„There are many hidden champions in Austria“Katerina Zenz, Head of Austria & CEE
Can you briefly introduce yourself?
With a background in audit and investment banking, I have joined the Munich office of Mutares, a private equity focused on special situation, in September 2018. Since January 2022 I am leading our newly opened office in Vienna, with focus on the Austrian and Eastern European market. As I am originally from Prague, Czech Republic, I am excited to leverage my cultural background and language skills during this exciting opportunity.
What is your company’s activity, what is its competitive edge?
Mutares SE & Co. KGaA, as a listed private equity company, focuses on acquisition of medium-sized companies in special situations, such as turnaround cases, complex carve outs and succession transitions. The aim is to leverage the development potential of the usually distressed target companies within the framework of an active turnaround process and to lead them onto a stable and profitable growth path. The transition process is actively managed by our own operations team with extensive industry and turnaround experience, acting as a sparring partner to the local management and jointly developing the strategy and improvement measures of the company, including possible add-on acquisitions or divestments of non-core business parts.
What are your main projects/targets for 2022?
Our main aim with opening an office in Vienna is to not only strengthen our presence in Austria but also to newly enter the Central Eastern European market. A project that we are working hard on is developing our network throughout the countries to ensure that we become first in mind – first in choice when it comes to any sell-side process of a medium-sized company in the turnaround sector.
The natural target is therefore to fill up our pipeline and at best manage one transaction in Austria and one in the CEE region within the year 2022. We have managed to sign our first transaction in May 2022, acquiring the company Cimos, headquartered in Slovenia with revenues of almost EUR 200m and are therefore so far well on track with our goal.
In an ideal situation, what would you change or improve in the current VC/PE market?
I think one area where the Austrian PE market has some room for improvement is the awareness of local sellers concerning a broader range of investors. From our experience, many deals are done on a smaller scale meaning that the seller might not know the full range of possibilities in the market; and especially private equity still sometimes has, for example for some success driven processes, a somewhat negative reputation. I believe that a slight shift in the general readiness to involve PE firms would potentially bring the Austrian market from a stagnant stage with limited new incomers in the capital sector to a growing market, as there are many hidden champions in Austria. We of course plan to focus on this issue in the future and collaborate with local M&A boutiques in order to communicate the full potential and benefits of a private equity with strong operational experience.
Which one of the following topics inspires you most and why? – Sustainability, Equality, Education, Regulation
Helping companies that are in difficult situations develop the strategy and means to turn the business around is at core of our DNA. I find it inspiring to see these companies develop and move towards a sustainable future, including the revision of the business’ habits in areas such as ESG, through thorough analysis, training and implementation of strict measures in the management of for example (supplier) code of conduct, anti-corruption and annual sustainability reports.
Thank you very much for the interview!