Colas strengthens its position in Canada

Colas strengthens its position in Canada

February 28, 2018. Colas finalized the acquisition of Miller McAsphalt, a major road construction player in Ontario and a leading bitumen distributer across Canada. The deal gives fresh stimulus to the Group’s growth strategy in North America. We take a look back at the biggest acquisition in Colas’ history.

Extract of Routes 41 - october 2018

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Canada

  • Capital city :
    Ottawa

  • Currency :
    Canadian dollar

  • Official languages :
    English and French

Statistics

  • Area

    9985000

    km²
  • Population

    35

    million people

Synergy and complementarity : With the acquisition of Miller McAsphalt, Colas begins a new chapter in its history in Canada, which began in the early 1960s.  In Ontario, Colas Canada, which had not really been present to any great extent in the province before, is now a well-established road construction player and the outlook is extremely promising: this is one of Canada’s most populated provinces and a third of the road network is in need of renovation. And the same development opportunities also apply to bitumen production, storage and distribution: before the acquisition, Colas had six bitumen terminals and MillerMcAsphalt had 22; today, Colas has 28 terminals across the country, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, from Vancouver to Halifax. Two barges and 200 tanker railcars transport bitumen throughout Canada. “This ‘strike force’ in terms of organization and technical expertise has helped Colas establish itself as one of Canada’s leading road construction and bitumen distribution players”, notes François Vachon, Colas Canada’s Vice-President of Operations. 

The challenge of integration : Like Colas Canada, Miller McAsphalt is a vertically integrated group, meaning it is present throughout the value chain, from materials production through to road building and maintenance. What’s more, it has an excellent reputation for quality and safety. This perfect complementarity of geography and businesses is an undeniable asset for successful integration. The challenge is to turn a family business into an international group, while maintaining the entrepreneurial fiber of Miller McAsphalt’s 3,000 employees, their energy and their knowledge of the market and the country, within a new managerial, administrative and legal environment. Integration is going smoothly. It is based on sharing and implementation of best practices. Some ten working groups managed by representatives from the ten Canadian subsidiaries are currently active. Above and beyond any improvements, this type of event helps employees get to know each other and fosters a sense of pride in belonging. As is customary in Canada, we do our best to respect the cultures – very similar in fact – and each company has kept its name,” underlines Frédéric Roussel, President of Colas Canada.

Colas in Canada

Key figures in Canada


  • 8,000

    employees at Colas Canada following the acquisition

  • 28

    facilities for bitumen storage

  • 15

    Mt of aggregates

  • 8

    Mt of asphalt mixes

  • 400,000

    t of emulsions and modified bitumen

  • 700,000

    m3 of ready-to-use concrete

“Find the right words to facilitate the integration of new employees”

When François Vachon, responsible for integrating Miller McAsphalt’s employees, met them, he was keen to show them that their company had chosen a good partner in Colas. “Miller has a strong corporate culture. It is based on integrity, loyalty and respect for the company and its charismatic leader, Leo McArthur, who knew all 3,000 of his employees by name. It was important for them to realize that our model was not so very different from their own and that we shared the same values.” François Vachon, civil engineer, joined Colas at the age of just 13 to work at a weigh station before moving out to construction sites at the age of 15. As far as he is concerned, having a deep attachment to a company is not just an empty phrase. “My father spent 37 years at Colas and I’ve been here for 22 years. It was easy for me to find the right words to talk about my experiences with Colas, about the very human approach underpinning our businesses. These are realities Miller’s employees can relate to and they gave me a very warm welcome.” FRANÇOIS VACHON, Vice-President of Operations, Colas Canada.

Road building in Canada

Building and maintaining roads in a country 20 times the size of France, with 3.7 inhabitants per km2 and six time zones, is challenging to say the least. The climate is one of the harshest on the planet and the temperature range between summer and winter can be as much as 70°C. There is heavy snowfall in the winter, reaching depths of up to 3 meters in Quebec, for example. Roads are regularly subject to freezing and thawing and thus deteriorate twice as quickly as in temperate zones. Another specific characteristic and problem, linked to Canada’s unique climate, is the highly seasonal nature of the business. Generally speaking, road construction activities are carried out between May 1 and November 1. Everything comes to a standstill in the winter. Some employees work on snow clearing and highway maintenance while others find work in the mines, in oil exploration zones or in forests. Others still simply opt to spend the imposed downtime with their families. When the construction season starts again, it’s not always easy to reassemble the teams!