JBR is expanding into Belgium. The agency has joined forces with Rik van Meirhaeghe, who heads the new Belgian office. Consultancy.nl spoke with Van Meirhaeghe and Managing Partner Ronald van Rijn about the collaboration. "Rik already had a mature team in place and has access to both the Belgian and Dutch markets," said Van Rijn. "This allows us to get off to a flying start right away."
The Zeist-basedJBRfocuses on strategy, corporate finance and restructuring. The firm serves clients in various sectors, with a particularly strong presence in the energy, maritime and offshore sectors. Managing Partner Ronald van Rijn explains that this played an important role in the decision to enter the Belgian market: "Our sector focus entails that you have to look outside your own borders, otherwise you quickly get conflicting interests."
AlthoughJBR works with an international M&A network - Global M&A Partners - Belgium had become vacant in it. "Then we could start looking for a new partner, or do it ourselves," Van Rijn explains. "We chose the latter. Belgium is an attractive market for us. Firstly, because from our maritime and offshore expertise the port of Antwerp offers a lot of opportunities, and secondly, because a number of international energy and installation parties operating in the Netherlands are more or less managed from Belgium or France."
In the search for the right person to shape the Belgian expansion, Van Rijn quickly found Rik van Meirhaeghe. "We first met through OHM," Van Rijn explains. "That was the installation company of a network company for which we had the sales mandate. The sale ultimately fell through, but then we ran into each other again in the acquisition process of Ziut."
"In both cases, we were on both sides of the negotiating table," Van Meirhaeghe adds. "Ronald represented the selling parties and I worked as M&A manager at the buying party, installation company SPIE. For the acquisition of Ziut - a joint venture of Enexis and Alliander focused on public lighting - we sat opposite each other for almost a year, with the end result that SPIE acquired the company - and of course Ronald and I got to know each other well. I really liked the professionalism with which JBR went through the process. We then met a few times and felt we could develop something together."
"In his years at SPIE, Rik gained a lot of experience in the field of energy and installation technology. He also maintains good ties with the maritime sector," Van Rijn adds. "He has done no less than 25 acquisitions in the Netherlands on behalf of SPIE, so he is also very familiar with the Dutch market. With the addition of his team, our organization is ideally positioned for Belgian companies that want to go to the Netherlands and Dutch companies that want to go to Belgium. Together we know how to manage these cultural differences well. Furthermore, Rik can also work in language and culture as a bridge to France and Germany. Two years ago he started his own agency TYD and he now takes his entire team to JBR. So an ideal match to realize our Belgian ambitions with."
The first months of the collaboration are promising, Van Meirhaeghe says: "A number of JBR's customers have already broadened their assignments towards Belgium, towards our team. A large Dutch installation company immediately deployed us on a number of M&A files, based on our sector knowledge. We advise the board of directors on very concrete cases. We make bids and try to make deals. We are very well received. I am pleasantly surprised by how fast things have gone right away."
"With the addition of Van Meirhaeghe's team, our organization is ideally positioned for Belgian companies looking to go to the Netherlands and Dutch companies looking to go to Belgium."
Van Meirhaeghe's knowledge of the Belgian market is also very welcome. "The market in Belgium is very different from the Dutch market", says Van Rijn. "You don't have a middle-sized company there, for example. Because everything is organized so regionally, it is either very small or very large. Every conversation in Belgium starts with the question 'where do you come from?' And the answer is never 'Belgium' or 'Flanders', but 'around Antwerp', 'Ghent' or 'Belgian Limburg'. That surprised me for a long time. It also makes it difficult to make money. It really is a market of networking, of knowing each other - so we can really use Rik and his team for that as well."
At the same time, JBR 's long-term vision is based precisely on an opposite movement, in which borders are increasingly blurred. "Within the current developments of Europe and global internationalization, we are more inclined to think in terms of 'the Benelux' than 'the Netherlands' or 'Belgium'," Van Rijn explains. "That is why we expect that in time the new office will not profile itself as Belgian, but that all our offices will come out more as a unit, as one Benelux office with different locations."
"This is in line with what we are actually already doing," Van Meirhaeghe adds in conclusion. "The Dutch consultants work a lot in Belgium and the Belgian consultants a lot in the Netherlands. This will only increase in the future. We are actually already forming one big team together."