12 rue Paul Dautier
78142 Vélizy Villacoublay Cedex
Telephone: (+33) 1-34-88-60-00
Fax: (+33) 1-34-88-62-62
Web site: http://www.steria.com
Sales: EUR 509 million ($450.9 million) (2001)
Stock Exchanges: Euronext Paris
Ticker Symbol: RIA
NAIC: 541511 Custom Computer Programming Services; 541512 Computer Systems Design Services; 541330 Engineering Services
France’s Steria SA has leapt onto Europe’s computer services scene, claiming the number eight spot in that market after its acquisition of nearly all of Integris, the former IT services wing of faltering French computer legend Bull. With the addition of Integris, Steria’s revenues will nearly triple—to a pro forma EUR 1.3 billion—while giving the company, formerly primarily focused on France, a truly international structure. The company expected more than 60 percent of its sales to come from beyond France in 2002. Steria has positioned itself as an end-to-end IT services provider on a European scale, with nearly 10,000 employees and subsidiaries in 12 countries. The company focuses on three core business areas: consulting, systems integration, and outsourcing. Outsourcing provided some 45 percent of the company’s pre-acquisition revenues of EUR 509 million in 2001 and is also the company’s fastest growing area of operation. Systems Integration remains the company’s largest segment, generating 55 percent of Steria’s 2001 revenues. Steria’s Consulting operations are split about evenly between its outsourcing and systems integration business and represents 20 percent of the company’s total revenues. The company focuses on four primary industries: public sector; banking and insurance; telecommunications; and industrial, including energy and transportation. Steria is led by Chairman and CEO François Enaud and is quoted on the Euronext Paris stock exchange.
French IT Pioneer in the 1970s
With backing from BNP (Banque Nationale de Paris), Jean Carterton founded Steria, or the Société d’Etude et de Réalisation en Informatique et Autonomisme, in 1969. BNP initially took 49 percent of the company and was to remain a major shareholder and important client of the company for many years. Yet Carterton, already an industry veteran who had worked in the nascent computer industry since the early 1950s and who had left a position at early IT leader Sema to found Steria, carefully guarded his company’s independence. An early feature of the company was that its employees were offered the opportunity to become shareholders; it was one of the first French companies to open its ownership structure in that way.
From the start, Steria’s focus was on software development and programming for information and automation systems for the major corporate client market—a new and fast-growing market. Whereas previously hardware and software had been considered a single entity, at the beginning of the 1970s, the development of the microchip and the increasing complexity of software programs led the computer industry to separate the two areas. In France, computer technology had been slow to take hold in the country’s industries. By the early 1970s, however, more and more French companies began to embrace the new technologies. While a number of corporations developed in-house IT operations, large numbers turned to specialists like Steria, creating an early outsourcing market.
Steria grew quickly, matching its ambitious sales forecasts to near FFr 10 million by 1971. In that year the company began to expand its operations, opening its first foreign subsidiary, Steriabel, in Brussels. The difficulties of launching a foreign subsidiary, however, soon brought Steria’s focus back to the French market, and through most of the next decade the company’s growth remained, in large part, domestic. In 1971, the company began building its national network, opening its first branch office in Bordeaux. The following year, Steria added branches in Toulouse and Lyon. Then, in 1973, the company took over the Marseilles office of Honeywell-Bull Service, which had been acquired by BNP.
Yet the company’s growth in the 1970s also was due, in large part, to a number of acquisitions, notably that of Frap (Société Française d’Analyse et de Programmation), acquired in 1971, which gave the company a new suite of software, as well as boosting its revenues. The following year, Steria acquired another small company, specialized in computer training, called Orgamatic. A more significant acquisition came in 1973 when the company purchased Société d’Assistance Informatique (SAI), which specialized in real-time automation systems. That group was to play a major role in Steria’s first large-scale success, the installation of automated information systems for Agence France Presse, the French news agency, replacing that organization’s outdated outmoded manual systems. The fulfillment of that contract quickly led to new contracts from other, foreign news agencies. Steria also was called in by SEP (Société Européenne de Propulsion) to form a partnership, SEP Informatique, which took over SEP’s information systems development. That same year, Steria acquired a small French company specialized in creating components based on the new microchip technology, called Intel—the name was quickly changed to Sitintel to avoid confusion with Intel Corporation, based in California.
These events corresponded with a steady rise in company sales through the 1970s, and despite the economic recession brought on by the Arab Oil Embargo. By 1976, Steria’s sales had risen to FFr 74 million—a growth rate of some 80 percent per year—and the company featured nearly 550 employees. The company received a number of other large-scale contracts during the decade, such as the technical oversight of the famed Parisian modern art museum and library, Centre Pompidou, then under construction, as well as work on the massive La Défense complex and the development of a simulator for an automated control system for the Parisian rail authority, RATP.
Significantly, Steria also had become an early participant in the rapidly developing telecommunications sector, in part through its Sitintel subsidiary. The race was on in Europe to develop text and video delivery systems. In the late 1970s, Steria became one of the driving forces behind the development of France’s Teletel system, through the Teletel 3V, which in turn led to the launch of the Minitel system in 1981—a precursor to the online and Internet systems that developed elsewhere in the world in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Sleeping Beauty in the 1980s
With BNP as a major shareholder, Steria had developed extensive experience with banking systems, and numbered such important clients as the Banque de I’Indochine, Banque de Bruxelles, and the United Overseas Bank in Geneva, Switzerland. This latter contract led the company to its first international expansion since the early 1970s, with the purchase of a small company based in Geneva in 1975. The company then found a partner in Switzerland, Galenica, a pharmaceuticals distribution company that had set up its own IT services subsidiary with offices in Geneva, Berne, and Zurich. The two companies combined their Swiss operations, creating Galenica Informatique, and attempted to expand into the German-speaking region of Switzerland. Yet that effort proved a distinct failure, to the point where the joint venture collapsed. Steria gained control of Galenica Informatique and renamed it Steria Informatic.
Steria had grown strongly in the 1970s and by 1985 had seen its sales top FFr 550 million. Yet the company was to earn itself a reputation as the “Sleeping Beauty” of the French IT services industry as its growth slowed. Nonetheless, the company completed a number of large-scale contracts, including the development of the information system for the Central Bank of Saudi Arabia, at the time the largest foreign contract ever awarded to a French IT services company. The company also completed another important contract in the late 1980s, that of the creation of the driverless train system for the Paris RER A line.
Toward the end of the 1980s, Steria—which had sold off its Steriabel subsidiary in 1986—returned to the international market. In 1987, the company made its first attempt to enter the lucrative German market, with a focus on the banking sector, creating a new subsidiary, Steria GmbH. Yet access to the German banking industry proved difficult for foreign corporations, and in 1990 Steria reinforced its position with the acquisition of Software Partner, based in Darmstadt. Nevertheless, the company found it difficult to crack the German market, and its subsidiary there grew only slowly through the 1990s.
Steria found more success in Spain, which the company entered with the creation of subsidiary Steria Iberica in 1987. The following year, the company acquired majority control of Audinsa, based in Barcelona. The purchase of Solinsa, also based in Barcelona, in 1990, led Steria to regoup all of its Spanish operations into a single subsidiary, Steria Solinsa. Through the 1990s, the Spanish market grew to become the company’s most important foreign market, together with Switzerland. Meanwhile, the company returned to Belgium, buying up Générale de Banque subsidiary Gecosys, originally a specialist in artificial intelligence applications. That purchase formed the basis of a new subsidiary, Steria SA/NV.
Information systems enable companies to open up new horizons. Mastering their complexity whilst bearing in mind the specific features of each activity sector are the challenges that Steria intends to rise to so that its customers can really focus on their development and prepare for tomorrow. As a global services operator, Steria ensures its mastery of information systems through its three main core businesses: consulting, integration and facilities management right through the outsourcing of entire corporate functions.
In France, Steria had grown through acquisitions as well, buying three companies from Systmark: ECL, an IT services company specializing in industrial applications; Sysinter, a temporary agency focused on the IT services market; and C-Mips, an early specialist in systems integration and outsourcing. If two of the three were to have little substantial impact on the company—ECL was folded into subsidiary Steria Ingénierie, and Sysinter remained a peripheral operation—C-Mips enabled Steria to turn in a new direction. The computer industry was changing rapidly at the end of the 1980s, abandoning the former mainframe-based systems for multiplatform client/server-based information systems. The purchase of C-Mips enabled Steria to become an early player in the fast-growing systems integration and services market. That company was renamed Steria Exploitation.
Reaching the Top Ten in the New Century
At the beginning of the 1990s, Steria formed two significant joint venture partnerships, the first with Bull, called Bull-Steria Génie Logiciel, offering consulting and applications development services, and the second with IBM, called Ishtme, which proved to be primarily a commercialization vehicle for IBM products.
Steria recorded a number of further triumphs in the early 1990s, such as the development of the information system for the Jakarta airport in 1993 and the creation of the French inter-bank management system in 1994. Despite these important projects, the company was hit hard by the recession of the early 1990s and in 1993 the company recorded its first-ever net losses.
Recovering from its difficulties, Steria quickly recognized that the economic recession had helped transform its market—French and European companies now began to embrace the outsourcing of their information systems needs in an effort to control costs and to concentrate on core competencies. Steria Exploitation placed Steria in a good position to take a major share of the fast-growing market, and in 1996 the company adopted a new strategy to make systems management one of the company’s key operational areas.
The “Sleeping Beauty” of the French IT services industry was preparing to wake up, and in 1997 Carteron found the company’s Prince Charming in the form of 38-year-old François Enaud, who had joined Steria as a programmer in the early 1980s. Yet Enaud nearly found himself out of a job, when Steria was confronted by a hostile takeover attempt from Compagnie des Signaux. The company was able to fend off the takeover attempt, however, and Enaud took the company’s reins in 1998.
Under Enaud, Steria resumed its expansion, opening new subsidiaries in the United Kingdom and in Singapore, as well as a new branch office in Düsseldorf in 1999. That year, also, Steria went public with a listing on the Euronext Paris stock exchange’s secondary market. The public offering enabled Steria to begin making acquisitions, and in 2000 the company acquired several businesses, including TECSI, EQIP, Métanoïques, and the outsourcing operations of Experian, all based in France. The company also founded an e-business consulting subsidiary, Net and B.
Steria had succeeded in gaining one of the top spots in the French IT services market. Yet the increasing international positioning of its major clients placed the company in a difficult position—by 2000, international revenues accounted for just 16 percent of the company’s total sales of EUR 389 million. Steria began looking for a means to expand onto the European scene on a larger scale.
The company soon located its target—Integris, the IT services division of troubled French computer group Bull. The eventual agreement worked out by the sides (Bull had attempted to cancel the companies’ original acquisition agreement) gave Steria control of nearly all of Integris Europe, with the exception of its French operations, unwanted by Steria, and most of its Italian and Greek operations, which were kept by Bull. The acquisition of Integris, based in the United Kingdom, propelled Steria into the top ten of European IT services companies, tripling its sales, to a pro forma EUR 1.13 billion for 2002. Steria had successfully negotiated its transformation into a truly international company, with more than 60 percent of its sales coming from beyond France.
BSGL; Diamis (50%); Temis; Intest; Net and B; Sysinter; Clearsy; Mix RH; Steria GmbH (Germany); Steria SA/NV (Belgium); Steria Solinsa SA (Spain); Steria Informatic SA/AG (Switzerland); Steria UK Ltd; Steria Ltd (U.K.); Steria SA (Saudi Arabia); Steria Asia Pte Ltd (Singapore); Steria Sud America (Argentina).
- Steria is created by Jean Carteron, with backing from BNP.
- The first French branch office opens in Bordeaux; the Belgian subsidiary Steriabel is created.
- Three companies—Frap, Orgamatics, and SAI—are acquired; a contract for the automation of Agence France Presse is obtained.
- Steria Informatic is formed in Switzerland.
- The Minitel system, based on software architecture developed by Steria, is launched.
- Steriabel is sold.
- ECL, Sysinter, and C-Mips are acquired from Systmark; C-Mips forms the basis of Steria Exploitation, marking the company’s entry into systems integration and management market.
- Steria adopts a new strategy, making systems integration a key target area.
- François Enaud is appointed chairman and CEO to replace Jean Carteron.
- Steria goes public on the Paris stock exchange; subsidiaries are formed in the United Kingdom and Singapore.
- Steria acquires TECSI, EQIP, Métanoïques, and the outsourcing operations of Experian; company founds e-business consulting subsidiary Net and B.
- Steria completes the acquisition of Integris Europe, tripling its revenues and placing it in the top ten of European IT services companies.
Cap Gemini Ernst & Young; Atos Origin PF; Getronics NV; Logica; CMG; WIM Data; Tieto Enator; GFI Informatique SA; Unilog SA; Sopra SA; Transiciel SA; Sylis SA.
Bremer, Catherine, “Bull Sells Integris to Steria for 190 mln Euros,” Reuters, August 31, 2001.
Carterton, Jean, Steria: 30 ans de création continue, Paris: Le Cherche Midi Editeur, 1999.
Guillaume, Philippe, “L’introduction de Steria: Un véritable project d’entreprise,” Les Echos, November 9, 1999, p. 48.
Laugier, Edouard, “Steria, du Minitel à Bull,” Nouvel Economiste, May 3, 2002.
“Le prince charmant d’une SSII endormie,” Challenges, September 15, 2001.
“Steria Emerges As Europe’s Eight Computer Services Company,” European Report, January 16, 2002.
“Steria to Pursue Active M&A Strategy,” Computergram International, February 4, 1999.
—M. L. Cohen