Carmeuse: expansion through partnership and knowledge
Largely considered a family business, the lime and limestone producer Carmeuse has seen considerable growth over the past twenty years through a long-term policy of expansion through investment and partnerships.
By Paul KUVNIC
In 1860, a Liege-based company started providing the rapidly expanding industrial base of Wallonia with lime and limestone products. Since that time, the group – still a family business – has grown to include some 80 production facilities across 12 countries in Europe, North America and Africa.
This global scope enables it to serve customers worldwide, delivering products in bulk, on pallets, in bags or containers via road, rail and sea. The company's focus on the needs of its clients is reflected in its ISO 9000 quality certification at most of its production facilities. In 2002 it was the first lime producer to be ISO 14000 certified in Belgium. It recently acquired its main rival in the US for $518 million.
For Rodolphe Collinet, the continued success can be attributed to a number of factors. "When the fuel crisis hit in the early seventies, he remembers, the companies that survived were those such as Carmeuse that invested in new technologies and R&D to offer new products and address new applications. We then undertook to share this expertise with partners in different countries around the world".
At the time, the goal was remarkably simple. As lime is a ponderous commodity, it was seen as a more strategic move to share the benefits of the research and investment with strong local players. "Transport can rapidly double the costs of our products. So we organised to work with partners in a strategy of joint ventures. Then, over the years, as the business evolved, we eventually acquired some of the partners into what is now a worldwide group".
Apart from the weight of lime products, this policy fit with another aspect of the business: "Building methods and regulations vary from one country to another, says Collinet. So it was better benefit from the local expertise as well". He cites the use of lime as a stabiliser. It first took off in the US, before becoming used in France and Belgium, then Spain and Italy and is now gaining ground in Eastern and Central Europe.
© Dynamisme Wallon, 12/2007
Localisation : HQ in Louvain-la-Neuve, 70 locations worldwide
Founded in : 1860
Activity : limestones and derivates
Employees : 3700
Revenue : € 940 million Euro turn over in 2006