2016 Activity report

In a difficult economic environment, the international turnover of the major French construction companies decreased by 3.6% in 2016 to €36 billion, after several years of uninterrupted growth.

Nevertheless, the share of international activities increased slightly for the fifth consecutive year, reaching 43.9% of their overall turnover (37.3% in 2013).

While their turnover is down in many parts of the world in 2016, the variations are mixed: the reduction was particularly significant in the Middle East (down 10.3%), in Africa (down 9.2%), in Asia (down 7%) and in North America (down 5.4%); in Europe, while the market recovery was significant for the two preceding years, the level of activity fell in 2016 (down 2.3%). Within this area, although the turnover dropped by 33% in the new Member States (mainly the CEECs), it increased in the EU15 (up 5.9%) and in other European countries (up 1%).
Outside the EU15, other European countries and Oceania (up 9.8%), the turnover was also up in Latin America in 2016 (up 2.8%).

Since the 2008 crisis, the ranking of the main markets shows little change: Europe, despite a slight decline, still accounted for the majority of activity outside France for French companies with 55.7% of their international turnover (€20 billion); North America was the second-biggest market in the last five years with a turnover of €5 billion (14%); Asia/Oceania ranked third with 12.1% (€4.4 billion) while Africa ranked fourth (€3.7 billion or 10.2%). The other markets were Latin America (€1.7 billion or 4.6%) and the Middle East (€1.2 billion or 3.3%).
Within the European continent, the EU-28 had the largest share with 87.3% of their turnover while the other European countries accounted for the rest. Within the EU, the share of activities carried out in the new member states decreased significantly compared to its pre-crisis level.

  • The recent evolution of geographical distribution in international sales by French contractors is characterized 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 continues to account for more than half of their international turnover (55.7% in 2016). Since the 2008 crisis, the value for the newer member states has been declining (15.1% of the sales in the EU countries in 2016 versus 34.7% in 2007) and the volume of activities depends largely on Western Europe;
  • a sustained presence in North America: for the last 5 years, this area has been the second-largest market for French contractors. As a result of its growth, this area is one of their priority markets;
  • a diversified geographic presence, including in emerging countries: despite an unstable economic climate since the crisis, in both developed and emerging countries, French companies continue to achieve a high volume of activities in the latter. In addition to their continuing interest in Africa and Asia, they significantly expanded their activities in Latin America in recent years (share of 4.6% in 2016 versus 2.9% in 2010). In Africa, in a higher competitive environment, coupled with the fall of oil and commodity prices, their business declined over the past three years (down 14% since 2013).

    Transport infrastructure traditionally represented the leading sector of business, with 29% of international turnover in 2016 (€10.4 billion). Energy ranked second with 24.3% (€8.7 billion), followed by civil engineering (14.4% - €5.2 billion), building (13.2% - €4.8 billion) and environment/water (9.8% - €3.5 billion). Other areas of activity were services (7.1%) and maritime/offshore (2.2%).
    With the exception of services (up 9.8%), energy (up 0.8%) and maritime/offshore sectors, international business decreased in most areas of activities in 2016, especially in building (down 17.4%), civil engineering (down 13.9%) and environment/water (down 6.8%).

  • The main trends in the evolution of sectoral distribution in international sales are:
  • the leading share of transport infrastructure (around 30% of overall turnover);
  • the gradually declining share of the building sector in the last 10 years;
  • the growing share of energy (24.3% of international turnover in 2016 against less than 5% before 2005).

  • 2016 French international turnover in the construction industry