Having grown across Europe, Sonepar turned to Asia in 2000, and began a 20-year expansion across the market. Here’s how it unfolded.

By the turn of the millennium, Sonepar was just over 30 years old and had risen to a position of prominence in France and across Europe, and was starting to make inroads into North America. Now, the rest of the world beckoned. The market in Asia was huge and growing at a tremendous pace. It was time to look at the rich possibilities of the east...

 

From family to family

Sonepar’s Asian strategy was akin to the one that had driven growth in Europe—most existing electrical distributors in Asia were small, family-owned businesses set up by entrepreneurs. Sonepar could come in, acquire the business but maintain all the local knowhow and knowledge of the founding family. This was precisely what happened with Sonepar’s first Asian partnership: Hong Kong electrical distributors Supermoon, in the year 2000. Supermoon was, like Sonepar, a family-owned company, which had been founded by the Mok family in 1985.

With Sonepar’s resources now at its disposal, Supermoon was able to expand rapidly in the Hong Kong and Macau wholesale markets, acquiring another electrical distributor, Electric Fever Co, operating in Hong Kong and Macau market in 2002. In 2006 Sonepar moved into Mainland China, when it formed a joint venture with Shanghai electrical distribution company Hite Electric.

 

Asian expansion through Dutch group acquisition

In 2008, Sonepar made what is probably the largest deal in its history to date, when it agreed to purchase—along with Rexel—the Dutch group Hagemeyer, the third-largest electrical wholesaler at the time. With the purchase came operations in new countries like Australia with the addition of Lawrence &
Hanson and its specialist businesses Pacific Datacom, Specialized Lighting Solutions and Solar + Solutions; and the Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand part of operations of what is now Vallen. It also allowed the Group to strength its position in China with Hagemeyer China, an electrical power distributor, and with Elektroskandia China, a telecom specialist. At a stroke, Sonepar became a major player in the Asia-Pacific market, with operations across the region.

Despite this huge move, Sonepar’s pace of expansion did not slow. In the same year, 2008, it struck a deal to partner with the market leader in electrical distribution in Malaysia—KVC and its subsidiaries.

Accelerating expansion: 2010-2015

As it continued to explore the Asian market, Sonepar adapted its strategy, starting to develop greenfield operations in the region. In order to support the development of its existing customers in India, Sonepar established ESK India and its partner manufacturer in Thailand with the launch of Sonic Automation, an industrial automation specialist.

In parallel, the Group was still working on acquisitions, and successfully welcomed WitJoint Automation in Shanghai in 2011, DEP in Thailand in 2012 and entered New Zealand with the acquisition of Corys Electrical, also in 2012. In total, between 2010 and 2015, 21 companies and their teams joined Sonepar in the Asia-Pacific region.

Global know-how accentuated by local knowledge

Through this strategy of nimble acquisition, and Sonepar’s unique way of blending global know-how with local knowledge, Sonepar has grown to a position of strength across the Asia-Pacific market in less than 20 years. Sonepar is currently the market leader in Malaysia, which generated revenue of €198 million for the Group in 2018; number two in the market in Australia and in China (including Hong Kong and Macau SAR), generating €591 million and €613 million of revenue in those respective countries; and number three in the market in New Zealand, with additional presence in Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam, India and Indonesia. 

Sonepar’s story in Asia-Pacific has only just started and the Group is actively accelerating the pursuit of ever more innovative and digital solutions for this highly dynamic market. By combining local knowledge with global expertise and strategy, Sonepar expects to continue its rapid growth, serving customers large and small across the region and the rest of the world.

ESK India, then and now

Move the slider on the image below to compare the original building of ESK India, established in 2009, with the new building opened last year. Click here to discover more "Then and Now" images for all over our Group. 

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