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Sonae (Sonae SGPS, S.A.)
Type Sociedade Anónima
Traded as EuronextSON
Industry Conglomerate holding company
Founded 1959
Headquarters Maia, Portugal
Key people Paulo de Azevedo (CEO), Belmiro de Azevedo (Chairman)
Products Grocery stores; hypermarkets; pharmacies; foodservice outlets; bookshops; apparel, consumer electronics and white goods retail; shopping centre and real estate management; financial investments; telecommunications
Revenue 5.718 billion (2011)[1]
Operating income €661 million (2011)[1]
Profit €178 million (2011)[1]
Total assets €7.552 billion (end 2010)
Total equity €1.862 billion (end 2010)
Employees 43,270 (end 2010)
Subsidiaries Sonae MC, Sonae Sierra (50%), Sonaecom (53.2%)

Sonae (Sonae SGPS, S.A.) (About this sound listen ) is a Portuguese retail conglomerate that operates food and non food stores including sports goods, apparel, and consumer electronics and appliances. It is the largest private employer in Portugal. The company is primarily engaged in the operation of retail stores through its subsidiary Modelo Continente. It is also involved in the telecommunication businesses through Optimus Telecomunicações.

Additionally, the company operates other businesses including real estate development, communication and information technology services, tourism services and other related activities through its subsidiaries Sonae Sierra, Sonaecom, and Sonae Distribuição. Sonae operates primarily in Europe. It is headquartered in Maia and employs about 39,000 people. Sonae SGPS, the holding company, is listed on the Euronext Lisbon stock exchange. The president and main shareholder is Belmiro de Azevedo, one of the most affluent Portuguese businessmen and a Forbes fortunes figure. Sonae was originally an acronym standing for Sociedade Nacional de Estratificados (roughly, National Company of Engineered wood). Engineered wood were the company's original line of business which is now fully integrated into the totally autonomous spin-off Sonae Indústria. It was the only Portuguese company to be included in the list of the 110 World's Most Ethical Companies (Ethisphere prizes), in 2011.


From 2009, Sonae (Sonae SGPS, S.A.) holds a portfolio of businesses grouped into six sub-holdings:

  • Sonae MC - food, grocery and book retail
  • Sonae SR - non-food retail (white goods, consumer electronics, sporting goods)
  • Sonae Sierra - ownership, management and development of shopping and leisure centers (50-50 joint venture with Grosvenor Group)
  • Sonaecom - fixed and mobile telecommunications, software consultancy, newspaper publishing (53% stake)
  • Sonae RP - real estate management
  • Investment Management - financial investments

Sonae Sierra was previously majority-owned by Sonae SGPS (under the name Sonae Imobiliária) but since January 2006 became a 50/50 joint-venture with UK's Grosvenor, with Sonae retaining effective management of the company.

Another sub-holding, Sonae Indústria, was spun off to Sonae SGPS shareholders in November 2005.

The role of Sonae SGPS SA is to manage the portfolio while it is the job of its sub-holdings to manage the businesses.

The formal management body of Sonae SGPS SA is the Board of Directors. Over and above the Boards of Directors of the holding and subholding companies, and to ensure greater synergy of capabilities and key competencies, the following non-statutory bodies exist:

  • Board Members Forum (composed of Board Members from the holding and sub-holding companies)
  • Global Advisory Board, made up of well known figures from the business and academic world both from within and outside Portugal, and a source of independent opinion to support decisions of the Board of Directors;
  • Horizontal Projects (made up of staff from different sub-Holdings and dealing with a common subject such as the environment, energy etc. They are coordinated by a member of the Board Members Forum).


The brands of Sonae include, non-exhaustively:

  • Retail: M24 (convenience and gas-station stores), Continente (hypermarkets), Continente Bom Dia (small-size supermarkets, formerly Modelo Bonjour), Continente Modelo (medium-size supermarkets, formerly Modelo), Worten (electronics & home appliance stores), Modalfa (fashion stores), Sportzone (sportswear stores), Zippy (kids' fashion stores), GeoStar (travel agencies), MaxMat (DIY stores)
  • Telecommunications (including fixed and mobile communications, internet access services, and IPTV): Optimus, Rede4, Novis1, Clix2
  • Software and Systems Information (SSI): Bizdirect, Mainroad, Saphety, WeDo Technologies
  • Newspaper: Público
  • IT Solutions for retail: Tlantic
  • Health & fitness clubs: Solinca
  • Health: Well's

1 Merged with Optimus in 2007 to form Optimus Empresas.
2 Merged with Optimus in 2010 to form Optimus Clix.


Sonae was founded in 1959, in Maia, Portugal in the engineered wood business and more specifically the production of high-pressure decorative laminates.

During its first two decades of existence, Sonae stayed as a small to medium-size business, focused on the wood derivatives market. After the Carnation Revolution (1974) the company was nationalized. It was reprivatized when the communist inspiration of the Revolution fade away. During the 1980s, the company began a period of rapid growth, which coincided with Portugal's entry in the European Economic Community (before it has changed into the European Union). Holding company Sonae Investimentos SGPS (Sociedade Gestora de Participações Sociais), SA (Sociedade Anónima) was created and successfully floated in the Lisbon Stock Exchange in 1985. During this period, Sonae began a process of diversification through the acquisition of a supermarket chain, followed by the launch of the first hypermarket in Portugal, which in turn led to the development of the shopping center business.

The creation of Sonae Imobiliária (Real Estate) represented thus a natural progression, its main objective being the construction of shopping centers anchored by Sonae stores. Sonae Imobiliária opened CascaiShopping in 1991 - the first regional shopping centre built in Portugal, and Centro Colombo in 1997 - the first super-regional shopping center and still the biggest in the Iberian Peninsula.

At the same time, Sonae invested in many different areas such as telecommunications, information technology, leisure and tourism.

In 1996, as the challenge of international expansion of its different businesses and the need to concentrate management resources in their development was too apparent, it was decided to split the holding company in two. Thus, sub-holdings Sonae Indústria (already present in Spain, United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil and South Africa) and Pargeste (non-strategic businesses), plus new and emerging businesses (including software and telecommunications) were spun off into a new holding company called Inparsa SGPS, SA. Sonae Investimentos SGPS became a holding company totally dedicated to modern retail business.

In September 1999, the realization that two holding companies were not as effective in creating critical mass as only one, led to the reversal of the 1996 decision. Sonae Investimentos SGPS reacquired Inparsa SGPS and simultaneously acquired Figest, a personal holding of Sonae's President. At the same time, the formal name Sonae Investimentos SGPS, SA was simplified to Sonae SGPS, SA. Sonae's systematic use of its name across the group multiplies its public notoriety. Its portfolio of businesses now ranges from retail and real estate activities through to wood products, tourism, fixed and mobile telecommunications, construction, transport, the media and risk capital.

Sonae's remarkable success as a growth company can be attributed to four factors:

  1. Sonae has taken the most advantage of the ups and downs of the stock market in order to raise capital or to withdraw companies from the market, often accompanied by accusations of deceiving small investors (to which Belmiro de Azevedo once replied that the stock market does not go well with morals);
  2. Sonae usually moves into new businesses through joint-ventures, as with France's Continent (later Carrefour) for hypermarkets, France's Champion (later Carrefour) for supermarkets, Germany's Vobis for computer stores, France Telecom for telecommunications, Brazil's Emplanta for shopping centers and, after acquiring the know-how, Sonae usually buys its partners' stakes;
  3. A strong, merit-based managerial culture instigated by its President, personified in the "Homem Sonae" (Sonae Man), a model that follows strict rules, both on- and off-work;
  4. Through all its growth history, Sonae has been majority-owned by Belmiro de Azevedo, who controls directly and indirectly, through his personal holding and foundation, slightly over 50% of shares and votes, which lets him effectively run the company on his own.

Belmiro de Azevedo's shares were acquired to the estate of late banker Afonso Pinto de Magalhães who, through his bank Banco Pinto de Magalhães, fully owned Sonae. Magalhães put Belmiro de Azevedo in charge of Sonae during the turbulent years following the 1974 Carnation Revolution that culminated in the seizure of the company by the Government. It was the success in keeping the company running during these years, plus the also successful reclaiming of the company ownership, that led the deceased banker's family to cede the control of Sonae to Belmiro de Azevedo, but not before a protracted legal battle between him and the banker's sons, whom Belmiro de Azevedo accused of incompetence and cockiness.[2]


Efanor Investimentos is owned by Belmiro de Azevedo.

From euronext's site,

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Annual Report 2011". Sonae. 
  2. ^ Diário de Notícias: The financing of the Sonae empire with the premiere at the Stock Exchange February 26, 2006 (Portuguese)

External links[edit]