Dominique Senequier, the French founder and president of Ardian, says negotiations could go well if Brussels is prepared for some kind of compromise, but says she is concerned that politicians in Brussels and other European cities could take a line that drives the UK and the EU further apart. Ardian manages $ 60 billion.
“Unfortunately I would say that we are in a period of the world where extreme politics arise,” said Senequier, 63, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in her Paris office. “The negotiation could go well if Brussels is more open – like in a divorce – to some kind of compromise.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May plans to start negotiations by the end of March. The talks on Brexit could be further complicated by elections in France and Germany next year which will distract politicians, Senequier said.
She said EU politicians should heed a warning from former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger to resist including a “punitive element” in their bargaining position. “Punishing the UK will not solve the question of how to operate a common currency in the absence of a common fiscal policy,” Kissinger wrote in The Wall Street Journal in June.
“The problem is, will our politicians listen?” Senequier said.
Political rhetoric is intensifying ahead of negotiations. May said last week that curbing migration would be her priority. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in parliament last month that “we will be ready as a fit boxer.”
Senequier draws parallels between the current political and economic climate, and the rise in popularity of nationalist political movements, and the 1930s, when dictators including Adolf Hitler rose to power in Europe in the wake of the stock market crash of 1929. “This kind of unstable economic environment unfortunately has, one of the consequences, is unfortunately often – like in the 30s – the increase of extreme parties,” Senequier said.
Despite the political challenges, Senequier said she is “not convinced” that decades of increasing economic globalisation is starting to reverse. Corporate executives in Europe want to expand their companies worldwide, and the debt of governments is widely owned by institutions on continents across the globe, including Asia, she said. The interdependence of national economies makes it tougher for national leaders to act without consulting others, she said.
“Globalisation is so big,” she said. “The consequences of unilateral decisions are so big that people will be prevented from taking unilateral decisions.”
Ardian invests in companies worldwide by acquiring them directly or through other private-equity funds. It also lends to companies and invests in infrastructure projects. The Paris-based company is currently raising its first real-estate fund.
Senequier started the company 20 years ago as a unit of French insurer AXA. Ardian became independent in 2013 when Senequier and her colleagues bought control with backing from investors, including French luxury-goods maker Hermès. Senequier is also vice-chair of the supervisory board of Hermès.
Senequier favorably contrasted today’s globally interconnected economy with the restrictive business practices she experienced in France during the 1980s, when she worked on her first acquisition of a British insurer.
“At that time I needed an approval from the French Ministry of Economy to send the money to pay the seller in England,” she said. “I think markets and businesses adjust to every kind of situation.”
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This article was published by The Wall Street Journal