Main image: The façade of the glass-walled Sandton Skye high-rise apartment block is one of hundreds of such skyscrapers for which a.b.e. supplied structural glazing adhesives.

It took courage, back in 1932, to start a new business while an impoverished world was in the middle of the most severe economic depression ever. Yet the Durban founders of African Bitumen Emulsions did just that. Today, 90 years later, their brave new enterprise, now called a.b.e. Construction Chemicals, is very much alive and a dynamic market leader in sub-Saharan Africa.

Over the years, a.b.e. has grown in size and diversity to become a major supplier of specialised construction products to the building, civil engineering and building maintenance industries. a.b.e. manufactures, imports and distributes a range of specialised products through its branches as well as builders’ merchants and hardware stores. Now part of the Saint-Gobain global group, a.b.e. has factories in Boksburg and Durban, and a network of branches and distributors throughout South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Indian Ocean Islands.

In addition to general construction products, the a.b.e. specialised product range now covers:

a.b.e. 90th – 1941 newspaper ad

* Waterproofing products for virtually any structure

* Concrete repair and protection systems

* Industrial flooring products to protect and improve concrete floors

* Silicone sealants for concrete expansion joints and glazing structural adhesives

* A wide range of coatings that include high-performance Polyurea coatings now increasingly specified for formidable sealing projects.

Holding local distribution rights to the following renowned brands a.b.e, has brought international technology to South Africa: VIP protective coatings, Dowsil silicone sealants and Index bitumen waterproofing membranes.

Rob Winter, a.b.e. GM, says, as a.b.e. moves towards a century of operations, the company has no intention of resting on its laurels.

“As part of Saint-Gobain, a European giant in the construction and ancillary industries, we will draw on its vast resources to continue to grow: improving our environmental footprint, our systems as well as production facilities, and strengthening our research and development programmes. We are now truly a state-of-the-art 21st Century business,” Winter states.


1939 – a.b.e. became a supplier of bitumen to what were then Natal municipalities

1940 – a.b.e. established similar operation in Johannesburg

1946 – a.b.e. starts flooring and adhesives division with the brands abescreed and epidermix leading the way – still in great demand today amongst the many other products between then and 2022

1949 – a.b.e. launches super laykold bitumen liquid waterproofing product which today is an extensive range and has become the household name for all trusted waterproofing products

1950 – a.b.e. established an operation in Cape Town

1953 – a.b.e. established an operation in Port Elizabeth

1997 – a.b.e. established a new retail division expanding the direct supply of specialised products in the familiar red and black a.b.e. packaging now prominent in all hardware outlets

2010 – a.b.e. delists from the JSE AltX and is acquired by CHRYSO Southern Africa – now also part of Saint-Gobain, results in a rejuvenation of the historic company with new technologies and R&D programmes to modernise a.b.e. and lift its market position.

Click here to view their 90 year timeline.

In recent years, a.b.e. clearly showed that it is now indeed a high-tech modern company with several progressive developments to boost productivity.  Research and Development initiatives have optimised product performance and quality. a.b.e. has also strived to be a responsible producer environmentally helping to reduce the construction industry’s carbon footprint.

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