Eurofins

France. Rank: 22. Sales: ¬168.7 million

Mad cow disease. Genetically altered crops. Food additives. Who knows what's safe to eat and drink these days? Eurofins Scientific does. Based in the French city of Nantes, Eurofins is one of the world's leading bioanalysis groups, testing everything from fruit juice to pharmaceuticals. With profits of €1.6 million last year on revenues of €168.7 million, it's riding a surge in demand for biotesting, as governments and industry seek to reassure the public about the purity and safety of food and drugs.

Eurofins has assembled a network of 40 specialized laboratories in 13 countries, from the U.S. to Europe to Asia. They're all connected in cyberspace, so that Eurofins' clients -- which include most of the globe's biggest food and drug companies -- can view test results or request additional analyses with a few clicks. "Scientific competence is the key, but we have to be customer-friendly," says the company's 40-year-old founder and chief executive, Gilles G. Martin.

Martin set up the company in 1988, as he was finishing up his doctorate in mathematics and statistics. His parents, both researchers at the University of Nantes, had developed a lab test to detect added sugar in wine -- sacrilege to French connoisseurs. Martin acquired the patent from the university and set up a company to commercialize the invention. The name Eurofins comes from FINS, the acronym for the wine-testing procedure.

Martin soon expanded the company's testing capabilities, and in 1997 he took Eurofins public. After soaring during the technology boom, its shares now trade slightly below their level at the initial public offering. A key concern has been operating margins, which suffered as the company digested several acquisitions. But there has been solid progress this year, with second-quarter margins hitting 9.8%. No need to worry about this company's health.

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