How should French businesses approach the German market?

Key insights from our report:

  • The German business landscape is unique, in that the market is characterized by a very large number of small and mid-sized enterprises (Mittelstand). These highly skilled businesses are often family-owned – it is common for them to have been in the family for three or four generations. They also tend to have strong entrepreneurial cultures, long-term strategic outlooks (meaning they are frequently undercapitalized), and value secrecy and independence above all else. All in all, they are not always straightforward to access or understand for foreign players.
  • Given the growing importance of the German market, acquiring these Mittelstand businesses has become a strategic priority for many foreign players, who are seeking to secure a long-term presence to this market, and access to its best-in-class equipment and products to increase their own attractiveness. This is fueling French buy-side demand for German assets: transactions are sharply on the rise, as the French seek out new customers, markets and enhanced product portfolios.
  • Although there is no magic formula and each deal will have its own strategic logic and challenges, there are a number of ways French buyers of German assets can ensure smoother and more successful acquisitions.
  • Successful deal-making in Germany requires a specific approach that is in alignment with counterparty expectations and the German cultural mindset. Carefully tailored M&A rules of engagement need to be followed.
  • Pre and post-deal challenges tend to be more complex in cross-border transactions, due to cultural, legal and geographic differences. Having the right people in the right place, and most importantly providing the right advice is essential.
Nicolas Balon
Nicolas Balon
Partner
France

“Germany is an attractive market which many French players find a challenge. A common approach is to replicate home country business strategies and M&A approaches, but these moves often fail as the German Mittelstand has its own codes. Experience and knowledge of cultural pitfalls are the keys to success.”

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