Informe de industria: Política europea
Nathalie Chollet y Frédéric Fiore detallan en el MIA el trabajo de rompehielos del Fondo Europeo de Inversiones
El organismo tiene como objetivo abrir el camino a un mayor número de inversiones en varios sectores estratégicos, como la industria audiovisual
Este artículo está disponible en inglés.
On 11 October, Rome’s MIA Mercato Internazionale dell’Audiovisivo hosted a discussion titled “Unlocking Growth: Exploring the European Investment Fund,” which saw the participation of Nathalie Chollet, of the European Investment Fund (EIF), and Frédéric Fiore, President of Logical Pictures, one of the beneficiaries of the fund (who also served as the moderator).
To begin, Chollet explained that EIF is based in Luxembourg and part of the European Investment Bank group. In detail, EIF covers growth, expansion and mid-market funds, offering SMEs in their growth phase access to equity and hybrid debt-equity finance. To simplify, EIF works as an intermediary and as an investor in private equity funds. Managing over 500 lines in their portfolio, EIF doesn’t invest directly in projects or companies but it can be considered more as “a fund for other funds.”
Thus, the EIF’s role is that of an icebreaker which can bring new financing to a given sector, especially the ones that are ideally “strategic and vital,” Fiore pointed out. Set up 20 years ago, the EIF team is made of “risk-takers” who are provided “with specific budgets which can be invested according to certain objectives” and vary depending on the organisation which has given them a “mandate.” These include national and regional agencies which have set goals in a number of sectors, including green transition, cyber security and, obviously, the digital and cultural sector.
Through the money granted by MediaInvest, EIF is for the first time investing into funds such as the one managed by Logical Pictures. “That’s why we call it an equity mandate. We work with fund managers, and our focus is on content production and distribution, including films, series or other audiovisual works,” said Chollet, adding how their partners must be necessarily SMEs or mid-caps whose workforce doesn’t exceed 500 employees.
Fiore explained that, in order to be eligible for EIF participation, he has set up a fund, Logical Content Ventures, regulated under France’s financial authorities and with Logical Pictures serving as the fund manager. Thus, EIF acts as one of their financiers who can bring the money into their fund, which the team can later roll out into the projects. He admitted how the whole process can take a lot of time and energy, since many may not be ready to get on board such an institutional investor, with several adjustments required along the way.
One of the main obstacles faced when it comes to intercepting investors outside of the audiovisual industry, Fiore argues, is that they find putting money into films “too dangerous.” He insisted that it’s necessary to convince them “it’s not more dangerous, actually less, than investing in venture capital,” where “you can bet that nine times out of ten you’ll earn zero” and “you just rely on one to get your money back.” Besides, Europe’s soft money reduces risks further with a “down case scenario that is still acceptable,” he added.
Of course, there are some restrictions that need to be taken into account. Most of the EIF interventions must be aimed at entities actively based in the EU or EFTA and to “European works,” whose legal definition is similar to that adopted by the MEDIA framework. Moreover, it’s believed that these rules may help European authors to retain their IP rights.
When asked about EIF’s take on the current state of the audiovisual business in Europe, Chollet said “it matches what the industry thinks.” The main problems are getting investors on board “because of this fear of risking” while chasing “people dreaming about projects that may never happen,” the lack of internationalisation in terms of management, and the struggle to finance larger projects reasonably fast.
Later, she summarised the whole EIF application process. After applications are submitted, the team drafts a first analysis and applicants are invited to engage in a broader discussion with the EIF. EIF internal discussions follow along with due diligence checks, until the investment is eventually signed. EIF aims to build long-term relationships, set to last “at least ten years.” Throughout, solid reporting and documentation is needed, and the paperwork may be “quite heavy” owing to EIF’s special scope.
Sharing his perspective as an applicant and beneficiary, Fiore disclosed he wasn’t particularly “destabilised” by the information requested in terms of return and portfolio. “What surprised me is the level of analysis you carried on the business plan. I discovered later in the process you repeat the business plan entirely, just to check whether we did the maths correctly and if our assumptions were right, and this is also an important safety net for us.”
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