide up to 25 million euros of export financing on a single basis, and up to 75 million euros if it is co-funded with another bank. With this structure Bpifrance can effectively provide both export financing from the bank and credit insurance from the ECA. 

The second reason for transferring from Coface was to lean on the tremendous regional network of Bpifrance within France; a network of many advisors in 48 regional offices, with specialists that can help SMEs to export or to increase their exports. Bpifrance also has international area managers in Singapore, Dubai, Kenya, New York and Germany, who are very useful for assisting SMEs working in other markets, particularly in the business around buyers overseas, relationships and contracts.

Interview: TFG spoke to Vinco David, Secretary General of the Berne Union on Export Credit and Investment Insurance appetite for 2020

Trade Finance Talks

Exporting from France: Team France Export

DP: When it comes to trade promotion, what are the biggest issues and challenges facing French companies looking to export or grow their current export operations?

MD: Bpifrance is geared towards promoting trade exports for SMEs. Our experts help advise on the different products available for helping SMEs finance exports. The ‘Team France Export’, along with Business France, helps companies navigate some of the challenges around exporting, as well as developing connections with potential overseas buyers.

We’ve noticed an increase in demand from SMEs by around 30% since 2017 – something must be working!

French ECA Landscape

DP: What does the ECA landscape look like currently in France, given the current geopolitical and macroeconomic situation?

MD: Compliance is certainly at the front of mind for most businesses right now, as well as sanctions.

As an example, Russia was one of our biggest exposure in amounts a few years ago, but this has fallen due to sanctions restrictions. Russia concluded numerous contracts with French companies, particularly in the space, infrastructure, oil and gas sectors. We also see similar issues now with Brazil.

In terms of opportunities, we have a lot of exposure in the Middle East and Asia, and we’re increasingly providing export finance into Africa lots of opportunities here!

Navigating 2020 for French Exporters

DP: What advice would you recommend for French SMEs looking to navigate the rest of 2020, and how can Bpifrance help with that?

MD: We have an inhouse team of economists at Bpifrance to advise us on country risks. We also have a strong network with French embassies under the Ministry of Finance. We work closely with these networks to help our SMEs in terms of providing financing arrangements for particular projects in different jurisdictions.

On the trade promotion front, we also have many successful stories and case studies which we promote to share learnings as well as opportunities. One example, Fonroche, a French SME that provides street lighting. It recently concluded a large lighting contract which was a roaring success, and partly thanks to some of the products from the Bpifrance team.

Bpifrance also facilitates face to face meetings, networking and opportunities amongst our regional offices to help SMEs across the region. 

DP: Maelia, thank you very much for giving us an oversight on the French market. Look forward to hearing from you soon!

MD: Thank you very much. It was a pleasure!