A regional company goes global
Pont-à-Mousson, another example of historical development within the Group, was established between 1854 and 1856 as a modest foundry in Lorraine, where iron ore had been discovered.
But this new company soon started blazing its own trail, precociously focusing on cast-iron water and gas pipes when rival foundries and steel mills were still concentrating on more conventional steel production.
Venturing into the export market
That choice, it soon turned out, made sense. Cities were sprawling and water mains were stretching into rural areas. But the comparatively limited domestic market prompted this company to look beyond France’s borders. By the 1920s, Pont à Mousson’s plants were exporting 50% of their production. Sharp exchange-rate fluctuation compounded with protectionism abroad then prompted it to build factories overseas. It opened its first foreign plant in Brazil in 1937.
Pont-à-Mousson did not miss the steel train either: it branched into this field in the 1920s, and held its ground there until the 1960s, in a number of forms and through partnerships with a number of players (Marine-Homécourt and Micheville, among others).
The years between the wars brought a technological breakthrough - after much heated debate: cast iron pipe centrifugation. Another momentous invention, ductile cast iron, took that technology to the next level when it came over from America in 1947.
Half way through the 1960s, Pont-à-Mousson had established its leadership in its core business but was wondering where to go next, after realising that it made sense to drop the venture into the steel industry (Sidelor, then Sacilor). It disposed of that subsidiary over the following decade, but still had to decide where to steer its strategy next.