QUESTION: Virbac is one of the leading animal health companies, please tell us more about Virbac and your recent focus?
Sebastien Huron: Every day, since the creation of Virbac in 1968 by the French veterinary doctor Pierre-Richard Dick, our teams have been mobilized exclusively for animals’ health. Currently as the world’s 6th largest animal health company, we are present in more than 100 countries with a set of innovative solutions to diagnose, prevent and treat the majority of pathologies, while improving the quality of life of our animals on a daily basis. Our innovation, based on both technological advances and listening to the field, relies on production facilities which meet the highest international quality standards. For more than 50 years, these features have allowed the company to build a personalized relationship with veterinarians, farmers and pet owners in every country. Through these privileged partnerships, we are all moving forward together to shape the future of animal health, a fascinating territory at the crossroads of societal, health and environmental issues.
For the first time in our history, we have passed in 2021 the symbolic one billion euro mark in sales. We also achieved in 2021 and 2022 as well several records, for example with the strongest organic growth at constant exchange rates and scope of consolidation of the top 10 animal health companies.
QUESTION: please tell us more about your products and solutions and how you contribute to public health and food safety?
Sebastien Huron: Firstly, by taking action in favor of animal well-being, for example with our reversible sterilization solution marketed under the format of an implant already available in all Europe, widely used in Germany and northern Europe where surgical castrations cannot be performed anymore without a medical reason. This product has recently been made available in South Africa, where we held our first global webinar in October, with more than 700 veterinarians inspired to reinvent the approach to sterilization in male dog for the well being of animals! In Europe this product also got a claim for cats and female dogs.
We also shared with European veterinarians a new solution for pain and inflammation related to osteoarthritis in dogs, to be taken weekly instead of daily (much more convenient ensuring better compliance).
In 2022, for example, we built an additional vaccine filling line at our Carros site to increase our vaccines production capacity to fight against virus and bacteria. As such, our actions are oriented toward more prevention to prevent disease transmissions.
As the health of dogs and cats begins with nutrition, we have also finalized in 2021 the acquisition of iVet LLC, a company specializing in the petfood logistics in the United States, with a view to deploying our specialized pet food range in that country while we are building a new manufacturing site in France to accompany our development.
We are also acting in favor of the food security of tomorrow. For instance, by acquiring 100% of the Chilean company Centrovet in 2021. Our objective: to remain a leader in aquaculture by bringing even more innovative solutions dedicated to this major protein source to feed the human population. We also recently inaugurated in Vietnam our first R&D center dedicated to warm-water aquaculture for the development of vaccines. All these initiatives show that animal health is an essential sector, at the heart of ecosystem health and that Virbac plays a key role in it.
QUESTION: Virbac has a large presence around the world, in which markets do you see the greatest potential for Virbac? We’d love to hear more about your global businesses.
Sebastien Huron: Rich, diverse and complex, the world of living organisms is constantly evolving. At the heart of this ecosystem, animal health is undergoing major changes: diseases are evolving, new ones are appearing, creating new challenges to be taken up, different according to the regions of the world, species and farming conditions. In this context, we work on a daily basis with veterinarians, farmers and animal owners around the world to provide safe, effective and practical solutions that strengthen treatment compliance. With nearly 1,000 pharmaceutical, biological, nutritional and diagnostic products, we cover the majority of therapeutic segments and provide care for nearly all species treated by veterinary medicine.
Our presence on five continents allows us to meet health issues of each country, providing products and services that meet the needs of all those who care for animals each and every day, all around the world. We have leading positions in many countries such as India, Australia, and we are quickly developing in Brazil, Mexico and many other emerging markets, beside our very strong historical European positions.
Major expansion plans are planned all around the world, but more particularly in the coming years in the United States, in farm animals and petfood, and in China.
QUESTION: COVID-19 is still a worldwide threat to both humans and animals, can you talk about how has the epidemic impacted the animal health industry and your business?
Sebastien Huron: The pandemic has not impacted severely the animal health sector so far, nor did it materially impact the activities of our Group.
More recently, the effects of this conflict in Ukraine have been felt in a marked way, resulting in very high levels of inflation. Prices for grains, oils and several raw materials have skyrocketed, especially for our dog and cat food, but not only. Energy costs and therefore the processing costs of our products have also suffered record increases. On energy and transportation costs, experts speak of a factor of up to 10 times the costs of previous years. This has not been seen in decades. The animal health market has not remained unscathed by these inflationary pressures, after two years of record growth. This market, which had grown by around 10% in 2021, has been experiencing a powerful deceleration since the beginning of the year, even more significant in volume terms (i.e. excluding the price effect), and which seems to have become more pronounced in recent months. In this context, Virbac is once again doing well. At the end of September (we do not yet have the figures for the end of December), our Group still has the best organic growth in the world market. Some regions of the world are performing brilliantly in this context: Australia, Brazil, Mexico, India, Colombia, Italy, UK and New Zealand just to name a few.
QUESTION: Sebastien, could you talk about your personal experience? As a CEO, how do you describe your leadership and your management style?
Sebastien Huron: I would say a broad personal experience as much in terms of geography exposure, Brazil and Latin America, USA and North America, Spain, France, Europe, etc. than in terms of roles and functions besides general management aptitude and skills. Throughout my career, I’ve developed significant competencies and experiences in marketing, sales, innovation, strategic marketing, R&D, regulatory, e-business, business development and more recently in operations management. My management style is participative. I really like being close to the people, close to the field, very curious, interested, I love to learn, love challenges with a huge level of energy to set high ambitious goals and deliver outstanding results.