2020 Activity report

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to a sharp slowdown in the global economy in 2020, particularly in the first half of the year, had a significant impact on the activities of the main French construction groups, including internationally, with a 5.9% drop in their international revenues, to €45.3bn.

In 2020, the share of international activities of French construction companies reached an all-time high, representing 49.2% of their total revenues.

The global nature of the pandemic has led to a decline in their international revenues in all geographical areas, in varying proportions: -16.9% in Latin America, -11.4% in Asia/Oceania (-12.8% in Asia and -9.6% in Oceania), -10.3% in Africa, -6.4% in the Middle East, -4.9% in Europe and -0.5% in North America. In Europe, only the new EU member states with a majority of CEECs have been spared, with a sustained increase of 11%. In the EU28 countries, the deceleration was contained with a 4.4% drop in sales, while it was more brutal in the other European countries (-7.9%) and in the EU15 (-7.2%). 

Since the 2008 recession, the ranking of the main markets, without having undergone extreme upheaval, has slightly changed: Europe remains the main market for French groups with 58.6% of their total international sales in 2020 (€26.6 billion); North America has been in second place since 2012, with €7.6 billion in sales in 2020 (16.8% of international sales); Asia/Oceania has ranked 3rd since 2015, ahead of Africa. Sales will reach €5.1 billion in 2020 (or 11.3%), divided between €2.8 billion for Asia and €2.3 billion for Oceania; Africa, which was the third largest market until 2014, is now in fourth place (€3.6 billion, or 7.9% of international sales); Latin America (€1.6 billion in sales, or 3.6% of international sales) has remained unchanged for the past five years, in 5th place; the Near and Middle East ranked 6th in terms of sales (€828 million, or 1.8% of international sales in 2020).

Within the European continent, the share of the EU28 is largely preponderant since it concentrates 86.5% of the turnover (€23 billion) while that of other European countries contributes 13.5% (€3.6 billion). Within the EU, the share of activities carried out in the new member states has clearly decreased, despite a slight increase in 2020 compared to its pre-crisis level, reaching only 18% compared to more than 30% until 2011. 

  • The evolution of the geographical distribution of international revenues of French construction groups is characterized in recent years by
  • the preponderance of international activities on the European continent: although this phenomenon increased between 2002 and 2006 as a result of the integration of the CEECs into the European Union, this region still accounts for more than half of the groups' international revenues (58.6% in 2020). Since the crisis of 2008, the weight of new entrants has fallen sharply and business volume depends to a large extent on Western European countries. The steady rise of "other European countries" over the past few years is also noteworthy, with sales growth often exceeding that of the EU15 ;
  • a solid foothold in North America: it has been the second largest market for French groups since 2012 and the weight of the North American market makes it one of their priority areas of operation. The business acquisitions made in 2018 have enabled a new phase of development that has resulted in a major increase in sales in 2018 and 2019. While the Covid-19 pandemic and the pre-election context have created less favorable conditions, opportunities in the infrastructure sector over the next few years offer French groups favorable prospects; 
  • resilience in Africa: in an exacerbated competitive context, the overall decline in the revenues of French groups has been evident since 2014, with the exception of 2019 when a 12.6% rebound in revenues was recorded. While the share of this region is now below 10%, it is nevertheless maintained at a relatively high level (7.9% in 2020) ;
  • the rise of Oceania: thanks to the takeovers of local companies by French groups in recent years, the share of this region has exceeded 5% since 2018 and the level of sales has risen sharply to the point of reaching an amount close to that of Asia; 
  • a diversified geographical presence: while many European players in the construction sector have gradually refocused their international activities around 2-3 markets, French groups have always had a diversified geographical presence that they have maintained over the years, despite the economic hazards and political instability that make certain regions of the world fragile. In addition to their perennial interest in Africa, where they continue to generate a significant volume of their sales, they have significantly increased their business volume in Latin America in recent years. Finally, more recently, they have considerably increased their activities in Oceania, multiplying their external growth operations.

    Transport infrastructure is traditionally the leading sector of activity for French companies abroad, accounting for 31.9% of their international revenues in 2020 (€14.4 billion). Energy is in second place, accounting for 28.6% of total revenues (€13 billion), followed by civil engineering with 13.8% (€6.3 billion), building (10.3%; €4.7 billion) and services with 10.1% (€4.6 billion). The other areas of activity are: environment/water (4.6%) and maritime/offshore (0.7%). 

    With the exception of the energy sector, international sales in all other business areas are down in 2020, to varying degrees: -26.3% in services, -14.1% in building and -4.7% in civil engineering. The decline is also significant in the maritime/offshore sector, but we cannot draw any conclusions from this, as it may be explained by changes in the method of allocating revenues by sector of activity adopted by some of our groups. Turnover in the environment/water sector remained virtually unchanged (-0.26%) as did turnover in transport infrastructure (-0.33%). Conversely, the energy sector saw a slight increase in activity with a 2.2% rise.

  • The evolution of the sectoral breakdown over the past few years is characterized by:
  • the preponderant share of transport infrastructure (about one third of overall volume), even if the increase in turnover since 2015 in this sector is not as dynamic as some other areas of activity;
  • the growing importance of energy, whose share (28.6% of revenues in 2020 compared with less than 5% until 2005) is gradually approaching that of the transport infrastructure sector; 
  • the growth of services: the share of this sector (which includes facilities management and concessions) fell slightly in 2020 due to the impact of the health crisis. Nonetheless, services remain a major focus of the development strategy of French groups;
  • the significant reduction in the share of building over the past 10 years: while it represented just over 20% until the early 2000s, it will be 10.3% in 2020, its lowest level ever.

  • International Turnover of French construction companies in 2020