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Ophrah Winfrey, the famous American presenter, recently praised the benefits of Actifry on Twitter. Before that, Arnaud Montebourg posed on the front cover of Le Parisien magazine with the Moulinex Soup & Co mixer. What effect have these 2 “events” had on Group sales?

The impact of the tweet triggered two waves in the United States. Initially, we recorded a leap of 17% in sales to our customers. Secondly, we were involved in the hugely popular Good Morning America show and our sales received a further boost as a result. In France, Mr Montebourg’s appearance on the magazine cover did not have a great impact on business, but it enabled us to capitalise on our “Made in France” image to set up retail campaigns with displays of Group products made in France at aisle ends.

The SEB share is currently performing at around 55 to 60 euros. What can you tell us about the share price performance?

We got through the crisis of 2009, largely outperforming the CAC 40 index, and this strong momentum continued in 2010 (share price increases of 81% and 96% respectively).
In 2011, the SEB share price suffered as the crisis became more widespread and was affected by profit-taking following 2 years of out-performance. In 2012, growing concerns amongst investors about China and emerging countries, zones in which the Group is very active (45% of our turnover comes from these countries), had a negative impact on our share (-6%).
It should, however, be recalled that the SEB share performed exceptionally well for a very long period and that the gross return on SEB shares acquired 10 years ago is 10.59% per year. Since 1975 when the SEB share was first listed on the stock exchange, the yield has been 9% per year.

Does Africa represent a growth opportunity for the Group?

We already have business operations in North Africa, which rely on agents, as well as in South Africa. In 2012, we decided to take back control of the sale of our products in Egypt by setting up a joint venture with our long-term agent. We believe that in these countries, it is better to associate ourselves with local partners in order to ensure our growth.
We also plan to set up sales offices in Africa in 2013, in particular in Ghana and Kenya.

In France, how will the Group respond to sluggish consumer spending?

The way to deal with the economic context is product innovation. The most innovative products are the best at withstanding times of crisis. In addition, when purchasing power is jeopardised, a more affordable range of products is required. The Group is a generalist and it needs to offer a wide range of products in order to fulfil the requirements of all of its consumers.Moreover, it is crucial in periods of crisis to be attractive and to show inventiveness when it comes to sales and marketing. In Spain, for example, we have set up loyalty and marketing programmes for products such as deep fryers, using bank networks to provide sales opportunities.
Nevertheless, we naturally suffer more when the markets are difficult. Our role is therefore to stay on course and to remain attentive to our environment and ready to react in order to benefit from the recovery when it happens.

How do acquisitions by SEB Alliance of stakes in companies such as ETHERA contribute to innovation in the Group?

For several years now, the Group has opted for an open innovation policy with a number of research and development partners. In 2011, we set up an investment fund – SEB Alliance – with a capital of €30 million to look into the new technologies available in young companies with strong growth potential. ETHERA is one of these companies. It has developed an innovative air processing system, which represents a potentially interesting complementary activity for the Group.

See a video of the entire Annual General Meeting here.