Article updated with the decision of the Commercial Court of Aix-en-Provence 3:41 pm.
Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock… It was time to make a choice for the Commercial Court of Aix-en-Provence which on Friday handed down a crucial decision for the future of Rousset-based Nawa Technologies ( Bouches-du-Rhône). He had to select for this Provençal deepTech a public takeover offer between that presented by a consortium (Altya Invest, Bpifrance and Antoine Saucier, general director of Nawa Technologies who arrived in January 2023) and that of the industrial investment company Kouros, chaired by the French Alexandre Garese. The Commercial Court ended up choosing the French businessman’s offer.
Particularly important clarification in this dossier, the two buyers were until now associated in the Nawa Technologies financing round. But strategic differences over the future of this technological nugget between Altya Invest and Bpifrance, on the one hand, and Alexandre Garese, on the other, led Nawa Technologies to cease payment at the Commercial Court of Aix-en-Provence, in a judicial recovery process. A break that surprises, as this company seems to have a bright future (winner of the 2023 French Tech class) and just 20 months after having successfully raised funds of 18 million euros in January 2022.
A very promising technology
The founder of Kouros Alexandre Garese, who rarely appears in the media, made a point of speaking in an interview with La Tribune to defend his acquisition offer, which he considers “best bidder” compared to the competing offer and to defend his atypical journey, which took him from Russia to France, via Switzerland. “Best bid” at all levels (social, financial, industrial and commercial), guarantees La Tribune Alexandre Garese, who believes in technology “very avant-garde and very innovative” developed by Nawa Technologies, of which it owns just under 30%.
“It’s a disruptive technology, a real game changer. It will be decisive for the ecological transition”, highlights the founder of Kouros, who through his company mainly aims to invest in the hydrogen area. “For me it is clear that Nawa Technologies is a true jewel that can become a flagship of French industry,” he emphasizes. We are at the beginning of an extraordinary adventure.”
Nawa Technologies is a true pioneer. It has created a nanomaterial it claims is revolutionary based on 3D carbon and, more specifically, vertically aligned carbon nanotubes. This technology improves performance, safety and reduces weight, while consuming less raw materials. For which applications? The markets for composites, hydrogen reservoirs and electrodes for fuel cells and electrolyzers, the automotive industry, the sports industry (golf clubs, bicycle rims, etc.).
A better offer
On the social front, Alexandre Garese is committed to retaining more than 60% of the company’s employees (65 employees) and promised to support the rest in their reclassification journey, planning “Employee loans for companies that Kouros already works with on other projects in the region”. He hopes to “get them back” once Nawa Technologies is back on track. But why let go of about 40% of employees when the future of Nawa Technologies looks bright? “We need society to be reborn. In order to be reborn, we cannot weigh.”specifies the founder of Kouros. “Our offer received the support of the social and economic committee” of Nawa technologies, he wants to clarify.
A better offer also from a financial and industrial point of view. Alexandre Garese believes that his financial offer is superior “more than 40% compared to the competing offer”. He also committed to financing the recovery of Nawa Technologies in the amount of 10 million euros, after having already invested 13 million since his arrival four years ago in the deepTech capital, long before those of Bpifrance and ‘Altya Invest. “We have a long-term vision. We want to develop business volume and we know how to create it so that the company can repay its loans if it uses credit. We want to industrialize Nawa Technologies », he explains. Alexandre Garese, who already claims to work within Kouros with partners such as Total, Air Liquide and Toyota on projects linked to hydrogen, also received the support of four industrialists for his acquisition project.
Ultimately, your offer would be better from a commercial point of view. The founder of Kouros says he is confident in the commercial development of Nawa Technologies. “The four French manufacturers sent us letters of interest expressing their interest in testing Nawa Technologies productshe explains. We did it in four weeks. It’s much better than the management that didn’t get any in nine months”. A criticism of general manager Antoine Saucier, who arrived last January. The four industrialists also confirmed their support for Kouros before the commercial court, which received a copy of the letters of support.
An instrumentalized past?
Does investor Kouros have the strength to take on the development and industrialization of Nawa Technologies alone? Yes, guarantees Alexandre Garese. “I have them to get this company out of the rut. It’s a technology that fascinates me. I will have them if I think the adventure is worth it. But first, we have to get Nawa Technologies out of this situation.”, he explains. He says he is ready to work with the other shareholders of Nawa Technologies, with the natural exception of Altya Invest and Bpifrance with whom Kouros “he tried until the end to reach an agreement to save this company ». “But they didn’t want to. We are sorry because, unfortunately, it is a shame to come to this end. Mainly because of the employees and the collective effort that we have all managed to make so far for Nawa Technologies”.
“I don’t understand what is behind this maneuver. For some reason that still escapes me, they decided to continue as a couple an adventure that we started as a three and, therefore, free Kouros. The general director preferred to put the company on suspension of payments quickly,” he laments.
Has your past in Russia caused you any harm? “That my past was exploited, that’s for sure. It is convenient because of interests that sometimes exceed me.”, he laments, having lived in Russia for a long time after doing his military service there and where he managed to make a fortune. It is estimated at 300 million euros, according to the 2023 ranking of French fortunes from Weekly Challenges. However, Alexandre Garese decided to stand firm to turn around Nawa Technologies. He is also in the process of transferring his tax residence from Switzerland to France, “a strong commitment to the theme of fashion in France, which is the reindustrialization of the country”.
Above all he believes “Really” in technology developed by Nawa Technologies. “This operation is not something I do lightly. I really believe in the potential of Nawa Technologies, which we are capable of industrializing into multiple and varied uses that can truly revolutionize several sectors”. The verdict of the Commercial Court of Aix-en-Provence reinforced Alexandre Garese in his desire to turn around Nawa Technologies. It’s up to him to show what he knows how to do.