The dazzling development of Eurofins, the small Nantes laboratory that has become a CAC 40 company

Alongside Danone, Airbus or LVMH, its name will not necessarily mean much to you. However, from this Friday, the discreet Eurofins will officially appear among the largest French companies listed on the stock exchange, after having been chosen to join the CAC 40 to replace Atos. In barely 35 years, this Nantes-based company has become the world leader in tests and analyzes “in all areas of life.” Nothing seems to hinder the “appetite for growth” claimed by this group that is unknown to the general public, not even the health crisis… quite the contrary! Its PCR tests, used en masse all over the world in recent months, have resulted in several hundred million euros in additional sales.

For the beginning of the story, we must not go back very far, in 1987. Surely far from imagining that their small lab would employ 55,000 employees in 50 countries today, the Martin spouses, Nantes chemists, are launching Eurofins with their son Gilles, the current CEO who has since risen to 24th rank of French fortunes, according to Forbes. Their technology, which makes it possible to detect the chaptalization of wines (this technique making it possible to increase the alcohol level by adding sugar) is attractive. In addition, it is adaptable to other products …

Gilles Martin in front of the historic site of Nantes, in 2011 – F. Perry / AFP

After having woven its web in the food industry, the SME opens up to the environmental field, then to the pharmacy before conquering that of genetics. “We had this ambition, which could be disproportionate at the start, to one day become the number 1 player in all our businesses and in all the geographical areas where we are active,” explains to 20 Minutes François Vigneau, vice-president of food analysis activities at Eurofins. We have relied on organic growth and external growth, thanks to the acquisitions that we have multiplied for more than twenty years. The CAC40 is a recognition, a consequence and not an objective. “

More than 5.4 billion in turnover

A strategy that pays off in view of the numbers that make you dizzy. A network of 900 laboratories, more than 5.4 billion euros in turnover in 2020, revenues which increase by 34% on average each year … and a stock market experience described as exceptional with “a share price which has multiplied by 375 ”since its introduction in 1997. In the historic Nantes site alone (which no longer houses the head office, established in Luxembourg), the workforce has grown from 400 employees ten years ago to 1,100 today, in particular to meet the ever-increasing demand for research into pesticides or food bacteria, for the detection of pollutants such as asbestos, or for the production of human genetic fingerprints in the context of legal investigations.

Eurofins has more recently specialized in the search for genetic fingerprints. Here at the Nantes laboratory
Eurofins has more recently specialized in the search for genetic fingerprints. Here at the Nantes laboratory – D. Meyer / AFP

So how far can Eurofins go? Surely still very far, answers Benoît Sévi, professor of finance and director of the economics and management laboratory of the University of Nantes, who specifies that it is “a small market capitalization” (24 billion euros), alongside heavy goods vehicles weighing several hundred. “With its entry into the CAC40, Eurofins will now be much more visible to foreign investors, an undeniable interest that this young firm has in continuing to grow,” continues the teacher. It will therefore be more followed, which requires to be much more careful in terms of communication. “

Not what, it seems, to worry the first concerned … “Eurofins has a defined strategy for a long time, and which has always been followed, with financial commitments kept, observes François Vigneau. It is yet another strength of the company, often appreciated by investors. “A course of action that will not prevent the group, as it did with the Covid, from” seizing important opportunities in other areas in the future “.

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