Aldo Mareuse, 44, has been chief financial officer of Orascom Telecom Holding, the Middle East’s most successful mobile telecoms group since 2002. Based in Cairo, Egypt, Orascom Telecom is listed on the Cairo and London stock exchanges. Aldo Mareuse is also CFO of Weather Investment SpA, a private company that owns a majority stake in Orascom Telecom. Weather also owns Wind, Italy’s third largest mobile operator, and Wind Hellas, the third largest such operator in Greece. Prior to joining Orascom Telecom, Frenchman Mareuse worked in various positions and locations for the investment bank Credit Suisse First Boston. His last role was as managing director of CSFB’s investment banking division, telecommunications group, where he focused on advising telecom players in M&A, equity and debt financing. He holds an engineering degree from École Centrale de Lyon and is married with three children. When he is not traveling between Islamabad, Cairo, Rome or New York in the winter, he enjoys back country skiing in the Alps or in the Rockies, and in the summer he likes to cruise on the Mediterranean.
How has the CFO role evolved in the past five to 10 years?
The whole pace has stepped up a gear. Capital markets have evolved dramatically in the past five years and continue to evolve. As a result, the capital markets function has become much more central to the CFO role. Financings have become much more sophisticated and the products used for raising capital—including equity, debt, and a range of other instruments—have a much shorter lifetime. So the CFO has to be much more aware of his products and able to make decisions more quickly. In the old days, you could plan something six months ahead. That’s no longer possible.
Has Orascom Telecom been actively raising capital in recent times?
Even though it is a private company, Weather Investments SpA is much bigger than Orascom. Like Weather, we have raised a substantial amount of debt, across the spectrum including bank debt, bonds and mezzanine finance. So we have covered the capital markets spectrum and have been extremely active in the last three to four years.
Have you found that raising capital became more difficult since the credit crisis erupted in August 2007?
Basically the market has been frozen. So it hasn’t been difficult; it’s been non-existent. This has meant that, in the short term, the CFO role has been much more about looking at cost reduction and free cash flow optimization, rather than the capital market activities, which have been shut down. The CFO role has become a much more inwardly focused function than a year or so ago.
How do you predict the CFO role will evolve over the next five or 10 years? Will we return to a more outward-looking function and more active in capital markets?
I don’t think the capital markets will be nearly as active as they were in the period between 2003 and 2007. They’re going to be much slower for a very long period of time. It’s going to be much more difficult and expensive to raise finance. And the focus will be more on the cash flow a company generates, rather than raising it externally from third parties.
Will that make the CFO’s job more boring and/or more difficult?
I don’t know if it will become more boring, but it will certainly become more difficult. During the period of easy credit, you could simply put up your hand and five banks would come offering you whatever you wanted. It had become slightly artificial, slightly surreal. It’s back to basics now.
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