The three-month transition has ended. Pierre Barnabé has succeeded Paul Boudre as the new CEO of Soitec.
Pierre Barnabé has become the new CEO of Soitec on Tuesday, July 26. He succeeds Paul Boudre, in place since 2015.
The three-month transition has ended. Boudre has handed over the reins of Soitec to Barnabé, former senior executive vice president, group security officer, and global head of big data and cybersecurity at Atos, to continue the company’s growth trajectory.
At a recent press conference in Paris, Barnabé said his leadership will be built around three missions:
Under Barnabé’s leadership and vision, Soitec expects to open the next chapter of growth as set out in the 2026 strategic roadmap.
In June 2021, Soitec unveiled the group’s financial objectives for 2026, “which are a tangible reflection of its robust, profitable, and sustainable growth trajectory begun five years ago.”
Basically, Soitec predicted that growth on its addressable markets would continue to accelerate, from about 3 million substrates to over 7 million substrates by 2026. And by continuing to strengthen its foothold on the mobile, automotive, and industry markets, the Bernin-based group said it expects to triple its revenue to about US$2.3 billion and an EBITDA margin target of about 40% by fiscal year 2026.
To support its growth and strategic priorities, Soitec has defined a five-year capital expenditure program of approximately €1.1 billion.
“The defined strategy is the right one,” said Barnabé during the press conference. “There have been some remarkable acquisitions, notably in silicon carbide, which have enabled us to be ahead [of competition]. We will pursue acquisitions to strengthen the strategy.”
Barnabé joined Atos in 2015 as senior EVP, in charge of big data and cybersecurity. From 2019 to May 2022, he was responsible for the public sector & defense and manufacturing industry, overseeing multibillion-euro revenues and more than 11,000 employees worldwide. Prior to joining Atos, he was COO at Bull, acquired by Atos in 2014.
“I have 20 years of experience in the telecom, defense, civil, and service markets, as well as 10 years in electronics,” said Barnabé. “When I arrived at Bull, we ranked fifth or sixth worldwide in the supercomputer business. Today, we rank second in the world.”
Boudre and Barnabé have different backgrounds and experiences. “I come from the industry and bring complementarity, more in the electronic processors part than in the substrate part,” said Barnabé. “One of Soitec’s great specialties is to talk with customers, with the world of applications, and to understand what the needs are to add more intelligence to substrates and make them more energy-efficient.”
Rugby is known for its core values. Taking over the reins of a fast-growing company is no easy task, but as a rugby player for many years, Barnabé claims he is “pragmatic and grounded.”
When asked about potential changes within Soitec’s executive committee, Barnabé said, “If you look at performance, I have no interest in making changes in the management team. I’m entering a rocket ship in the acceleration phase with a strategy that pays off. The team is performing very well, and I don’t see the point of making any changes.”
Considering Soitec’s growth trajectory, he added, “My challenge is to get into the rocket and not to slow it down. I absorb. I understand. I work with the teams. I meet customers, partners, suppliers, and other stakeholders. It’s work, but I have the energy.”
Deciding who will be the next CEO of a publicly traded company is one of the most critical responsibilities of the board of directors. Such a decision can sometimes be divisive.
On Jan. 19, 2022, Soitec’s board of directors announced that it had appointed Barnabé as the new CEO.
What appeared to be a classic CEO succession plan ended up generating strong reactions.
Immediately after this announcement, Soitec’s executive committee sent a letter to the board of directors and strategic investors questioning the appointment process of the new CEO. Investors reacted to heightened uncertainty, and the group plunged 18.2% to the bottom of the index after the news broke.
“When there is change, there is emotion and reaction,” Boudre said at the press conference. The board and management team identified the root causes of dissension and validated a series of actions to be taken in terms of governance. “What you see as a crisis is a leap to something that will take us even further.”
Barnabé joined Soitec on May 1, 2022. Commenting on the three-month succession period, Boudre said, “I’m absolutely thrilled to see how he’s integrating and working with our teams. We’ve built a company that has come through Covid, never missed a commitment, and is capable of having a change in driver.”
Boudre insisted, “At no time was there any question or doubt about the board’s choice. Pierre has the stature to lead the company toward its strategic goal … and he will bring the vision of a large industrial group.”
And now, Paul Boudre?
Not so easy to see the architect of growth go.
Boudre joined Soitec in 2007 as EVP of sales, marketing, and business development. His missions consisted of identifying new market opportunities and building the silicon-on-insulator (SOI) ecosystem to enable SOI adoption for consumer and “More Than Moore” applications.
Boudre succeeded Soitec’s co-founder, André-Jacques Auberton-Hervé, in January 2015 as CEO and in September 2015 as chairman of the board. He then had two missions. The first one was to exit the company’s solar business and refocus on microelectronics. The second was to reverse the group’s financial trend, which had been in the red for many years.
Over the past seven years, Boudre has contributed to the company’s recovery and growth to a record revenue of €863 million in fiscal year 2022, up 50% at constant exchange rates.
Boudre leaves the company after leading it from its lowest point to its highest point. Barnabé will build on this trajectory and lead Soitec into the next chapter of ambitious growth, as outlined in the 2026 strategic roadmap.
“This is part of the natural cycle of a company,” he commented. “I’ll be 64 at the end of the year. The board asked if I was capable of going through a new cycle. The answer was ‘yes.’” Similarly, he continued, the board asked whether to change the CEO at a time when the company is accelerating. The board decided it was appropriate to do so now.”
He concluded, “At some point, you have to be able to turn the page.”
When asked about his plans, Boudre said he would be taking time with his family and noted that his mission as vice-chairman of the SEMI Europe advisory board continues.
This article was originally published on EE Times Europe.
Anne-Françoise Pelé is editor-in-chief of eetimes.eu and EE Times Europe.