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Schneider S.A.

Schneider S.A.

64-70 avenue Jean-Baptiste Clément
92646 Boulogne-Billancourt Cedex
France
(1) 4699-7000
Fax: (1) 4699-7100
Web site: http://www.schneiderelectric.com/html/gb/hom.htm

Public Company
Incorporated:
1966
Employees: 92,700
Sales: FFr59.42 billion (US$12.1 billion) (1995)
Stock Exchanges: Paris
SICs: 1731 Electrical Work Contractors; 3571 Electronic Computers; 3612 Power, Distribution & Specialty Transformers; 3613 Switchgear & Switchboard Apparatus; 3625 Relays & Industrial Controls; 3629 Electrical Industrial Apparatus, Not Elsewhere Classified; 3643 Current-Carrying Wiring Devices; 3644 Noncurrent-Carrying Wiring Devices; 3669 Communications Equipment, Not Elsewhere Classified; 3674 Semiconductors & Related Devices; 3678 Electronic Connectors; 3679 Electronic Components, Not Elsewhere Classified; 3699 Electrical Machinery, Equipment & Supplies, Not Elsewhere Classified; 3823 Industrial Instruments for Measurement, Display & Control of Process Variables & Related Products; 3824 Totalizing Fluid Meters & Counting Devices; 3825 Instruments for Measuring & Testing of Electricity & Electrical Signals; 5063 Electrical Apparatus & Equipment; 6719 Offices of Holding Companies, Not Elsewhere Classified; 8711 Engineering Services

After a dizzying series of complicated restructurings, acquisitions, and divestments that began in 1980 when the company was a conglomerate, Schneider S.A. has emerged in the late 20th century reduced, almost, to a position of global leadership in just one areathe electrical industry. Almost, because Schneider has not yet divested its troubled Spie Batignolles electrical contracting and construction subsidiary, which it intends to do. Its other main subsidiary, Schneider Electric S.A.the core of the new Schneiderspecializes in electrical distribution, industrial control, and automation and serves the electrical power, industrial, infrastructure, and building markets. Truly international in operation, Schneider derives only about 37 percent of its sales from its domestic market, with the rest of Europe accounting for about 25 percent, North America for about 21 percent, and the remainder of the world, most notably Asia, for about 17 percent.

Early History

Schneider was originally founded in 1782 to manufacture industrial machinery at Le Creusot. The company was taken over by two Schneider brothersAdolphe and Eugènein 1836, at the dawn of the industrial age in France. By 1838 Schneider had built the first French steam locomotive and it later expanded into building other large, complex mechanical devices. By the late 1800s it had become involved in a wide variety of heavy industries, including steel manufacturing.

Schneider gained recognition as a major French company during World War I. It survived nationalization efforts during Frances three-year popular-front government of 193639 and was called upon to help mobilize French forces in the months before World War II. Overrun during the war by German troops, Schneiders factories were either closed or redirected to support the German war effort.

By the time the war ended in 1945, many of Schneiders factories had been bombed or were obsolete. Charles Schneider undertook a recovery effort in which the company was reorganized into a holding company. In 1949 Schneiders industrial interests were transferred to three operating subsidiaries in civil and electrical engineering, manufacturing, and construction. The following year Charles Schneider was killed in an accident; he was the last member of the founding family to head the company.

Empain-Schneider Era, 196380

With the benefit of government direction and regulation, Schneider entered the 1960s fully recovered from war damage and well established in its various operations. In 1963, however, another family industrial group called Empain acquired a large financial stake in Schneider. Empain, founded in 1881 by Edouard Empain, was a pioneer in rail transit. The company installed the Paris Metro system in 1900 and later formed a successful rail-construction firm called Electrorail.

While the Empain and Schneider operating companies remained largely separate, the holding company conducted a series of further acquisitions that greatly expanded the subsidiaries involvement in basic industries. The two operating companies grew increasingly close between 1966 and 1969, when they were merged into a single group called Empain-Schneider.

The new companys assets remained divided between Schneider S.A. (incorporated in France) and Electrorail (incorporated in Belgium), but they shared the same management structure and president, Baron Edouard Empain. By 1971 Empain-Schneider had become one of the most important industrial groups in the world, with interests in virtually every sector of heavy industry and infrastructure.

In 1972 Empain-Schneider took over the civil- and electrical-engineering group Spie-Batignolles. With interests in nuclear power, construction, and oil platforms, Spie Batignolles was formed in 1968 by the merger of the Société de Construction des Batignolles (SCB; founded in 1846 by Ernest Gouin) and the Société Parisienne pour IIndustrie Electrique (SPIE; founded in 1902).

Three years later Empain-Schneider acquired control of another vital French company, the industrial electrical products supplier Merlin Gerin. Founded in Grenoble in 1920 by Paul-Louis Merlin and Gaston Gerin, the company was a leader in industrial circuit breakers and switching gear.

A third major industrial group controlled by Empain-Schneider was Creusot-Loire, a heavy-equipment and special-steels manufacturer. It was also a leading builder of nuclear power stations through its subsidiaries Framatome and Novatome, and was heavily involved in turnkey projects abroad. By the late 1970s Empain-Schneider had developed a fourth major subsidiary, an energy and communications products group called Jeumont-Schneider. This company consisted of existing Schneider enterprises and several others controlled by the Jeumont-Industrie industrial group.

Restructuring, 198087

In 1980, however, the Empain family divested itself of its interest in Empain-Schneider, forcing the reorganization of the company and reducing Empains involvement in the group from 45 percent to about 5 percent of turnover. As a result, the company also changed its name back to Schneider S.A. A more serious restructuring took place the following year when a Socialist government under President Fran£ois Mitterand came to power.

The government sought to nationalize major companies in an effort to better coordinate industry with its national objectives. Under the new program the first sector to be nationalized was banking; the state took control of all banks with more than $220 million in assets. This included Schneiders banking subsidiary, the Banque de lUnion Europeénne.

Between 1981 and 1987 Schneider undertook a restructuring program whose objective was to transform the company from a complex family financial trust with many diverse interests into a leading international industrial group. As part of this effort, Schneider divested its machine-tool, heavy-equipment, shipbuilding, and steel operations, and later sold its lower-margin rail transport, nuclear-power, and private-telecommunications businesses.

The sectors that remained under the new simplified structure included construction of electric-power plants and power-distribution systems, building and civil-engineering projects, industrial infrastructure, and a wide variety of industrial electronics systems. Schneiders primary operating subsidiaries remained Spie Batignolles, with 55 percent of total revenue; Merlin Gerin, with 31 percent; and Jeumont-Schneider Industries, with 14 percent in 1987. Reflecting Schneiders position in international markets, 41 percent of the companys revenues were generated through foreign projects.

The person who spearheaded the restructuring effort was Didier Pineau-Valencienne, who was appointed vice-chairman and CEO late in 1980, then became chairman and CEO the following year. Pineau-Valencienne built his reputation by turning around a small French chemical company, then found further success at the French chemical giant Rhone-Poulenc before being asked to take command of Schneider.

During the difficult restructuring process, Pineau-Valencienne gained a reputation for waging controversial corporate battles, even earning the nickname Dr. Attila. In 1984 he failed to win government support for his plan to restructure Schneiders troubled capital-goods subsidiary, Creusot-Loire. After declaring the subsidiary bankrupt, Pineau-Valencienne was roundly accused of mismanagement and incompetence.

Company Perspectives:

To power its global development, Schneider relies on its 92,700 people in 130 countries. Were committed to fostering international mobility, training local and expatriate personnel, and nurturing a common corporate culture. At Schneider, we believe in personal fulfillment, flexibility, and performance as the ultimate keys to customer satisfaction.

Undaunted, Pineau-Valencienne continued with his restructuring plan and sold off those parts of the company he considered unrelated to Schneiders core operations. In the process, Schneider accumulated a large cash reserve that Pineau-Valencienne earmarked for strategic acquisitions.

Major Acquisitions and Further Restructuring, 1988 Through the Mid-1990s

The first of these was for the industrial-automation company Telemecanique, which Pineau-Valencienne had hoped to merge with Merlin-Gerin. The takeover battle, launched in February 1988, involved many bitter and complicated legal and labor disputes, and finally government intervention. By July Schneider had won permission to acquire Telemecanique, but in the process had inspired a national debate on hostile takeovers.

Pineau-Valencienne next turned his attention to the United States. In 1990 Federal Power, a maker of low-voltage distribution equipment and medium-voltage switchgear, was acquired. That same year, Schneider acquired EPE Technologies, a world leader in uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), although Schneider subsequently, in 1996, sold most of its interest in EPE in a leveraged buyout after deeming UPS outside its core businesses. Schneiders U.S. spending spree reached a peak, however, in 1991 when it acquired Square D Company, based in Palatine, Illinois, for US$2.23 billion in another hostile takeover. Square Dfounded in 1902 and with sales of US$1.65 billion and operations in 23 countrieswas a market leader in electrical distribution, industrial control, and automation products, systems, and services. It became the flagship for Schneiders North American division, which was headed up by Charles W. Denny, who had spent more than 30 years at Square D before being placed in charge of Schneider North America as well as gaining a spot on the Schneider executive committee.

The acquisition of Square D led to the further restructuring of Schneiders industrial operations. In 1991 Schneider increased its interest in Merlin Gerin, and also formed an industrial sector called Schneider Industrie which pulled Schneiders major industrial subsidiariesSquare D, Merlin Gerin, Telemecanique, and Jeumont-Schneider Industriesinto an umbrella group. The following year, Schneider divested itself of Jeumont-Schneider, leaving Schneider Industrie with purely electrical industry operations. From that point forward it was clear that Pineau-Valencienne intended for Schneider to eventually reduce itself to its electrical holdings alone.

Further moves over the succeeding years bore this out. In 1992 Schneider gained full control of Merlin Gerin through a merger. The next year the operations of Merlin Gerin, Square D, and Telemecanique were brought together under an overall global management structure where, for example, Schneider North America included the operations of all three companies within North America. Then in 1994, Schneiders corporate structure was further rationalized when a new Schneider Electric S.A. subsidiary, based in France, was created and both Merlin Gerin S.A. and Telemecanique S.A. were merged into the new subsidiary and ceased to exist as separate companies. Although Square D Company technically remained a subsidiary, Schneider essentially positioned Square D, Merlin Gerin, and Telemecanique as its major brands within Schneider Electric.

On the heels of this flurry of activity, Pineau-Valencienne made world headlines when he was arrested in Belgium in May 1994 and jailed for 11 days pending trial in a complex criminal-fraud investigation that involved Schneiders takeover of two Belgian subsidiaries that were remnants of the Empain-Schneider era. After Pineau-Valencienne returned to France following his release on bail, an international warrant was issued for his arrest in early 1995, effectively barring him from leaving France for several months until Belgian authorities finally rescinded the arrest warrant. The case seemed to have made little progress even into early 1997, and Pineau-Valencienne, who stayed in charge of the company throughout the episode, and other Schneider officials continued to insist that the case was entirely groundless.

Meanwhile, Pineau-Valencienne was struggling to deal with Schneiders last remaining non-electrical holding, Spie Batignolles. Spie was active in two main areas: electrical contracting and construction. While the former was related to the activities of Schneider Electric, the latter was not. Furthermore, because of difficult conditions in the French real estate market, Spies construction sector was performing poorly, posting losses of FFr2.25 billion from 1991 to 1994. Wishing eventually to divest itself of its Spie holdingwhich was about a 59 percent stakeor at least Spies construction sector, Pineau-Valencienne decided to first gain full control of the troublesome unit. He did so by engineering a merger between the companies in July 1995, which also had the side benefit of garnering Schneider a large tax credit. Possible buyers of Spie included Candover, a U.K. venture capital group; the French construction group Eiffage; Swedens Skanska AB; and Amec, a U.K. building group.

Although the acquisition of Square D had significantly increased Schneiders overseas holdingsmore than 62 percent of overall revenue was derived from outside of France by 1995Schneider had in the process saddled itself with a heavy debt burden. Pineau-Valencienne thus identified debt reduction as a key to Schneiders future. The much-anticipated divestment of Spie Batignolles would of course help him do just that, although the companys debt-to-equity ratio had already been reduced to 46 percent by 1995. Schneiders chairman also wished to reduce the percentage of shareholdings held by other French firms; such cross holdings were typical of public companies in France, but Pineau-Valencienne wanted to create a shareholding structure along Anglo-American lines. He also sought to increase the percentage of international investors in Schneider and eventually have Schneider listed on the New York, London, Frankfurt, Munich, and Tokyo exchangesgoals in keeping with the companys global nature. Assuming the companys Belgian difficulties have been laid to rest and Spie can be successfully divested, at the dawn of the new century Schneider appeared to have a very bright future as a global power in the electrical industry.

Principal Subsidiaries

Schneider Electric S.A.; Spie Batignolles; Square D Company (U.S.A.).

Principal Divisions

European Division; French Division; International Division; North American Division.

Further Reading

Day, Charles R. Jr., The Ecstasy Is Worth the Agony. Industry Week, November 15, 1993, p. 20.

Donlon, J. P., Groupe Dynamic, Chief Executive, March 1994, p. 26.

Du Bois, Martin, Claims Against Schneider SA Total Over $53.9 Million in Probe of Fraud, Wall Street Journal, May 19, 1995, p. B5D.

, Judge Affirms Schneider Head to Stay in Jail: Alleged Misappropriation or Embezzlement Put at Up to $141.6 Million, Wall Street Journal, June 2, 1994, p. A11.

, Schneiders Chairman Steers Globally While Hes a Prisoner in His Country, Wall Street Journal, February 2, 1995, p. A14.

Kamm, Thomas, Schneider Weighs Merger with Unit, Spie Batignolles, Wall Street Journal, March 7, 1995, p. A15.

Miller, James P., Square D Accepts Sweetened Bid of $2.23 Billion from Schneider, Wall Street Journal, May 31, 1991, p. A3.

Moskal, Brian S., After the Battle, Square D Works the Peace, Industry Week, December 2, 1991, p. 45.

Murdoch, Adrian, The Strange Case of Didier Pineau-Valencienne, Chief Executive, October 1995, p. 24.

Yates, Ronald E., Profits Come Around After Square D Deal, Chicago Tribune, December 3, 1996, pp. 1, 4.

updated by David E. Salamie

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"Schneider S.A.." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Schneider S.A.

Schneider S.A.

4, rue de Longchamp
75116 Paris
France
(1) 45057800

Public Company
Incorporated: 1966
Employees: 75,000
Sales: Ffr40.49 billion (US$6.68 billion)
Stock Index: Paris

The consolidation of industries in France has taken two general forms: those by government decree, and those by management initiative. In the 1950s and 1960s, basic industries like oil, steel, and aircraft production were concentrated at government behest to preserve them as strategic assets. Indeed, many of these industries were owned by the state. The French electronics industry has recently undergone similar rationalization programs, but in the 1980s such programs have increasingly been effected by private managements.

Schneider, one of Frances oldest firms, is also one of the most important members of this industry. As a public company relatively free of government intervention, Schneider is profit oriented and internationally competitive.

Schneider was originally founded in 1782 to manufacture industrial machinery at Le Creusot. The company was taken over by two Schneider brothers in 1836, at the dawn of the industrial age in France. By 1838 Schneider had built the first French steam locomotive and it later expanded into building other large, complex mechanical devices. By the late 1800s it had become involved in a wide variety of heavy industries, including steel manufacture.

Schneider gained recognition as a major French company during World War I. It survived nationalization efforts during Frances three-year popular-front government of 1936-1939 and was called upon to help mobilize French forces in the months before World War II. Overrun during the war by German troops, Schneiders factories were either closed or redirected to support the German war effort.

By the time the war ended in 1945, many of Schneiders factories had been bombed or were obsolete. Charles Schneider undertook a recovery effort in which the company was reorganized into a holding company. In 1949 Schneiders industrial interests were transferred to three operating subsidiaries in civil and electrical engineering, manufacturing, and construction.

With the benefit of government direction and regulation, Schneider entered the 1960s fully recovered from war damage and well established in its various operations. In 1963, however, another family industrial group called Empain acquired a large financial stake in Schneider. Empain, founded in 1881 by Edouard Empain, was a pioneer in rail transit. The company installed the Paris Metro system in 1900 and later formed a successful rail-construction firm called Electrorail.

While the Empain and Schneider operating companies remained largely separate, the holding company conducted a series of further acquisitions that greatly expanded the subsidiaries involvement in basic industries. The two operating companies grew increasingly close between 1966 and 1969, when they were merged into single group called Empain-Schneider.

The new companys assets remained divided between Schneider S.A. (incorporated in France) and Electrorail (incorporated in Belgium), but they shared the same management structure and president, Baron Edouard Empain. By 1971 Empain-Schneider had become one of the most important industrial groups in the world, with interests in virtually every sector of heavy industry and infrastructure.

In 1972 Empain-Schneider took over the civil- and electrical-engineering group Spie-Batignolles. With interests in nuclear power, construction, and oil platforms, Spie-Batignolles was formed in 1968 by the merger of the Societe de Construction des Batignolles (founded in 1846) and the Societe Parisienne pour ITndustrie Electrique (founded in 1900).

Three years later Empain-Schneider acquired control of another vital French company, the industrial electrical products supplier Merlin Gerin. Founded in Grenoble in 1920 by Paul-Louis Merlin and Gastón Gerin, the company was a leader in industrial circuit breakers and switching gear.

A third major industrial group controlled by Empain-Schneider was Creusot-Loire, a heavy-equipment and special-steels manufacturer. It was also a leading builder of nuclear power stations through its subsidiaries Framatome and Novatome, and was heavily involved in turnkey projects abroad. By the late 1970s Empain-Schneider had developed a fourth major subsidiary, an energy and communications products group called Jeumont-Schneider. This company consisted of existing Schneider enterprises and several others controlled by the Jeumont-Industrie industrial group.

In 1980, however, the Empain family divested itself of its interest in Empain-Schneider, forcing the reorganization of the company and reducing Empains involvement in the group from 45% to about 5% of turnover. A more serious restructuring took place the following year when a Socialist government under President Francois Mitterand came to power.

The government sought to nationalize major companies in an effort to better coordinate industry with its national objectives. Under the new program the first sector to be nationalized was banking; the state took control of all banks with more than $220 million in assets. This included Schneiders banking subsidiary, the Banque de TUnion Européenne.

Between 1981 and 1986 Schneider undertook a restructuring program whose objective was to transform the company from a complex family financial trust with many diverse interests into a leading international industrial group. As part of this effort, Schneider divested its machine-tool, heavy-equipment, shipbuilding, and steel operations, and later sold its lower-margin rail transport, nuclear-power, and private-telecommunications businesses.

The sectors that remained under the new simplified structure included construction of electric-power plants and power-distribution systems, building and civil-engineering projects, industrial infrastructure, and a wide variety of industrial electronics systems. Schneiders primary operating subsidiaries remained Spie-Batignolles, with 55% of total revenue; Merlin Gerin, with 31%; and Jeumont-Schneider, with 14% in 1987. Reflecting Schneiders position in international markets, 41% of the companys revenues were generated through foreign projects.

During the difficult restructuring process, the companys chairman, Didier Pineau-Valencienne, gained a reputation for waging controversial corporate battles. In 1984 he failed to win government support for his plan to restructure Schneiders troubled capital-goods subsidiary, Creusot-Loire. After declaring the subsidiary bankrupt, Pineau-Valencienne was roundly accused of mismanagement and incompetence.

Undaunted, Pineau-Valencienne carried out the remxainder of his restructuring plan and sold off those parts of the company he considered unrelated to Schneiders core operations. In the process, Schneider accumulated a large cash reserve that Pineau-Valencienne earmarked for strategic acquisitions.

The first of those was for the industrial-automation company Telemecanique, which Pineau-Valencienne had hoped to merge with Merlin-Gerin. The takeover battle, launched in February, 1988, involved many bitter and complicated legal and labor disputes, and finally government intervention. By July Schneider had won permission to acquire Telemecanique, but in the process had inspired a national debate on hostile takeovers.

Pineau-Valencienne has successfully remolded Schneider into a more efficient and responsive industrial group and given the company new credibility as an equal player with competitors such as Westinghouse, Rockwell, and Mitsubishi. But though the groundwork has been laid, Schneiders ability to compete over the long run has not been proven.

Nonetheless, Schneider is in an excellent position to realize strong growth and progressive consolidation of its chosen markets. The company is now neither so large nor so diverse as to detract from its ability to undertake more-efficient, coordinated strategies. Schneider is sure to benefit from improved focus and mobility and, given its interest in foreign markets, remain a world leader in industrial electronics and construction and in civil projects.

Principal Subsidiaries:

Spie Batignolles (62.6%); Merlin Gerin (50.1%); Jeumont Schneider; La Chaleassiere; Paramer.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
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"Schneider S.A.." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Schneider S.A.." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/schneider-sa-0

"Schneider S.A.." International Directory of Company Histories. . Retrieved September 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/schneider-sa-0