Shaped by a long-range vision
Our history has been shaped by the long-range vision of our shareholders and executives.
We have achieved lasting growth by meeting our customers’ needs—for strong relationships, innovative services, assistance abroad and more.
We are only as successful as our people are. Day after day, their ideas and their drive are what sets us apart.
"What counts is what lasts.”
- Henri Coisne, Founder and Honorary Chairman of the Corporate Board
“And to last, we need to adapt.”
- Marie-Christine Coisne-Roquette, Sonepar Chairman; Chairman and CEO of Colam Entreprendre
The "French" years
In 1969, Sonepar is set up when the Coisne and Lambert families acquire le Comptoir d’Electricité Franco-Belge.
Sonepar was selling to professionals, not individual consumers. This meant that growth would be achieved only through building long-term human relationships. It was a people business – and that was a domain Henri understood.
In the 1970s, Sonepar adopted a strategy of acquiring other French regional distributors.
The "French" years
Read more about how Sonepar grew in its first two decades from 1969 as a modest electrical distributor to the number one in its industry in France.
First acquisition in Europe
Opportunity came in 1981, when rival company Otra ran into difficulties. Otra comprised two entities: the Dutch electrical distribution company Technische Unie, and the German firm Otto Kuhmann. At the time, Otra was owned by a Dutch parent company called Ogem, which needed to quickly divest Otra.
Otra, like Sonepar, was a family-owned business, though its history stretched back to 1880. Otra had a similar level of revenues, but employed many more people than Sonepar at the time.
First acquisition in Europe
By the end of the 1970s, Sonepar had consolidated its position as a rising star in France and started to look abroad for the right opportunity to expand abroad.
Only two years after its first European expansion with the acquisition of Otra, Sonepar was looking to move further. Across the Atlantic in the North American market lay a host of opportunities. With the acquisition of Lumen in Quebec, Canada in 1984, the Group got its first foothold outside of mainland Europe.
But it took until 1998 for Sonepar to make its first move in the world’s largest economy, the USA. The year that Marie-Christine Coisne-Roquette, daughter of the founder Henri Coisne, became the first Chairwoman of the Group, Sonepar closed a deal to purchase Massachusetts-based electrical supply company Eagle Electric.
As 2008 dawned, and the world juddered through the first pangs of the Great Recession, Sonepar and Rexel’s acquisition of the global Group Hagemeyer brought a raft of new companies to the Sonepar family, including all of Hagemeyer’s North America brands and distribution centers. This catapulted Sonepar to the forefront of the industry in the US, and by 2010, Sonepar USA was the number 1 electrical distributor in the country.
In 2008, Sonepar and Rexel’s acquisition of the global Group Hagemeyer also expanded Sonepar’s presence in North America and Latin America.
Expanding to a new continent is no small feat, but through perseverance and selective acquisitions, Sonepar has grown from European player to market leader on both sides of the Atlantic.
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.
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.
The birth of the Group and the conquest for France
In 1969, Sonepar enters the electrical equipment business, then continues its development in France through several acquisitions.
Expansion through Western Europe and first jump across the Atlantic
Entering the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland. The Group hits $1 billion in annual revenue and expands in Canada.
Substancial growth through acquisitions across Europe and America
Sonepar opens in the Czech Republic, Finland, Norway, Poland, Sweden and the USA. Marie-Christine Coisne-Roquette becomes Chairman.
Going global with moves into the far East and emerging markets
Sonepar moves into China, Brazil and expands in APAC, Europe and North America. The Group hits €10 billion in annual revenue.
Sonepar leads the field as the number one global B2B distributor of electrical products
Sonepar becomes market leader in the USA and significantly expands in South America. In 2019, Sonepar has sales of €24 billion.