From cotton thread to electric wires
Five years after setting up a weaving business in Armentières, in northern France, Henri Coisne, a farmer’s son, and Léopold Lambert, a Belgian merchant, founded the company Coisne & Lambert.
A century later, eleven of their descendants partnered to create Société de Négoce et de Participation (Sonepar) to manage the Group’s diversified holdings outside a declining textile industry. Having identified electrical material distribution as a promising business, Henri Coisne and his brothers bought out Comptoir d’Électricité Franco-Belge in 1969.
“What counts is what lasts.”
During the 1970s, Sonepar expanded across France through a combination of multiple business acquisitions and strong organic growth.
During the 1980s, Sonepar expanded across Europe and doubled in size, building a presence in Germany and the Netherlands before gaining a foothold in 1998 in the United States, which eventually became the Group’s biggest single market in 2007. Also in 1998, Marie-Christine Coisne-Roquette, Henri Coisne’s daughter, took over as Group Chairman.
By 2000, the family shareholding group had made B2B electrical products distribution the key focus of its investing activity. The family holding company passed the name Sonepar on to its distribution subsidiary and was renamed Colam Entreprendre. Sonepar branched out into new geographies in Asia and Latin America.
“And to last, we need to adapt.”
Sonepar as global leader
In 2008, the Group deepened its global footprint by buying up substantial assets from Hagemeyer, the world’s third leading distributor at the time. That gave Sonepar a presence in 35 countries.
In 2014, Sonepar further boosted its international footprint with the acquisition of entities with local market leadership. In the United States, for example, the buyout of IDG (to become Vallen in 2016) strengthened the Group in the integrated supply, energy and industrial distribution markets.
Today in 2018, Sonepar does business in 44 countries through 170 operating companies.
Henri Coisne and Léopold Lambert
Business partnership between the Coisne and Lambert families in northern France.
Société de Négoce et de Participation
Eleven Coisne and Lambert family members join together to create Sonepar, a holding company for their non-textile holdings. Henri Coisne...
Entry into the electrical equipment business
Acquisition of Comptoir d’Électricité Franco-Belge and first steps in electrical material distribution.
Start of an acquisition policy
Over the decade, Sonepar buys up electrical material distributors in several parts of France.
Expansion in Europe
Buyout of a group of companies in Germany and the Netherlands, followed by expansion into Spain, Italy and Belgium.
Full national coverage in France
Sonepar Distribution covers 100% of mainland France. Entry into the Canadian market.
Number one provider in France
Acquisition of CGE Distribution, France’s leading electrical equipment distributor.
Change at the top
Marie-Christine Coisne-Roquette is appointed Group Chairman. Sonepar gains a foothold in the United States.
Rexel and Sonepar divide up the assets of Hagemeyer (then the world’s third leading provider). Sonepar futher extends its network in Europe,...
Strategic strengthening of the integrated supply chain business
Buyout of IDG in the US, to become Vallen in 2016.
Sonepar as global leader
Sonepar does business in 44 countries through 170 operating companies. Its 46,000 associates around the world generate sales of €22.4...