Business France: The Court of Auditors makes its observations

In 2015, the French International Investment Agency (Afii) and Ubifrance, two public institutions, merged with Business France. Placed under the supervision of the Ministries responsible for Economy, Foreign Affairs and Territories, this new public industrial and commercial enterprise (Epic) was entrusted with four main tasks: the international development of enterprises and their exports, which mainly deal with SMEs and EITs. , management, promotion and development of international voluntary work in companies (VIE), development of foreign investment in France by discovering and supporting foreign investor projects, as well as promoting France’s economic image abroad. The Court has examined the results of this merger and the fulfillment of Business France’s recently revealed missions.

2015-2018: from merger to new strategy

The merger process was initiated in 2015 and until 2017 and was characterized by some internal difficulties and a delay in the definition of the company’s new strategic orientations. Its costs, estimated at € 8.54 million by Business France, are under control and lower than expected. In addition, Business France benefits from € 101 million in state subsidies out of a total of € 472 million in revenue and is dependent on a workforce of 1,493 full-time equivalents working in 2019. In 2018, following a change in general management. in mid-2017 and the renewal of public support for foreign trade announced by the Prime Minister in February, Business France negotiated and signed a contract of objectives and funds (COM) with the state, which has defined the roadmap until 2022 and assigns it five objectives , including the establishment of a Team France Invest and a Team France Export, both in French territories and abroad, in order to bring together all the competent public actors in terms of the internationalization of French companies and their attractiveness.

Better daily and financial management

In its conclusions, the Court notes, from 2015 to 2020, continuous progress in the day-to-day management of the company, in particular with regard to the management of human resources and the rationalization of the building stock. In addition, major IT projects were successfully completed to support the implementation of Team France Export. The institution believes that the company within each of these management areas must pursue a dynamic with continuous improvements. In addition, the institution’s financial situation appears to be under control and the financial resources exceed the forecasts.

However, the health crisis has had serious consequences for Business France’s level of activity and financial situation in light of the sharp fall in commercial revenues, especially those due to international voluntary work in business (VIE), which forms an important part of the company. the resources of the institution. According to the Court, the pandemic may lead to a re-examination of the downward trajectory of the subsidy for the public service tax provided for in the common organization of the market.

To a consolidation of Team France Export

In 2018 and 2019, Business France, accompanied by the network of chambers of commerce and industry, deployed Bpifrance and regional development agencies, Team France Export (TFE) in French regions and abroad. The development is well underway and supported by step-by-step creation of a common digital tool to facilitate customer management, which according to the Court must be continued. However, the Team France Export network needs to be consolidated and simplified, and the dynamics of cooperation between the regions and the rest of the TFE need to be strengthened. The Court also emphasizes the need to further integrate Bpifrance into this national support team for the internationalization of companies and to complete the merger of the network of international advisers from the CCIs and Business France.

Towards greater impact of Business France actions

According to the data he provided, Business France customers are generally satisfied with the service provided (at a rate of between 89% and 96% depending on the evaluation methods), but the economic consequences and social aspects of Business France’s actions are still uncertain. In fact, almost every other company supported by Business France considers that they have not received an order or entered into a contract following support received from the public institution. The establishment must therefore continue to improve the service provided to the companies.

Business France’s export subsidy action would generate an annual international turnover of around € 3 billion for the subsidized companies out of a total export volume of goods from France of € 508 billion in 2019. The Court therefore recommends that the institution develop a geographical and sectoral strategy to explicitly set aid priorities for certain sectors and to draw conclusions about its international network.

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