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Family-owned French distributor Sonepar buys Routeco

19 September, 2014

Sonepar, a global distributor of electrical products with operations in 41 countries and turnover of more than €16bn, is buying the UK automation distributor, Routeco. The family-owned French business says that acquisition is part of its efforts to strengthen its position in the “immense” industrial automation market, and to expand into new countries. Details of the transaction have not been released.

Routeco, founded in 1978, is a leading distributor of industrial control and automation products and services in the UK with sales of €135m in the latest financial year. The company, based in Milton Keynes, has been an authorised distributor for Rockwell Automation since 1992 and has 13 branches across the UK. It also has operations in Austria and in the Netherlands.

In 2011, Routeco’s founders retired and the operating board, which had been in place for more than 12 years, performed a management buyout.

Routeco will now operate as a separate business within Sonepar’s Northern Europe region. Chief executive Ian Stewart and the existing management team will stay in charge.

Routeco will continue to work closely with Rockwell and will be supported by Sonepar to improve its “value proposition” by offering more complementary lines, supply chain services and e-commerce capabilities.

The transaction, which is subject to approval from competition authorities, is expected to close during the fourth quarter of 2014.

Under new ownership: Routeco's Web site

Sonepar, founded in 1969, employs 36,000 people at more than 190 businesses and 2,300 branches in 41 countries. A major step forward in its expansion occurred in 2008 when it acquired the assets of the Hagemeyer group. It is continuing to enlarge its footprint through targeted acquisitions around the world. The Routeco acquisition is its first significant entry into the UK market.

Sonepar, which has been growing at an average rate of about 10% a year for several years, derives a third of its income from the industrial automation and infrastructure markets, 17% from cables and wiring, 15% from lighting and 13% from building management. It serves the industrial, commercial, utility and residential markets. More than a half of its income (56%) comes from Europe, 36% from North America and 8% from the Asia-Pacific region.

•  Sonepar is also buying the US-based Industrial Distribution Group (IDG), located in Belmont, North Carolina. IDG, founded in 1997, is said to be the largest privately owned industrial MRO (maintenance, repairs and operations) distributor in the US, with 1,365 employees, 42 branches and more than 170 on-site customer locations in North America, Asia, and Europe.

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