Mar 24, 2023
Billionaire Peugeot Dynasty Takes Hit From Scandal-Ridden Orpea
(Bloomberg) -- The billionaire Peugeot family’s investment arm suffered a one-two punch last year from the collapse of scandal-ridden elderly-care operator Orpea SA and a deep slump in its auto holdings.
Peugeot Invest, the listed firm controlled by the multigenerational French clan and headed by Robert Peugeot, saw the gross value of its assets tumble 16% to €5.9 billion ($6.4 billion) in 2022, according to results published this week. Return on investments dropped 10%.
The company is 80% owned by Etablissements Peugeot Freres, the family holding overseeing a fortune centered around the eponymous car manufacturer that two years ago merged with Fiat Chrysler. The clan emerged with a 7% stake in the combined group, Stellantis NV, one of the industry’s largest and most profitable automakers with a market value of €50 billion. Italy’s billionaire Agnelli heirs own 14% of it.
The value of Peugeot Invest’s auto holdings, which also include a stake in supplier Forvia, fell by 23% to €2.3 billion. The sector struggled last year with higher energy and transport costs as well as shortages in semiconductors.
Peugeot Invest also has a 5% stake in Orpea, the beleaguered nursing-home operator embroiled in one of France’s biggest corporate-governance scandals. Its market value crumpled last year following the publication of a book claiming it put profits before patient welfare and pointing to financial misconduct.
Among the recent changes in its portfolio, the family became part of a trio of the nation’s wealthiest dynasties investing in Rothschild & Co. to help take the French bank private. Peugeot Invest could acquire as much as 5.1% and take a seat on the supervisory board.
“We see this opportunity as a longterm partnership between different European families and the Rothschild families,” Peugeot Invest Chief Executive Officer Bertrand Finet said on a call with analysts Thursday. “Our view is to be a longterm shareholder in a family-controlled company. It’s at the heart of our investment strategy.”
Peugeot Invest has holdings in more than 60 listed and unlisted companies as well as a portfolio of private equity and real estate funds. It made more disposals than acquisitions last year, including offloading a stake in asset-management firm Tikehau Capital Advisors. Finet downplayed the possibility that some of its unlisted holdings could drop in value.
“We aren’t that worried, but the market is pretty unstable at the moment,” he said. “So far, we haven’t seen any alarming signals.”
The Peugeots trace their industrial roots to 1810, when an ancestor converted a windmill into a steel workshop. Its first auto dates back to 1889. Family members are still actively involved in the business and make up about half of the Peugeot Invest board.
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