L'Entreprise Jean Lefebvre History
Telephone: (33) 01 45 41 77 64
Fax: (33) 01 46 41 77 50
Incorporated: 1934 as Compagnie Industrielle des Fillers
Sales: FFr 9.89 billion (1996)
Stock Exchanges: Paris
SICs: 1611 Highway and Street Construction; 1422 Crushed & Broken Limestone; 1429 Crushed and Broken Stone, Not Elsewhere Classified; 1622 Bridge, Tunnel and Elevated Highway
France's l'Entreprise Jean Lefebvre is engaged in highway construction, services, and maintenance, and related activities including the construction of airport runways, parking lots, industrial terrain development, sports fields and tracks, and urban planning activities. It also engages in civil engineering projects such as bridge-building, industrial installations, and public art placement. The company produces and sells materials for highway construction and maintenance, and operates a number of quarries and treatment, recycling, and dumping facilities. A leader in its home market--where it has played an important role in developing much of the country's Autoroute network--Jean Lefebvre has long served the infrastructure needs of the former French colonies in Africa and the Caribbean. Since 1988, the company has been expanding its activities into other parts of the world, with a focus on North America, Spain, and Eastern Europe. Foreign sales represented approximately one-third of the company's nearly FFr 10 billion in 1996 revenue.
Highway construction and maintenance remains the company's premier activity, accounting for nearly 90 percent of its revenues. Jean Lefebvre participates in the development and construction of France's principal motorways, including the national Autoroute network, as well as departmental and city-specific roadway projects, and related activities including the construction, maintenance, and upgrading of airport runways and racing and bicycle tracks. Major projects in the mid-1990s included the four-lane (two lanes by two directions) Autoroute extension between Nantes and Cholet, the northwest Rennes-Limoges 'rocade' (bypass or beltway), and the Lille Autoroute deviation.
Yet, with much of France's highway infrastructure in place--and amid increasing resistance to new highway construction--more than 60 percent of Jean Lefebvre's highway-related activity is related to its highway maintenance and resurfacing services. Working with more than 50 surfacing products and processes, the company responds not only to the revitalization of the existing roadway infrastructure, but also to the amelioration of the country's airport and other surfaces, such as dockyards and bicycle lanes. Jean Lefebvre also works within the cities, towns, and villages of its markets, restoring and maintaining public streets, roads, terraces, and parking lots. The company undertakes projects such as tramway and metro modernization, construction of reservoir basins, and other special technical projects. Its markets include such cities as Paris, Bordeaux, Cholet, and Rodez, and a 15-year contract with the city of Vichy. In the private sector, the company builds, maintains, and repairs industrial terrain and parking facilities for a variety of clients, including McDonald's. Important projects include the construction of the race track for the Renault technical center at Aubevoye, and the construction of the parking lots and heliport for the Futuroscope complex at Poitiers.
Supplying the company's construction and maintenance activities is its materials production arm, which produces more than 14 million tons per year of granulates, making Jean Lefebvre the premier producer of road-grade materials products in France. The company's investments in research and development enable the company to introduce new and specialized roadway materials and surfacing and construction equipment. Jean Lefebvre has also taken an active role in developing and implementing recycling, waste disposal, and other processes to reduce the impact of highway and other construction projects on the environment.
Beyond France, Jean Lefebvre is represented in North America by its Canadian subsidiary Construction DJL Inc., and its U.S. subsidiary, Hubbard Construction Co.. Hubbard is based in Florida and is that state's leading roadway construction and maintenance firm. The company is active in the former French colonies and other French-speaking countries including Martinique, New Caledonia, the Ivory Coast, Guinea, Senegal, Gabon, and the Polynesian islands. In Western Europe, Jean Lefebvre is represented in Spain and the United Kingdom, since its 1996 acquisition of Ringway Ltd. Jean Lefebvre also operates subsidiaries in the Czech Republic and in Lithuania, with an eye toward further expansion in Eastern Europe.
Jean Lefebvre's growth by acquisition has created an organization of more than 100 individual subsidiaries and sub-subsidiaries. In France, the company's activities are conducted through more than 240 agencies, centers, and subsidiaries, grouped within nine departments under the central direction of the company's Neuilly-sur-Seine headquarters. In turn, Jean Lefebvre's principal shareholder and parent is GTM-Entrepose, a subsidiary of France's Lyonnaise des Eaux.
Founded in 1934
The automobile's emergence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries--especially the advances in automotive technology made in the years during and following the First World War--found a particularly enthusiastic reception in France, which boasted many of the automobile industry's early pioneers and champions. The new mode of transportation provided increased mobility not only to the population, but also for the transport of goods. The automobile would spark vast changes in the traditionally rural French society, not the least of which was the opening of new opportunities for individual entrepreneurs. An immediate result of the growth of the automobile in France was the creation of a demand for new and stronger roads and road surfaces--and for the development of a national highway network.
The Lefebvre family would play a prominent role in building France's highway system. The family, under Charles Lefebvre, began its involvement in roadway construction and transportation as early as the 1920s, with the formation of Salviam Brun, created in 1926, and other companies, each specialized in activities involved in roadwork. Jean Lefebvre joined the family's growing roadway empire, founding the Compagnie Industrielle des Fillers in 1934.
By the 1940s, the Lefebvre family of companies began to merge into a centralized organization. In 1942, the Compagnie Industrielle des Fillers entered the Charles Lefebvre group of companies, adopting the name L'Entreprise Jean Lefebvre, and becoming the family's principal vehicle on the road to becoming a dominant player in the country's highway and roads sector. Specializing in the construction of new roads, Jean Lefebvre would play a prominent role in the creation of France's Autoroute infrastructure, a network of limited-access highways linking all of the countries major cities and rivaling Germany's Autobahn and the United States' federal interstate system. Among the company's major participatory efforts were the construction of the important Paris links of the A14 and the A5, and other principal Autoroute legs across the country, including the A28 from Calais, the A16 from Boulogne. The adaptation of France's cities--which, like cities across Europe, had been built long before the development of the internal combustion engine&mdashø the increasing penetration of the automobile provided the company with additional opportunities, including the construction of intercity highways, the resurfacing of streets, and the creation of bypass highways, called 'rocades,' similar to the Beltway around Washington, D.C.
In 1949, Jean Lefebvre looked beyond France's borders for the first time, creating subsidiaries in many of the DOM-TOM countries--that is, France's former and soon-to-become former colonies and other French-speaking countries in Africa and Polynesia. Back in France, Jean Lefebvre was also steadily expanding the scope of its activities related to road work and construction, adding vertical integration capacity with the quarrying and production of road foundation and surfacing materials. While much of the companies growth had been made internally, the company had also begun a program of external acquisitions, enhancing both its presence in the French and DOM-TOM markets, while expanding the range of its services. One such addition was the 1954 acquisition of Reveto, formed in 1927, which became one of the company's principal subsidiaries and helped establish the company's reputation as a premier developer and producer of road surfacing materials.
Entrance into the 1960s with a Public Offering
The company's listing on the Paris stock exchange in 1957 provided the capital to step up growth. Going public would also win the company powerful backing, in the form of major shareholder investments by Mobil Oil France in 1970 and by Grands Travaux de Marseille (later GTM-Entrepose) in 1973. At the beginning of the 1980s, Jean Lefebvre restructured its operations, absorbing its principal subsidiaries Salviam-Brun and Reveto. By the mid-1980s, with more than 11,000 employees, the company's sales had grown to FFr 4.3 billion per year.
The maturation of the Autoroute network and the growing saturation of the country's roadway system in general, led Jean Lefebvre to move toward deepening its presence in the service side of the road works industry. The company acquired a stake in Cofiroute, one of the concessionaires of the Autoroute system, involved in the general operation, including toll-taking and rest stop exploitation, and the maintenance of specified sectors in the network. In 1987, Jean Lefebvre increased its participation in Cofiroute, acquiring one-third of that company. As the Autoroute network neared its completion--and as popular opposition began to develop against further expansion of the network--Jean Lefebvre continued to shift its emphasis toward maintenance activities, while continuing to reinforce its leading role in highway, road, and other public and private surfacing projects. At the same time, Jean Lefebvre began preparing to increase its international presence. Adopting a policy of implantation by acquisition, the company moved first to the U.S. market, acquiring the Florida-based Hubbard Construction Co. in 1988, which became that state's largest privately owned highway and road surface construction company. Closer to home, the company moved into Spain, with the addition of Probisa in 1989. The following year, with an increase in GTM-Entrepose's shareholder position, Jean Lefebvre became a subsidiary of that Lyonnaise des Eaux subsidiary, while maintaining its operational independence and public status on the Paris exchange.
The 1990s and Beyond
With more than FFr 6 billion in annual sales at the start of the 1990s, Jean Lefebvre's international expansion continued. In 1990, the company created a new subsidiary, Compagnie Antillaise de Routes et Autoroutes et d'Importation de Bitume (CARAIB) in Martinique. The following year, the company moved in Canada, acquiring a controlling interest in Constructions Desourdy Inc. (which became Construction DJL Inc. in 1995), based in Quebec. Jean Lefebvre also began eyeing the newly opened Eastern European market; in 1992, the company acquired Stavby Silnic A Zeleznic in what was shortly to become the Czech Republic. This move was followed in 1994 by the acquisition of Lithuania's AB Saskelis and SELB-Pacifique Ltd., based in Vanuatu. In the wake of the recession and the French economic crisis of the mid-1990s, the company was also furthering its implantation in France, acquiring the Brittany region quarries of Baud et Guilligomarch'h, the quarries of Spada, in the French Alps. In the Czech Republic, the company expanded its presence with the creation of the joint-venture company, MBS, with Lafarge Coppée.
By 1995, the company's revenues had passed FFr 9 billion, and by 1996, annual sales approached FFr 10 billion. By then, nearly one-third of the company's annual sales were produced by its foreign operations. That share would be strengthened still further in 1996, with Jean Lefebvre's acquisition of Ringway Ltd., which, with annual revenues of FFr 580 million, would establish the company in the United Kingdom market for the first time. With the prospects of new road construction becoming dimmer in France, Jean Lefebvre continued to eye further international expansion to maintain its future growth.
Principal Subsidiaries: France: Calcaires Régionaux; Entreprise Jacques Coupet; Durance Granulats; EJL Alsace Franche-Comté; EJL Côte d'Azur; EJL Meuse-Pianezzi; EJL Normandie; Flan; Carrières Leroux Philippe; Carrières Kléber; Société Niçoise d'Enrobage; Ets Ozil et Compagnie; Société Paridu-Letourner; Roehrig; Société Rosa et Fils; Cie Industrielle des Fillers et Chaux; Oscar Savreux; Entreprise de Travaux Publics et Bâtiment Edmond; Vermot S.A.; Compagnie Antillaise de Routes et Autoroutes et d'Importation de Bitume (C.A.R.A.I.B) (Martinique); Construction DJL Inc. (Canada); Hubbard Construction Co. (US); Jean Lefebvre Pacifique (New Caledonia); Jean Lefebvre Polynésie (Polynesia); MBS (50%) (Czech Republic); Probisa (Spain); AB Sauskelis (Lithuania); SELB Pacific Ltd. (Vanuatu); Socoba-EDTPL (Gabon); Stavby Silnic A Zeleznic (Czech Republic).
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 23. St. James Press, 1998.