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Interview – Catherine Debray

Group Treasury Manager, Assystem

“We adjust our forecasts every month”

In which business and countries is Assystem involved?

We are a leading company in Europe in engineering and in innovation advice. Assystem is involved in two major areas: outsourced research and development in product design and process engineering involving the construction and operational maintenance of complex installations. Assystem is an industry specialist not only in nuclear power, which was at the root of the company’s creation in 1966, but also in aeronautics – with, notably, the best aerostructure department in Europe – the automotive industry, defence, and pharmaceuticals. The business gets 60% of its turnover from ten customers, major international companies including EADS, EDF, Thales and Areva. The company, which reached a turnover of EUR 613m in 2009, 30% of which was achieved abroad, employs over 8,500 people in a dozen countries. There are subsidiaries in the UK and Germany, two countries where this company’s presence is very significant, and also in Italy and Spain and even Romania and India. The company has been listed since 1995, when it took the name Assystem. Equity is negotiated by Euronext. Paris, and its market capitalisation reached EUR 216m on 17  March 2010, the day after the publication of the 2009 annual financial report.

What principles do you use in the treasury structure?

One aim over the last few years has been to centralise almost all cash flow and deal with each risk at a single point. With the centralisation of cash flow, since 2007 the company has opted for an international cash pool in euros, whereas in France we work with four cash pools corresponding to the major banks who handle our finances. This system works well and we do not have any reason right now to review it.  

One aim over the last few years has been to centralise almost all cash flow and deal with each risk at a single point.

On the other hand, we have not ruled out superimposing a cash pool in sterling. Debt is also managed centrally and its restructuring was well-timed before the summer of 2008, before the crisis had had any impact, thanks to the settlement of bilateral credit lines, the settlement of previously issued Obsar [bonds with redeemable share subscription warrants] and the issue of a new block of Obsaar [bonds with warrants and/or with redeemable share purchase warrants] with an expiration date of 2013, operations which were completed upon the granting by our five banks of an undrawn syndicated revolving credit facility of EUR 55m. On the subject of our bond debt, which amounts to EUR 91m, we renegotiated a swap and a cap at the beginning of the year which were linked to the new Obsaar, in order to take advantage of the favourable interest rates. As a result the cost of our debt is less than 3%.