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Servier x Coface: global programme and long-term confidence for breaking into new markets

How one of France’s leading pharmaceutical groups switched from local credit insurance initiatives to a robust global credit risk management programme to help its international expansion.

About Servier

 

Servier, France’s second leading pharmaceutical laboratory and the 34th largest pharmaceutical group in the world, is an independent international group founded in 1954. The Group specialises in cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, immuno-inflammation and neuropsychiatry through two core activities: it manufactures prescription drugs (originators) and generic medicines, including Biogaran, the market leader in France.

 

Servier has built its success on the commitment of its 21,400 employees to provide its prescription and generic medicines to patients in over 150 countries.

By the end of 2022, Servier's turnover stood at € 4.9 billion, up 10% year-on-year. EBITDA* represented 18% of Servier's sales revenue, reflecting the strong profitability of the group’s value creation model.

 

“Limited visibility of global client risk on our business portfolio”

A Coface client since 2016, Servier is a key player with a powerful international footprint, with over half its turnover generated outside the European Union. Headquartered in France, the pharmaceutical laboratory distributes its products in 150 countries via a network of third-party importers or through its subsidiaries. While originator drugs have grown organically, the generic branch has developed internationally through acquisitions. This was the case with EGIS, a major laboratory in Hungary and the former Eastern bloc, through which the Group now addresses generic export markets in neighbouring countries (Poland, Russia, Romania). Servier also acquired two entities in Nigeria and Brazil, both important domestic markets for the Group.

In spite of its multinational status, Servier lacked experience in credit insurance. Its trade credit risk management was based largely on a diverse range of policies in a handful of different countries. 

Our trade credit insurance practice was derived from local initiatives, which were managed asymmetrically by the relevant entities, each with its own provisions, contractual terms and conditions, local challenges and respective needs. We shared basic good practices in credit management, but Servier Central’s visibility remained limited, as was the control of global client risk on our business portfolio.

explains Cédric DONDAIN, International Treasurer, in charge of credit management for the Servier Group.

In 2016, Servier tasked AON – its long-standing broker partner – with launching a call for bids since the group was keen to develop a genuine credit risk management strategy and optimise performance. The aim was to structure the organisation of its credit insurance and extend it to other Servier entities around the world.

 

A global programme for breaking into new markets

Following discussions with the three world leaders in trade credit insurance (Allianz Trade, Atradius and Coface), Servier ultimately opted for Coface with its solutions dedicated to multinational companies: Coface Global Solutions (CGS). In order to balance the distribution of risks and upgrade the management of the various policies, Coface's underwriting experts and CGS teams designed a global credit insurance programme for Servier. And the ultimate aim? To structure and streamline each and every agreement by pooling the diverse range of client risks and geographies. 

This global solution, tailored to our needs, had the advantage of covering the risks in the different geographical locations of a global company like ours. The quality of Coface's business information about our pharmaceutical distributor clients made the difference too. 

analyses Cédric DONDAIN.

What’s more, Servier reaps the benefits of the services and expertise of a 100% dedicated organisation – including a lead risk underwriter and programme manager – together with a centralised reporting system using the CGS Dashboard. This digital solution offers a 360° view of exposures, assessments and credit opinions in all countries involved in the programme. 

“It was a big challenge. We started from scratch, but we managed to build a coherent programme that is robust and productive enough to support Servier's strategic challenges to conquer new international markets”, underlines Borislav TODOROV, Head of CGS Account Management for Coface in France.

Servier, which is already one of the world's top 3 in cardiovascular and metabolic disease, is now investing heavily in oncology, especially for the treatment of blood cancers (leukaemia). This new priority, which today accounts for 18% of sales, is growing fast. This is the result of the Group's new strategy and two key transactions: the 2018 acquisition of the oncology business of Shire (Irish laboratory) followed by the 2021 acquisition of the oncology portfolio of AGIOS laboratory, two strategic external developments that mark Servier's entry into the US market.

 

“The time value and quality of our collaboration have had a positive impact on the productivity gains of our programme”

Five new distribution subsidiaries have joined the Group trade credit insurance programme since its launch in 2016, demonstrating just how effective Coface's CGS solutions really are. 

"Every one of these countries has seen their turnover go up and their coverage rate improve! It’s all the more vital for Servier since subsidiaries are not obliged to sign up. This means we have to convince them that the programme is useful and effective not just for them but also in the collective interest and for pooling risk, which is important for the insurer. What’s more, one of our subsidiaries – which was a bit hesitant to start with – suffered a claim but without it being a total write-off. So it was clear to them just how advantageous it was to have credit insurance!! "  adds Cédric DONDAIN.

It’s a sign of the trust that the teams at Servier have in Coface that the programme has been renewed every two years since 2016 (and without a call for tenders!). At the moment it covers 28 policies in 26 countries with an insurable turnover that today stands at € 1.5 billion… or 10 times more than at the outset! 

The time value and quality of our collaboration have a positive impact on our programme’s high performance levels. We benefit from access to local risk underwriters, and we can also escalate up to Coface France. The good reciprocal knowledge between our two Groups, combined with the risk underwriters’ expertise and experience, enables us to adjust our coverage needs quickly – and, in tandem, the insurer's exposure – in economic environments that might well deteriorate rapidly”, concludes Cédric DONDAIN.

 

*EBIDTA: balance between operating income and expenses to obtain these results. It is estimated by adding profit from operating activities (otherwise known as EBIT) to depreciations and amortisations.

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