For the third year now, EY has been supporting the Budapest Stock Exchange as a professional partner and advisor in compiling the brochure and selecting the relevant fifty businesses/entrepreneurs.
The following brief analysis attempts to summarise the key features of this year’s fifty and to place these entreprises in a broader context, comparing them with other players in the Hungarian economy.
Once again this year, fifty business are introduced to us through their diverse histories, spanning from their foundation to the present, focusing on challenges faced and overcome as they progressed on their paths to success.
Compared with last year’s brochure, BSE50 2019 has a few special distinguishing features.
- Contrary to last year’s brochure, the current one once again (with the exception of a few businesses aside) focuses mostly on companies established before 2010. This year has demonstrated again that Hungary has many successful businesses that were established around the political changes in 1989-1990 and which are not necessarily known to the broader public, despite the significant achievements of these businesses.
- The 2017 brochure focused on the food industry, while the IT industry was in the spotlight in last year’s edition. This year’s brochure is mostly about the manufacturing sector—one that is equally important for the Hungarian economy.
This year’s Fifty in the Hungarian economy
The fifty businesses presented in 2018 had a combined sales revenue of HUF 605.6 bn and a combined EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) of HUF 73.3 bn. Altogether, they have over 11,000 employees.
Meanwhile, the companies featured in the 2019 BSE50 brochure had an average sales revenue of HUF 12.4 bn and an average EBITDA of HUF 1.5 bn. Comparing these key indicators to Opten’s data on Hungarian companies with over HUF 1 bn in sales revenues, we can see that in 2018, the average sales revenue of this year’s Fifty was almost 63% higher, and their EBITDA was 109% higher than the corresponding indicators of companies with sales revenues higher than HUF 1 bn.
The aggregated sales revenue of the businesses in the brochure increased by 15% in 2017 and by 19% in 2018, year-on-year. During these periods, their EBITDAs increased by 3% and 32%, respectively. Consequently, this year’s Fifty had an average 12.1% EBITDA margin in 2018.
Most of the firms presented in the 2019 brochure (20) are active in the manufacturing sector, and many of them are major suppliers to multinational plants located in Hungary. These manufacturing companies have also created an important knowledge base and know-how in Hungary, one which they have leveraged in their expansion to international markets. The next largest group (12) are service providers, covering a wide range of activities from quality control to temporary employment agencies and restaurant chains. This year’s brochure has a similar share of businesses from commerce (6), IT (4), the food industry (4) and real estate (3).
The manufacturing industry made a significant contribution to the growth of the Hungarian economy in 2018 as well; not only with their financial output but also with their significant role in employment. They also account for almost one-third of the investment projects in Hungary, according to data from the Hungarian Central Statistical Office.
Automotive manufacturers and their suppliers are still major players in the Hungarian manufacturing industry. Some of them appear in the 2019 BSE50 brochure as well (e.g. Simon Műanyagfeldolgozó, Robot-X, Elme Automatika). Some businesses focus rather on niche markets and more specialised industries than the automotive industry. Examples of them in this year’s brochure are the MPF Group, a manufacturer of convector heaters (among other things), PI-ER Kft., a technical apparel developer and manufacturer, CNC Rapid Kft., a railway vehicle parts manufacturer, Almási Ipari és Kereskedelmi Kft., or Hafner Pneumatika Kft., a special machine and equipment manufacturer.
Data of the Hungarian Central Statistical Office shows that the Hungarian rubber, plastic and construction materials was the fastest growing industry in 2018. Accordingly, the BSE50 brochure presents some of this sector’s major players as well (Mikropakk Kft., Masterplast Nyrt., PEMÜ Zrt.).
Several of this year’s Fifty focus on the export market, with products that either bear their own brands (MPF Industry Group, Herendi Porcelánmanufaktúra) or are produced for other brands (PIER Technical Kft.).
Besides the automotive and machine industries, this year’s Fifty includes companies from the textile industry (PI-ER Technical Kft.), glass and china manufacturers (Észak Övért Kft., Herendi Porcelánmanufaktúra) and solar panel manufacturers (CoreComm SI Kft.).
As shown in our previous brochures, we see once again this year that Budapest and its agglomeration constitute the dominant economic region in Hungary. In terms of their registered seats, 22 of the BSE50 businesses are in the capital city, while 4 are in Pest county, that is, the area surrounding Budapest.
This concentration aside, the 2019 BSE50 businesses cover most of the country—we can find successful and exemplary businesses in almost all of Hungary’s regions. Beyond the capital and Pest county, the businesses in this year’s brochure represent ten other counties: Bács-Kiskun (1), Baranya (3), Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén (2), Fejér (4), Győr-Moson-Sopron (4), Hajdú-Bihar (3), Nógrád (1), Vas (1), Veszprém (4) and Zala (1).
Most of the interviewed business owners and leaders emphasised the importance of developing their region; such as by supporting local urban renewal projects, building playgrounds, and region-based professional training for young people.
Another recurring topic is the workforce. All the businesses found herein prioritise the continuous training of their staff, reforming the recruitment processes and retaining their employees. Wherever possible of course, these businesses try to automate their processes to the highest possible degree to compensate for an insufficient workforce. They also launch their own employee training programmes with a view to increase efficiency. Most of the businesses in the 2019 BSE50 brochure implemented considerable wage increases over the past 3-4 years. Many of the manufacturing businesses have also begun robotising their plants and training staff to use this modern equipment as part of Industry 4.0. Beyond these development projects, however, businesses are also taking employee wellbeing at the workplace more and more seriously, which means more focus on company events, teambuilding, and family days.
The year 2019 marks the 30-year anniversary of the change in political regime in 1989-1990. Many Hungarian SMEs were founded in the 1990s, so most owners and managers are over 60—an age when many think about the future of their business. Consequently, succession—including intergenerational succession—were topics that were frequently raised in the interviews. Handing over a business, one’s life work, is neither easy nor obvious. As we saw in the preparation of this brochure, just as was the case in previous years, founders are attached to their “babies” in many ways: emotionally, financially and in terms of business.
Intergenerational succession has been successful at many businesses. These can be guiding examples for those where management and ownership succession is still in process. This kind of change, however, still lies ahead for many businesses.
Why is succession a business issue? At what levels should it be considered? The main problem of most of these businesses is the extensive or even complete overlap of management and shareholder roles. This carries the obvious risk that if the owner/manager is unable to lead the business, the operation of the business becomes uncertain, which affects, among other things, services to clients and the future of employees. What are the succession options that business founders can choose among?
Optimally, a family member is willing and able to take over operative business management from the founder and become an owner at a later stage. This means traditional succession within the same family, meaning that the business can continue its operations and growth over generations.
If succession in the family is not possible, it is worth setting up a professional management independent from the owner which is responsible for business operations. This lets the owner hand over daily operations and focus on strategy and shareholder value maximisation.
However, this process of stepping back is not always a simple one. A typical problem is transferring the knowledge and network the founder has built up over the years, building trust in the new and usually younger management, and adopting new management approaches and decisions.
Setting up a management team that is independent and separate from the family also raises the issue of ownership succession. The options are ideally as follows:
- a family member inherits the ownership of the firm but does not want to take part in day-to-day business,
- key management members buy out the founder and take over the business completely,
- the owner sells the company to one or more investors.
The management plays a key role in the last option as well, because a professional team responsible for operations is indispensable, no matter who the new owner is. The following key factors are also important for a sale, because they can affect the outcome of a transaction considerably:
- the stage and level of the transfer of the owners’ knowledge and network as mentioned above; the extent to which the operations and clients of the company depend on the founder;
- the degree of overlap in the assets of the owners and the company; what, in the event of a sale, the owners need will need, and what the buyer will not want to take;
- how regulated the finances and other processes of the company are;
- the degree of transparency of operations and the integration of the company structure;
- and the level of organisation of the company structure in legal terms.
Buyers regard these areas as especially important in deciding on investing in a business and committing themselves to a company.
Thus, it can be seen that intergenerational succession is an extraordinarily complex and long process. To make it a success, businesses need commitment, a thought-out structure and harmonised implementation. No matter what course the founder takes, the journey will involve difficulties and tasks one can prepare for to some extent. Without assistance, however, it can be very difficult to find the right solution.
Age distribution of Hungarian businesses in 2019
In addition to all of the foregoing, we must also consider the significance of the economic contribution made by Hungarian companies: 530,000 businesses, 430,000 individual entrepreneurs, 140,000 organisations of other types, and 1.7 million individuals involved in business either as an owner or a manager. The businesses in the BSE50 brochure are truly the cream of the crop, as their stories make them unique and distinguished members even within this restricted elite.