From roads… to all forms of transportation infrastructure

  • 1929: Colas is born

Colas was created to rise to a new challenge: exploiting a patented breakthrough bitumen emulsion innovation called Cold Asphalt. Founded in France in 1929 by Shell and Société Générale d'Entreprises (SGE), Société Routière Colas 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), networks (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. 

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.

  • In the 2010s : Launch of the Wattway photovoltaic roadway, creation of Colas Projects and acquisition of Miller MacAsphalt 

Designed by the Campus for Science and Techniques in collaboration with the INES (National Institute of Solar Energy), unveiled in 2015, Wattway is the first photovoltaic road surface in the world. Roads have become capable of providing clean, renewable electricity while bearing all types of vehicle traffic.

In 2017, Colas created Colas Projects to meet the growing demand of its public and private clients in the field of complex projects, such as public-private partnerships (P3), concessions or multi-year maintenance contracts, as well as on large-scale projects such as major road and airport projects and international railway projects. This unit makes it possible to focus the resources and expertise needed to study and perform this type of project in the best conditions, alongside the road and rail subsidiaries.

In 2018, Colas completed the largest acquisition in its history when it bought the Miller McAsphalt Group. As a result, the Group has strengthened it foothold in the road construction and bitumen distribution business across Canada. The same year, for the first time in 90 years, Colas recorded more than half of its activity outside of France.

In 2019, Colas celebrated its 90th anniversary. The Group has almost a century of experience in the field and, for 90 years, has been pushing back the technical and technological boundaries to design and create mobility infrastructure and solutions in phase with contemporary challenges. 

Visit the dedicated site to find out more: http://90ans.colas.com/en

*Colas' stake in Cofiroute was sold in 2014.

Colas and the stock market

  • Colas was listed on the Paris Bourse in 1961.
  • In 1985, Bouygues became Colas' main shareholder when it acquired the Screg group and had built up a 59% stake by 1995.
  • The public exchange offer for Colas shares in 2000 gave Bouygues over 96% of the Group's share capital and voting rights.