From roads… to all forms of transportation infrastructure
- 1929: Colas is born
Société Routière Colas was founded in France in 1929 by Shell and Société Générale d'Entreprises (SGE) to operate the "Cold Asphalt" bitumen emulsion patent. The company originally specialized in the production of bitumen emulsion in addition to road works.
- In the 1930s, it established operations in northern and western Africa and the French Caribbean.
- 1950s-1970s: international expansion in Africa, Canada and the United States and expansion of the roads business to include road safety equipment
In 1959, Colas expanded its road business to include road safety and signaling by acquiring Somaro, currently Aximum. By the early 1960s, Colas had an extensive network of sites in western Africa and had established a presence in Canada by acquiring a Quebec-based company in 1962 that eventually became Sintra, and subsequently in the United States by acquiring assets in 1979 that led to the creation of the Group's first US subsidiary, Barrett Paving Materials.
In 1970, Colas cofounded Cofiroute*, which operates a highway concession in north-western France.
- 1980s-2000s: the Group’s network of French road companies is consolidated, international development is accelerated (Indian Ocean, North America, Europe, Asia and Oceania), business is expanded to include other activities, vertical integration is reinforced.
Starting in the 1980s, Colas’ network of road companies in mainland France grew rapidly through the acquisition of various small and medium-sized regional companies as well as Sacer in 1992 and Screg’s road subsidiaries in 1996, thus making Colas a leader in the global road industry.
During this time, Colas also stepped up its international expansion in:
- the Indian Ocean region, by acquiring GTE (Grands Travaux de l’Est) in 1980 – the first building block of the Group’s expansion in this part of the world;
- North America, by acquiring additional companies in the United States and Canada;
- Europe, by purchasing companies in central Europe (Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic) after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and by acquiring Colas companies that were still held by Royal Dutch Shell in the United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland in 1995;
- Asia, by participating in a joint venture to build the Jakarta airport, in 1981. This was followed in 1993 by the construction of an emulsion plant in association with Tipco, a listed Thai company in which Colas acquired a 17% equity stake in 2000 (now 32%);
- Oceania, where Colas acquired the Australian group Drawmac in 2008.
In parallel, the Group also expanded into civil engineering and building in and around Paris and in the Indian Ocean (following the acquisition of GTE), pipelines (with the acquisition of Spac in 1993), waterproofing (Smac in 1999) and railways (Seco-Rail in 2000 and Spie Rail in 2007 to form the railway specialist Colas Rail in 2008).
Alongside these developments, Colas pursued the vertical integration of its businesses by acquiring a great number of quarries and gravel pits in the regions where it operates and by purchasing the Société de la Raffinerie de Dunkerque (SRD) in 2010 to better secure bitumen procurement for the Group’s subsidiaries.
Over the years, Colas has thus paved the way to a solid profile by broadening its lines of business (via specialized activities and vertical integration), by steadily strengthening its foothold in local markets, and by expanding its global network. It has grown both organically and through acquisitions that have been carried out on a regular basis with highly successful integration.
*Colas' stake in Cofiroute was sold in 2014.