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Sonepar Enters UK Industrial Automation Market with Purchase of Routeco Group

Oct. 3, 2014
Routeco will continue to operate as a separate business unit within Sonepar Northern Europe. This acquisition strategy mirrors what Sonepar has done with its acquisitions in North America over the years. At Routeco, CEO Ian Stewart and the existing management team that has driven the development over the last 25 years will remain in charge.

Sonepar SA has agreed to purchase the shares of Routeco Group Holdings Ltd., a British automation specialist with 13 branches and more than 200 employees in the United Kingdom and operations in Austria and the Netherlands.

The transaction, which is subject to approval from competition authorities in Austria, where Routeco has an operating company, is expected to close during the fourth quarter. Founded in 1978 in Milton Keynes, Great Britain, Routeco had 2014 sales of €135 million (approximately $170.3 million). The company has been a Rockwell Automation authorized distributor since 1992 and according to the Sonepar press release is one of the largest automation distributors in the United Kingdom. The company’s line card includes familiar brand names such as Bussmann, GE Power, Legrand, Merlin Gerin, Molex, Phoenix Contact, Rittal, Thomas & Betts, Weidmuller and Tyco. Routeco also private labels some electrical products under its own brand name, including lamps and steel boxes.

Sonepar, which has global sales of approximately $20.5 billion, 36,000 employees, and branches in 41 countries, said in its release that Routeco will continue to operate as a separate business unit within Sonepar Northern Europe. This acquisition strategy mirrors what Sonepar has done with its acquisitions in North America over the years. At Routeco, CEO Ian Stewart and the existing management team that has driven the development over the last 25 years will remain in charge.

“This acquisition underlines the ongoing efforts of Sonepar to strengthen its position with entries into new countries as well as into the immense market of Industrial Automation,” the press release said. “Routeco will continue to work closely together with Rockwell Automation and will be supported by Sonepar to improve the value proposition to its very loyal customers base, through providing support in offering more complementary lines, supply chain services and e-commerce capabilities.”

The company’s website, www.routeco.com, said Routeco was formed in 1978 as a multi-franchise industrial electrical distributor that focused on electrical products such as lighting, cable and wiring accessories. Routeco got an Allen-Bradley franchise in 1980 for its Milton Keynes location and the surrounding area and several years later we were appointed as a Siemens distributor for switchgear and programmable logic controllers. With these automation lines the company changed its focus from mainstream electrical products to industrial control and automation products. The company got the Allen-Bradley (now owned by Rockwell Automation) line for all of its locations in 1992 and at that time started expanding aggressively through Great Britain, Wales and Scotland.

The company made its first acquisition in 1996, purchasing Control Gear Ltd. in Wales, and two years later formed Routeco GmbH based in Linz to serve the Austrian market. Last year the company formed Routeco BV as the preferred Rockwell Automation channel serving the Netherlands market. Routeco has invested in online purchasing and e-commerce since the digital technologies first entered the distribution world and today has a fully functioning online storefront and related purchasing services such as integrating customers’ buying applications directly into its ERP system or assisting them in procuring products through online marketplaces like Ariba.