2019 Activity report

Despite the "synchronized slowdown" in global economic growth in 2019, the major French construction companies have experienced, once again, a year of strong development in foreign markets with a 12% increase in their international turnover to € 48 billion.

In 2019, the share of international activities of French construction companies reached an even higher level, now representing 48% of their total turnover (up 2 points compared to 2018).

Except the Middle East, sales continued to grow in all regions in 2019: in North America (up 23.0%), in Africa (up 12.6%), in Europe (up 11.5%) , in Asia/Oceania (up 5.8 % -up 8.6% in Oceania-) and in Latin America (up 4.9%). Conversely, sales contracted once again in the Middle East (down 1.8%). In Europe, the increase concerned all the components of the region (EU15, CEECs and other European countries). While the growth rate has remained strong in Western Europe, it has slowed down in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (up 4.6% in 2019) compared to the two previous years. Finally, the increase in turnover in non-EU European countries has been significant since 2018 (up 21.3% in 2019).

Since the 2008 recession, the ranking of the main markets, without having experienced extreme upheavals, has changed slightly: Europe remained the main market for French companies with 58% of their total international turnover in 2019 (€ 28 billion); North America was the second-biggest market in the last eight years with a turnover of € 7.6 billion in 2019 (15.9%); Asia / Oceania have been ranked 3rd since 2015 (€ 5.7 billion in 2019 or 12%, with € 3.2 billion for Asia and € 2.5 billion for Oceania) and  Africa was in 4th place (€ 4 billion, or 8.3%). The other markets were Latin America (€ 1.9 billion or 4%) and the Middle East (€ 884 Mn, or 1.8%).

Within the European continent, the EU28 has the largest share with 86% of their turnover (€ 24 billion) while the other European countries accounted for the rest (€ 3.9 billion). Within the EU, the share of activities carried out in the new Member States continues to decline significantly compared to its pre-crisis level, reaching only 15.5% in 2019 against more than 30 % until 2011.

  • The evolution of the geographical distribution in international sales by French contractors is characterized in recent years by
  • the preponderance of international activities within the European continent: given that this trend expanded between 2002 and 2006 as a result of the east-European countries' integration within the European Union, the share of this region still represents more than half of their international turnover (58% in 2019). Since the 2008 crisis, the value for the newer member states has fallen sharply and the volume of activities depends to a large extent on Western Europe. The constant rise of the category "other European countries" in recent years has to be emphasized with an increase in turnover often greater than that of the EU15;
  • a sustained presence in North America: it is the second-largest market for French companies since 2012 and this area is one of their priority markets. Their acquisitions carried out in 2018 have enabled them to move into a new phase of development for two years;
  • the capacity for resilience in Africa: despite an exacerbated competitive context and the decline in turnover of French groups between 2014 and 2018 in this area (moderate in comparison with other European companies), their activities started to rise again in 2019 (up 12.6%). While Africa's share has  accounted for  less than 10% for the past three years, it has nevertheless remained at a relatively high level (8.3% in 2019);
  • the rise of the Oceania region: thanks to the external growth operations recently carried out by French groups, the share of this region has been over 5% since 2018 (5.3% in 2019);
  • a diversified geographic presence: despite an unstable economic climate and strong disparities between countries / sectors since the 2008 crisis, in both developed and emerging countries, the French groups continue to achieve a high volume of activities in the latter. In addition to their continuing interest in Africa, they have significantly developed their activities in Latin America in recent years (share of 4.1% in 2019 vs. 2.9% in 2010).

    Transport infrastructure traditionally represented the leading sector of activity for French companies abroad, with 30.1% of their international turnover in 2019 (€ 14.5 billion). Energy ranked second with 20.1% of total turnover (€ 9.7 billion), followed by services with 19.1% (€ 9.2 billion), civil engineering with 13.7 % (€ 6.5 billion) and building (11.3%; € 5.4 billion). Other areas of activity are environment / water (4.3%) and maritime / offshore (1.4%).
    Except for services (up 113.6%) and civil engineering (up 11%), turnover growth slowed down in 2019 in most sectors compared to 2018 like transport infrastructure (up 11%) and building (up 8%). It even fell in energy (down 16.5%), maritime / offshore (down 16.4%) and environment / water (down 8.4%).

  • The evolution of the sectoral distribution in recent years is characterized by:
  • the leading share of transport infrastructure (around 30% of the overall volume), even if the increase in turnover since 2010 in this sector is not as dynamic as some other sectors;
  • the growing share of energy since 2005 (20% of turnover in 2019 against less than 5% until 2005);
  • the strong growth in the share of services over the past two years (20% of turnover in 2019 vs. 7% in 2017);
  • the significant declining share of the building sector (11.3% in 2019 against over 20% until the early 2000s).

  • International Turnover of French construction companies in 2019