Nicolas Dufourcq, the new head of the French government’s Banque Publique d’Investissement, says that one of the greatest obstacles he faces is finding viable projects, not money.

The state bank was created last year to help small and medium-sized companies overcome difficulties in obtaining financing from traditional sources of funding.

At a lunch hosted by the bank for some twenty AAPA members Feb. 4, he explained: “It’s the projects we need to find, and to help.” There is plenty of funding, state and private, he noted, but many companies would still rather borrow at high interest rates than open up their shareholding to outsiders. “Family interests,” he added, remain steadfastly conservative.

Mr. Dufourcq also referred to what he called “self-inflicted auto-French bashing,” that he said reflects a lack of confidence by the French in their ability to succeed like the Germans, particularly in the financial-industrial area.

“I am an entrepreneur, hopeful of changing ideas about investing, ” said the 49 year-old former top executive of France Telecom who founded its highly successful Wanadoo-Orange affiliate before becoming deputy director general and chief financial officer of French multinational Cap-Gemini. He explained that the BPI is getting support from commercial banks in France, as the new bank will not compete with them, but rather share financial risks with partners. It is already being viewed as a model for Italy and Britain, he said.

The BPI is consolidating existing government investment agencies throughout France and will work with them in regions of France where interests, economic and geographical, vary enormously. Funding will come from both the state and the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations.

Axel Krause