Interview

“We have also seen an increase in direct investment/acquisition of tech companies between France and Norway”

The CCFN opens its doors to Christian Bendiksen, Lawyer and Partner at Brækhus.

Can you please introduce yourself and your connections with France?

I am a Norwegian attorney with a French master's degree in EU and commercial law from the University in Tours and have been collaborating with the Chamber (CCFN) for more than 20 years. I work mainly with legal aspects of technology, including cross-border contracts, public procurement and competition law. And I have been advising French companies during contract negotiations with Norwegians, tendering for Norwegian public projects or investing in Norway.

 

In which sectors do you see opportunities for more bilateral collaborations?

I think the Chamber (CCFN) has done a fantastic job in furthering French-Norwegian collaboration in the "traditional" sectors, such as maritime, aquaculture and energy. In this regard, I believe that the offshore wind industry is just starting and that it will require insight, experience and knowhow that both France and Norway share – and where we complement each others' strengths.

But it annoys me a bit that we have not managed to expand the collaboration in technology further. According to the latest NHO report, half of Norwegian businesses lacks IT personnel, and more and more Norwegian companies are stating that they are actively looking abroad for such competence. So why not France?

 

Which advice would you give to a French company willing to develop business in Norway?

Sounds like I am feathering my own nest here, but do the paperwork right the first time. VAT and tax registration, employment contracts, give some thought to company structure for tax and IP purposes, it saves so incredibly much unnecessary effort later.

Then, Norwegian business practice is still more informal than in France. Surprisingly large companies may order by means of an oral agreement and an order form. And there is far less mandatory laws regarding for instance contractual practices than in France. If your contract may be terminated for convenience at three weeks' notice, then that is what it will be. Regardless of whether the relationship has lasted 20 years.  

 

You have been working to facilitate deals between French and Norwegian managers for a long time. What are you main tips for overcoming cultural differences?

I think that Norwegians do need to understand that the informality they are accustomed to, does not necessarily travel well. French companies have decision models, they do check with legal and compliance and this takes time. During contract negotiations I have often found it useful for both companies' advisors to do an "interpretatory check" just to see whether disagreements are based on an actual conflict of interests that has to be negotiated, or merely on an interpretation of a contractual clause that could generate a risk that the other party simply does not see or is not interested in.

On the other hand, French companies are often surprised by the lack of flexibility during the negotiation phase of Norwegian public tenders, so it does go both ways to a certain extent.

 

You will cooperate with the French-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce to launch a French-Norwegian Digital Committee, why now and in which specific areas do you see potential for more collaborations?

There is indeed collaboration; some of Norway's largest IT companies are in fact French, such as Capgemini and Sopra Steria. However, we believe that there is untapped potential in collaboration on product development, nearshoring and other issues where Norwegians have ideas but lack the personnel. We also note that Norwegian tech companies such as Visma and Autostore are entering the French market, and we hope that this can be part of a growing trend. Finally, we have also seen an increase in direct investment/acquisition of tech companies between France and Norway and we do hope this trend will continue. 

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