L'Oreal CEO: European economies need to think like companies to survive

L'Oreal targets Chinese sales
L'Oreal targets Chinese sales


    L'Oreal targets Chinese sales


L'Oreal targets Chinese sales 04:18

Story highlights

  • L'Oreal's CEO says that Europe's economies need to find their global niche
  • Like companies, they need to find their area of expertise to survive
  • Germany has done so succesfully, but Greece has not, he says
  • Identifying France's role in the global marketplace should be an election issue

L'Oreal harnessed the French reputation for elegance to become a global cosmetics giant -- and the company's CEO says European economies should apply similar logic to escape their current woes.

Jean-Paul Agon, L'Oreal's chair and chief executive, said European countries need to identify areas of expertise to succeed in the global marketplace -- just like companies.

"You have to specialize yourself in some areas where you are going to be [in] the top league worldwide," he said.

European countries had great potential if they could only find their niche, he added. "Europe could be rich (given) the diversity of its countries, the diversity of its expertise, as long as each country is able to maximize its success, its potential in its own field."

Agon has worked for L'Oreal since joining the company in 1978, with stints heading its operations in Greece and Germany -- an experience he said had given him unusual insight into Europe's current predicament.

"Based on this experience, I can see that it is very difficult for these two countries to live under the same currency," he said.

"I think the German economy is successful because they have found their role in the worldwide economy. I think Greece has also to define what they can be good at, and what they will be known for, and famous for around the world."

Identifying France's particular area of economic potential should be a priority issue in the upcoming election, he said.

"France has talents that no other country [has] ... in terms of luxury, in terms of technology. This is something the world needs and France has a great role to play."

Other European countries needed to do the same thing -- then work in unison as a cohesive economic bloc. France and other countries of Europe needed to unite and define objectives and ambitions, he said.

Each economy was now competing in a global marketplace, "whether we like it or not," he said. "If a country, like a company, wants to develop its business -- to grow -- it has to grab business from all around the world."

To that end, Agon said he expected emerging markets would drive L'Oreal's expansion in the immediate future. Growth is likely to come from China and Brazil, he said, where the middle classes are booming.

"You have hundreds of millions of consumers really want [ing] access to these products," he said.

      Marketplace Europe

    • spc marketplace europe latvia valdis dombrovskis_00021207.jpg

      Latvia's economic prospects

      CNN's Nina Dos Santos visits Latvia to speak to the country's outgoing Prime Minister and the prospects for the eurozone's 18th member.
    • spc marketplace europe malta immigration africa_00002118.jpg

      Asylum seekers in Malta

      Malta is the gateway to Europe and on the frontline of the immigration flows. Isa Soares reports from a detention center on the Mediterranean island.
    • spc marketplace europe malta immigration vox pops_00001419.jpg

      Maltese concerned over migrants

      CNN's Isa Soares speaks with people on the streets of Valletta who say their country can't cope with more migrants from Africa and the Middle East.
    • spc marketplace europe malta george vella_00032005.jpg

      Malta's migrant struggle

      Malta cannot afford to continue supporting migrants from war-torn countries in its over-crowded detention camps, the country's foreign minister has told CNN.
    • spc marketplace europe 2013 what went wrong_00020426.jpg

      What went wrong in 2013?

      Slow recoveries, bailouts, and youth unemployment. Richard Quest speaks to Europe's top CEOs about the issues of 2013.
    • spc marketplace europe 2013 defining moments bob parker intv_00010826.jpg

      2013: The year of tapering

      CNN's Richard Quest speaks to economist Bob Parker about defining moments of 2013 and about what to expect in 2014.
    • spc marketplace europe estonia energy_00000923.jpg

      Estonia's dirty energy drive

      The Baltic nation of Estonia is developing its oil shale energy reserves in a bid to become energy self-sufficient.
    • spc marketplace europe nani beccalli falco_00041005.jpg

      GE Europe exec's jobs warning

      Europe must stop being nationalistic if it wants to help a lost generation of workers, the regional boss of U.S. conglomerate General Electric says.
    • spc marketplace europe greece petros christodoulou_00002025.jpg

      Is Greece on the mend?

      Greece is on the way to economic recovery as investor faith returns to the recession-ridden eurozone nation, an executive at Greece's largest bank has told CNN.
    • spc marketplace europe euro jim cloos_00012617.jpg

      Don't blame euro, says pioneer

      One of the masterminds behind the euro says Europe would have suffered a far worse fate if the single currency had never been created.
    • spc marketplace europe maastricht eu_00002401.jpg

      The birthplace of the euro

      Nina Dos Santos visits the Dutch city where the European treaty carrying the city's name came into force 20 years ago.
    • spc marketplace europe spain working hours_00010525.jpg

      Spain may turn clocks back

      As Spain continues its drive to slash budgets and cut spending, one of the nation's favorite pastimes is under threat as ministers look for ways to boost productivity.