Pilkington Group Limited

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Pilkington Group Limited









Prescot Road
St. Helens, Merseyside WA10 3TT
United Kingdom
Telephone: (
+44 1744) 28882
Fax: (
+44 1744) 692660
Web site: http://www.pilkington.com

Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Nippon Sheet Glass Company, Limited
1826 as The St. Helens Crown Glass Company
Incorporated: 1894 as Pilkington Brothers Limited
Employees: 23, 600
Sales: £2.58 billion ($4.49 billion) (2006)
NAIC: 327211 Flat Glass Manufacturing

Pilkington Group Limited is one of the largest glass-makers in the world, specializing in flat glass principally for the automotive and building products industries with sales about equally divided between the two. Approximately 64 percent of Pilkingtons sales originate in Europe, 22 percent in North America, and around 7 percent each in South America and the Asia-Pacific region. The company operates 26 float glass plants in 13 countriesFinland, France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Australiaand has interests in 12 more located in Italy, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, and China. Pilkington invented the float glass process, which is the standard method for producing high-quality flat glass. Pilkingtons rise to international preeminence occurred during the mid- to late 20th century. The firms long history of independence ended in June 2006 when it was acquired by Nippon Sheet Glass Company, Limited, and it has since operated as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Japanese firm.


The St. Helens Crown Glass Company, Pilkingtons original name, was formed in 1826 at St. Helens, then a small town in northwestern England (near Liverpool) at the heart of a coal-mining area of about 10, 000 people. Cheap coal had already attracted a number of furnace industries, including glass. Of the six local men who became partners in the new crown, or window, glass business, two already owned a glassworks in the district. One of the others, the son of a leading coal owner in the area, became the new companys bookkeeper and was joined by the local solicitor. The other two, originally brought in only for their capital, were William Pilkington, son of a local doctor who had done well in distilling, and his brother-in-law Peter Greenall, who was in charge of the local brewery. When the two technical men had to withdraw from the glass-making venture because of an attempt to evade paying excise duty on their flint glass, William Pilkingtonwho had been apprenticed to a Liverpool distiller, ran the family distillery, and was already considered an astute businessmanwas called in to take charge. Williams elder brother, Richard Pilkington, was brought in when it was discovered that the bookkeeping partner was not keeping the books properly. The local solicitor chose this critical moment to withdraw from the venture. Thus, almost by accident, the Pilkington brothers found themselves landed with a tiny, struggling glassworks, much less profitable than the family distillery.

Skilled glassblowers, drawn mainly from Dumbarton, Scotland, where a glass manufacturer had gone bankrupt, provided the necessary technical expertise, and Peter Greenall, a partner in Parrs Bank at Warrington, saw to it that the struggling young business (which was renamed Greenall & Pilkington in 1929) received an overdraft far larger than its size warranted. William Pilkington, as salesman, traveled through Great Britain and Ireland seeking orders while his brother stayed at home and looked after the works and office. Business grew with the increasing demand for glass for the many new houses being built. A second furnace was built in 1834 and a third in 1835. Peter Greenall, who became a member of Parliament in 1841, remained an important, but silent, partner in the business, until his death in 1845, when the firm became Pilkington Brothers (PB).

Once the company was in operation, progress was determined partly by a willingness to accept technical change and partly by the initiative and drive of the new generations. The founders each had six sons, and two from each side became partners.

The taxation system for glass manufacturers favored crown glass against its more efficiently produced rival, sheet glass. PBs willingness to venture into sheet glass in the early 1840s stood it in good stead a few years later when the duties on glass were removed. Cheaper sheet glass from continental Europe, and especially from Belgium, drove out of business those U.K. manufacturers who had clung to crown glass. By the 1850s there were only three U.K. survivors: Chance Brothers of Smethwick near Birmingham; James Hartley & Son of Sunderland in the northeast, which had previously been the center of the industry in the United Kingdom; and PB, which thrived in this more competitive climate. Between 1849 and 1854 PBs labor force rose sharply from 450 to 1, 350.

The second generation, whose influence began to make itself felt from the later 1860s as the founders retired, embarked upon a vigorous export drive. In the early 1870s, PB surpassed its two remaining U.K. rivals by replacing pot furnaces, which necessitated 24-hour intervals between weeklong glass-making campaigns while the pots were recharged and reheated, with Siemenss glass-making tanks, which allowed continuous round-the-clock production and much more cost-effective eight-hour shifts. PB also chose the very profitable years of the early 1870s to build a new factory for the manufacture of polished plate glass, used in larger windows and mirrors. Intensive foreign competition soon drove the other longer-established U.K. plate glass manufacturers out of business, but PB survived, because it alone had another profitable product to sustain it. In 1903 it emerged as the sole U.K. producer of plate glass. By then Hartley & Son had gone out of business and Chance Brothers, which had failed in its attempt to enter plate glass manufacturing and had delayed in introducing tank furnaces for sheet, was very much a runner-up. PB had emerged as the undisputed leader in flat glass manufacture in the United Kingdom, though it was still subject to continued fierce competition from European producers. Between 1874 and 1894 the firms capital had grown more than ninefold, from £150, 000 to £1.4 million. In 1894 the business was then made a private limited company, Pilkington Brothers Limited, with £800, 000 in ordinary shares and £600, 000 in 5 percent debentures. There were then ten family shareholders, three of the four senior partners having each brought in two of their sons.

Even during the hard years between 1874 and 1896, PB managed to flourish. Despite reinvestment of £1.25 million, £725, 000 was distributed among the family. Between 1894 and 1914, the company did even better: nearly £3 million was reinvested and approximately £2.3 million distributed. The four Pilking-tons of the second generation reaped the financial rewards of their success on a scale far greater than did their fathers.


To be the global leader in the manufacture and supply of glass products, through the best use of our people and technology and the pursuit of innovation.


The third generation, which took over in the Edwardian period, did not match its predecessors impressive performance. This may have been due to unexpected family losses. One son was killed in the Boer War (18991902). Another died of tuberculosis, and his twin brother, Austin Pilkington, who was himself an able manager, fell ill with tuberculosis in 1907 and, in a last attempt to save his life, was sent from the smoke and chemical fumes of St. Helens to live in the dry, thin air of Colorado, where he recovered. Another son, who became company chairman in 1914, died in 1921 at the age of 50, and at about the same time another decided to retire, mainly on grounds of ill health, at the age of 42. In the 1920s the main responsibility for running the company and earning profits upon which the growing number of nonexecutive family members depended, fell to the fully recovered Austin Pilkington, together with his younger brother Cecil, a natural sciences graduate from Oxford who became the firms technical director. They were joined by Edward Cozens-Hardy (Lord Cozens-Hardy after his elder brothers death in 1924), formerly a partner in the London electrical engineering consultancy of OGorman and Cozens-Hardy, whose sister, Hope, had married Austin Pilkington. Cozens-Hardy had moved north and taken Austin Pilkingtons place at PB in 1908, but had stayed on after his brother-in-laws return.


The St. Helens Crown Glass Company is formed at St. Helens, England, to make window glass.
Company is renamed Greenall & Pilkington.
Company is renamed Pilkington Brothers.
Company is incorporated as Pilkington Brothers Limited.
Pilkington emerges as the sole U.K. producer of plate glass.
An agreement is reached with Chance Brothers whereby Pilkington will buy its old rival over a number of years.
Pilkington completes its acquisition of Chance; Alastair Pilkington invents the revolutionary float glass process.
Pilkington stops making polished plate glass.
Company goes public.
Majority stake in Flachglas AG, the leading German flat glass maker, is acquired.
Company changes its name to Pilkington Brothers plc.
The glass-making interests of Libbey-Owens-Ford are acquired; company fends off a hostile takeover attempt by U.K. conglomerate BTR.
Revlons Barnes-Hind and Coburn Vision Care companies are acquired; company is renamed Pilkington plc.
Roger Leverton becomes the first outsider named Pilkington chief executive; company expands into Eastern Europe for the first time with two investments in Polish ventures.
The glass processing and distribution business of Heywood Williams is acquired; company acquires 50 percent of Societa Italiana Vetro SpA (SIV), the Italian state-owned glass-maker; heightened competition, economic recession, and an ill-conceived diversification lead the company to post a bottom-line loss.
Pilkington gains full control of SIV; the company begins restructuring its operations into three business lines: automotive products, building products, and technical glass products.
The divestment of Pilkington Visioncare is completed.
Leverton is ousted by a board frustrated by the slow pace of restructuring; Paolo Scaroni is appointed as the new chief executive and begins a massive restructuring.
Nippon Sheet Glass Company, Limited (NSG) acquires Pilkington for £2.2 billion ($4.1 billion), making the renamed Pilkington Group Limited a wholly owned subsidiary of NSG.

Just before World War I, this weakened third generation made two decisions that were to lead to much subsequent trouble. Having moved into the continuous melting of sheet glass in the 1870s, it made the mistake of opting for drawn cylinder machinery. This machinery replaced glassblowers but not the flatteners who had to reheat the cylinders and slit them open in order to produce the panes of glass. The large cylinders blown by machine could be made only one at a time. Instead the company should have opted for either the Libbey-Owens-Ford (LOF) or the Fourcault process, which drew the sheet of glass directly from the tank. Although these flat drawn processes were still being developed, preference for the compromise deprived PB of what was soon to prove the better alternative and nearly caused it to abandon sheet glass manufacture altogether during the 1920s. The decision also involved PB in a disastrous sheet glass venture in Canada in order to protect its drawn cylinder process rights. Second, having sensibly acquired, as a defense against European competitors, an interest in a small plate glassworks at Maubeuge in northern France in the 1890s, it unwisely decided to put down a second plate glassworks in the United Kingdom near the east coast, fearing that European competitors might establish their own factories on British soil if it did not do so. This factory, decided upon just before World War I, was built near Doncaster at great cost during the postwar boom. It swallowed up not only many of the vast reserves accumulated before and during that war but also £1 million of new capital, which had to be raised from the family in 1920.

PB saved itself by taking a world lead in plate glass manufacture at St. Helens. In the early 1920s, in collaboration with the Ford Motor Company of Detroit, it developed a new process that enabled a roughly cast ribbon to be cast continuously by pouring the molten glass out of the tank, instead of having to be ladled from pots to form a single plate of glass at a time, each side of which had to be ground and polished separately. Associated with the continuous flowing of the glass ribbon was a long series of grinding and polishing heads under which the ribbon was passed to produce the high-quality glass with more perfect parallel surfaces than had previously been possible. It was this extraordinarily costly process that float glass was to replace, but, being to a large degree continuousa twin grinder was developed that ground both sides of the ribbon simultaneously, but not a twin polisherit was less costly than the intermittent processes it replaced. Such high-quality polished plate glass, being thicker than the sheet glass then made, and more lustrous, commanded high prices that would not only cover the costs but also bring in good rates of profit. Sheet had saved plate at Pilkington in the later 19th century. Now the situation was reversed.

Having managed to save its sheet glass production during the 1920s, thanks to plate glass profits, PB then had a stroke of good fortune. The U.S. plate glass manufacturer Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company (PPG) developed its own method of drawing sheet glass directly from a tank that was superior to that of LOF or Fourcault. PB secured a license for this process in 1929. PPG machines, installed at St. Helens in the early 1930s and subsequently improved there, enabled the company to regain some of its market. The flat glass industry fared better in the United Kingdom because it supplied two markets, the building and motor trades, which survived the depressed years of the 1930s better than most others. There was also money to be made out of raw glass, particularly plate glass, when it was processed into safety glass. PB acquired a majority share in a factory built just outside St. Helens by Triplex (Northern) Limited, which came into production in 1930. Soon afterward it also became involved in safety glass processing plants in Canada, South Africa, and Australia. In 1936, an agreement was reached with Chance Brothers whereby PB would buy its old rival over a number of years. By 1939 it had already acquired nearly half of Chances shares. It completed the takeover in 1952.

Austin and Cecil Pilkington retired from day-to-day management of the company at a critical moment in 1931, when PB recorded its first loss. Control passed to an executive committee that Cozens-Hardy set up with himself as chairman. His right-hand man was Ronald Weeks, who had been recruited from Cambridge in 1912 and had played a notable part in the management of the plate glass factory, subsequently marrying into the Pilkington family. Weeks was to gain a national reputation during World War II as General Weeks, deputy chief of the Imperial General Staff and afterward as chairman of Vickers and director of other companies. He became Lord Weeks in 1956. It was under this regime during the early 1930s that the fourth generation of the family began to play a greater part.

Geoffrey Langton Pilkington, who was much older than his cousins, had been a director since 1919 and served as company chairman from 1932 to 1949. The others, some of whom had entered the business from university in 1927, served a rigorous probation; one of them did not make the grade. Harry Pilkington and Douglas Phelps, the son of a Pilkington daughter, reached the executive committee in 1934; Roger Percival, the son of another Pilkington daughter, followed in 1936, and Peter Cozens-Hardy in 1937. By then Lawrence Pilkington, Harry Pilkingtons brother, and Arthur Pilkington, after five years as a regular officer in the Coldstream Guards, had entered the company and joined the executive committee in the 1940s, followed by a much younger member, David Pilkington, born in 1925. This team was to succeed more spectacularly than any of its predecessors.

When PB closed its Maubeuge factory in 1935, as part of the general rationalization of the European plate glass industry that followed an agreement between the European and U.S. manufacturers reached the previous year, it ceased to manufacture any glass outside the United Kingdom. It was soon, however, the major participant in the establishment of a window glass factory built at Llavallol outside Buenos Aires, a joint European venture to safeguard the Europeans Argentine market. This factory had hardly come into production when World War II broke out and the Pilkington management there had to struggle hard to maintain and extend it during the war years, when communication between Llavallol and St. Helens was difficult and technical assistance from the parent company was unobtainable.


Lord Cozens-Hardy retired in 1939, and Sir Ronald Weeks did not return to the company after the war. With Douglas Phelps as chairman of the executive committee from 1947, succeeded by Arthur Pilkington in 1965, and Harry Pilkington, the future Lord Pilkington, as company chairman from 1949, the fourth Pilkington generation saw the companys assets grow from £12.5 million in 1949 to £206 million in 1973, when Lord Pilkington retired from the chairmanship. This growth was due to the outstanding success of the float glass process and also to diversification into what were, for PB, new branches of the glass industry.

In some respects, change was forced on the company rather than welcomed by it. Manufacture of sheet glass in South Africa in 1951, for instance, came about because the South African government, determined to develop a manufacturing industry in that country, proposed to allow a rival to build a sheet glass factory if PB did not do so. PBs interests would have been best served by exporting as much U.K. glass as possible and thus keeping its machines at home working at full capacity. For similar reasons, PB sheet glass manufacture had to be started in Canada in the same year and in India, with local as well as Pilkington capital, in 1954. In Australia, where Australian Window Glass (AWG) had a financial stake in Pilkingtons safety glass processing plants, PB took a share in AWG when PB helped to modernize AWGs obsolete sheet glass factory in 1960. A few years later, PB and AWG took over an aspiring local manufacturer in New Zealand who had attempted to make sheet glass but soon had failed. PBs window glass operations in Argentina, started just before World War II, were developed and led in due course to the acquisition of a sheet glass works in Brazil. Although PB sacrificed sheet glass exports to these factories, it never lost those of plate glass: Maintaining a plate glass factory in these countries would have been far too costly. Manufacture of higher quality glass overseas had to await the development of the less costly float glass process, which tipped the scales further in the direction of manufacture abroad rather than at home.

The float glass process was invented by Alastair Pilkington in 1952. In this process, molten glass was poured onto one end of a bath of molten tin at about 1, 000 degrees Celsius and formed into a ribbon that floated, frictionless and in a controlled atmosphere, down the bath through a temperature gradient falling to about 600 degrees Celsius at the other end. At this temperature the ribbon, fire finished, was cool enough to be taken off on rollers without marking the surface. This revolutionary new method of glassmaking produced polished plate glass much more economically by removing the large fixed capital investment in grinding and polishing machinery and by cutting working costs.

To obtain perfectly parallel distortion-free surfaces, the polished plate glass process required 20 percent of the original rough-cast glass to be ground off by many grinding and polishing machines, with vast expenditure of electrical energy. Having experimented with the new process and developed a full-scale production plant during the 1950s, PB began to sell its own float glass before the decade was out and licensed the process to other glass manufacturers from 1962, with PPG being the first licensee. Plate glass could no longer compete at the quality end of the market nor, from the early 1970s, when float technology had progressed further, could the cheaper sheet glass.

Pilkington built more float lines at St. Helens, and manufacturers elsewhere in the world sought Pilkington licenses and expertise. Its growing industrial muscle and rising license income led to Pilkington building its own float plant in Sweden in the mid-1970s. Others came onstream in overseas markets it already dominated: Australia in 1973, and a second in 1988; South Africa in 1977; and Argentina in 1989. Its factories in Brazil were operated jointly with Saint-Gobain and in China with the Peoples Republic. It also acquired a majority, in Flachglas AG, the leading German producer, in 1980, followed by the 1986 purchase of the glass-making interests of Libbey-Owens-Ford Company, second in this field in the United States.

Alastair Pilkington, who invented the float glass process, was unrelated to the St. Helens glass-making family and was a mechanical sciences graduate from Cambridge University. Although not a member of the Pilkington family, he came to St. Helens as a family trainee in 1947. By the time the float process was being developed, he was already on the board pleading its case. He became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1969 and was knighted the following year. Between 1973 and 1980 he was chairman of the company.

PB was brought into glass fibers and optical glass as a result of its acquisition of Chance Brothers in the years after 1936. The latter had acquired the U.K. and British Empire rights to glass fiber manufacture from 1930 and had long specialized in optical glass. Glass Fibres Ltd. was formed jointly by PB and Chance Brothers in 1938. A glass fiber factory was built at St.

Helens after the war, and others followed at home and abroad to make glass silk for weaving and fibers for insulation and reinforcement. In the late 1980s Pilkington Reinforcements Limited stood as the worlds leading supplier of special reinforced belting for engines and machinery for power transmission.

Chance Brothers interest in optical glass went back to the 19th century and its world-renowned lighthouse department. During World War II Chance Brothers and Pilkington operated a shadow plant, a duplicate located away from the original factory as a precaution against bombing, at St. Helens and continued to undertake defense contracts afterward. Beginning in 1957, on the initiative of Lawrence Pilkington, optical and ophthalmic glass began production at a specially built works at St. Asaph in north Wales, which soon became the largest producer of unpolished spectacle discs in Europe. In 1966 PB and Perkin-Elmer, a subsidiary of the U.S. multinational Perkin-Elmer Corporation, joined forces at St. Asaph to make optical and electro-optical systems. The joint venture became Pilkington P.E. in 1973, when Pilkington acquired the U.S. companys stake in the business. This side of the business was strengthened greatly by later acquisitions, notably the purchase of Barr and Stroud, the Scottish optical and precision engineers, in 1977; Sola Holdings of Australia in 1979; Syntax Ophthalmic Inc. in 1985; and Revlons Barnes-Hind and Coburn Vision Care companies in 1987. At the end of the 1980s, the business was divided into Pilkington Visioncare, its ophthalmic side, which was growing throughout the world, including China and Japan, and Pilkington Optronics, the electro-optical side, which supplied the U.K. defense industry, primarily through Barr & Stroud and Pilkington P.E.

The fourth Pilkington generation oversaw this vast expansion overseas and diversification at home as well as the development of float glass and many other activities. They were served loyally by senior managers who acted like proconsuls on their behalf abroad and by others at home who accepted greater responsibility as the business grew and its committee system was expanded. From the mid-1960s, when Arthur Pilkington became chairman of the executive committee, much of the companys business devolved to the five divisional boards. One or two outstanding managers had joined the executive committee from the 1930s. A few more followed Alastair Pilkington to the top. Harry Pilkington, the companys chairman, was a businessman with a remarkable head for figures, a clear, analytical brain, limitless energy, and a great devotion to work. In addition to his demanding corporate responsibilities, he managed to fit in the presidency of the Federation of British Industries in London and the chairmanship of a royal commission.

The Pilkington family influence persisted for some years after the company went public in 1970. Lord Pilkington, created honorary life president when he retired in 1973, used to come into the office regularly until shortly before his death in 1983, and the fourth generation was represented on the board until 1985 when the youngest, David Pilkington, retired. In 1985 Pilkington Brothers Limited became Pilkington Brothers plc, and in 1987 the company dropped Brothers entirely from its official name. Pilkington became a holding company for a number of major subsidiaries, of which there were 45 in 1990. Economy and efficiency became the watchwords, especially in the difficult years of the early 1980s, when nearly £100 million was spent in redundancy payments in the United Kingdom alone. While this changed the atmosphere at St. Helens, it revived the companys fortunes and enabled it to ward off a takeover bid from the London-based conglomerate BTR in 1986. As the company entered the 1990s, only one Pilkington remained on the board, Chairman Sir Antony Pilkington, son of Arthur Pilkington, knighted for his service to U.K. business in 1990.


Pilkington entered a traumatic period in the early 1990s. Competition in the glass sector had intensified in the 1980s following the entrance of U.S. and Japanese glassmakers into the European market and the expansionary moves of French archrival Compagnie de Saint-Gobain. Pilkington was also buffeted by the effects of the deep recession that began in the late 1980s and continued into the early 1990s, with two of the companys main markets, the automotive and building sectors, being particularly hard hit. Compounding the situation was Pilkingtons ill-timed, if not ill-conceived, diversification into eyecare products. In hindsight, the purchase of Barnes-Hind was particularly troublesome. Barnes-Hind specialized in hard contact lenses and solutions, a part of the eyecare market that, soon after Pilkington bought into it, was eclipsed by the rapid growth of soft and disposable lenses. The combination of all of these negatives led revenues to decline from £3 billion in 1989 to £2.6 billion in 1993, and pretax profits to slump from £300 million to £41 million over the same period. The bottom line for 1993 was an actual loss.

According to Andrew Lorenz, writing in Management Today, Pilkingtons difficulties in this period also stemmed from its corporate culture, which had not yet fully transitioned from that of a family firm to that of a public company. It was more than symbolic, then, that in 1992 Roger Leverton become the first outsider named Pilkington chief executive. Antony Pilkington remained chairman but retired in 1995 and was succeeded by Nigel Rudd, the first non-Pilkington chairman; Rudd took the position as a nonexecutive chairman, leaving Leverton the distinct head of operations. During this leadership transition, Pilkington made the clear decision to refocus on its core flat and safety glass operations, to bolster these operations through new investment and acquisitions, and to begin disposing of noncore activities. Among the first operations jettisoned were the cement and rubber reinforcement businesses, insulation contracting, and the companys holdings in South Africa. A 50 percent interest in Pilkington Optronics was also quickly sold off, but the troubled eye-care business, Pilkington Visioncare, proved harder to divest. In 1993 Coburn Optical was divested, then Sola was sold that same year for £200 million. Two more Visioncare businesses were sold in 1995the lens care operations of Pilkington Barnes-Hind and Paragon Opticaland the exit from ophthalmics was completed the following year with the sale of the Pilkington Barnes Hind contact lens business to Wesley Jessen Corporation.

On the acquisitions front, Pilkington moved into the Eastern European market for the first time in 1992 with the purchase of a 45 percent stake in International Glass Poland, a processor and distributor of glass building products, as well as the establishment of a joint venture, 40 percent owned by Pilkington, for the purpose of constructing that countrys first float glass plant. Back home, the company moved toward vertically integrating its U.K. operations through the 1993 acquisition of the glass processing and distribution business of Heywood Williams for £95 million.

Also in 1993 Pilkington formed a joint venture with an Italian firm, Techint Finanziaria, to acquire Societa Italiana Vetro SpA (SIV), the state-owned glass-maker, which the Italian government had decided to privatize. Pilkington paid about £43 million for its share. Two years later the company bought out its partner for £128 million to take full control of SIV, which was a market leader in vehicle glass for such manufacturers as Fiat S.p.A., Volkswagen AG, Renault S.A., and PSA Citroën S.A. Through its acquisition of SIV, Pilkington increased its share of the European automotive glass market from 16 percent to 34 percent. Growth in 1994 came through expansion in the emerging markets of China, Brazil, and Chile, and by the purchase of full control of the companys Finnish float glass subsidiary, Lahden Lasitehdas OY. In 1995 Pilkington acquired the Interpane Groups glass processing and distribution businesses in Switzerland, Denmark, and Norway for £58 million.

By early 1996 Levertons efficiency drive led to annual cost savings of £230 million. The workforce was reduced by 15 percent, to 36, 000, and productivity was increased by 32 percent. Also, Pilkingtons management structure in Europe was overhauled, beginning in 1995. Previously the European operations were organized geographically on a country-by-country basis. Leverton reorganized Pilkington Europe into three business lines: automotive products, building products, and technical glass products, which included specialized mirrors, solar energy panels, and glass for the electronics industry. Leverton then followed up with a series of major restructuring programs to further improve efficiencies in various operations.

Yet in May 1997, in the wake of dismal results for the 1997 fiscal year, the board of directors concluded that the pace of the restructuring was proceeding too slowly and ousted Leverton. Paolo Scaroni was promoted to chief executive from his position as head of the companys worldwide automotive products operations. Scaroni had previously led a rapid restructuring of SIV, and had once served as global head of the glass-making operations of Saint-Gobain.

Aiming to make Pilkington the worlds most efficient glassmaker, Scaroni immediately quickened the restructuring pace, launching a two-year overhaul that cut a further 7, 500 jobs from the workforce and shuttered 70 distribution and fabrication operations in Europe. The restructuring led Pilkington to take £225 million ($376 million) in writeoffs for the 1998 fiscal year, leading to a net loss of £186 million ($303 million) for the year. In late 1998 Pilkington announced another 1, 500 job cuts spread across its worldwide operations, then in mid-1999 announced plans for an additional 2, 500 job cuts, this time with an emphasis on Germany and North America. By this time Pilkington had improved its competitiveness in Europe, and began turning its attention to improving the profitability of its U.S. operations.

At the same time Scaroni began seeking opportunities for growth through acquisition and the establishment of joint ventures, following the companys return to profitability in the 1999 fiscal year. In early 2000, then, Pilkington doubled its holding in a Chinese affiliate, Shanghai Yaohua Pilkington, to 16.7 percent; increased its stake in Pilkington Sandoglass Sp. z o.o., a Polish float glass subsidiary, to 75 percent; and formed a joint venture with German glass processor Interpane International Glas to build the worlds first integrated float glass manufacturing, laminating, and coating plant. Later in the year Pilkington completed a deal with Nippon Sheet Glass Company, Limited, whereby the former bought out the latters minority holdings in several Pilkington automotive glass subsidiaries, including Libbey-Owens-Ford, which was subsequently renamed Pilkington North America Inc., and Pilkington Automotive UK Limited. In return, the Japanese firm took a 10 percent stake in Pilkington. With full control of these operations, Pilkington gained greater freedom to implement additional restructuring initiatives.

Several other deals were completed in the fiscal year ending in March 2001. The company acquired full control of Pilkington Sandoglass, later renamed Pilkington Polska Sp. z o.o., and then in December 2000 announced plans to build a second float glass plant in Poland, this one through a joint venture with Saint-Gobain. Pilkington also consolidated its position as the leading automotive glass supplier in China by acquiring a 51 percent stake in Shanghai FuHua Glass Company in a transaction completed jointly with the affiliated firm Shanghai Yaohua Pilkington. In 2001 Pilkingtons building products side began selling a self-cleaning glass. Called Activ, this glass incorporated a permanent coating of titanium oxide that attracted water and made it run down the glass in a continuous sheet, taking dirt particles with it. Also that year, Nippon Sheet Glass increased its stake in Pilkington to just over 20 percent.

For fiscal 2002, Pilkington reported a net profit of £74 million ($105 million) on £2.81 billion ($4 billion), a good result given the beginnings of a downturn in the global glass market. It was at this inauspicious moment that Scaroni, having transformed Pilkington from a struggling U.K. manufacturer to one of the most efficient glassmakers in the world, abruptly quit to head Enel S.p.A., the Italian electricity giant. Taking over as chief executive in May 2002 was Stuart Chambers, who had been in charge of the building products division and had a background in marketing. Chambers brought the restructuring program that Scaroni had started to a successful conclusion by 2004 and also worked to pay down the companys debt load in order to free up capital to fund growth initiatives. Between March 2003 and March 2005 net debt was reduced from £861 million ($1.36 billion) to £572 million ($1.08 billion). Plans were in place to increase investment in emerging countries, particularly Russia and China. During fiscal 2005 Pilkington increased its ownership interest in and took over management control of three automotive glass plants in China and also entered into a joint venture to build a float line in Russia.


At this stage in its long history, Pilkington ranked as the worlds second largest glassmaker (with a global market share of 19 percent), trailing only Japans Asahi Glass Company, Limited (23 percent), and as one of the four global players in the industry, the other two being Saint-Gobain of France and the privately held U.S. firm Guardian Industries Corp. Among the second-tier manufacturers was Nippon Sheet Glass (NSG), still holding its 20 percent stake in Pilkington. With ample access to financing and motivated to become a serious rival to Asahi, NSG in November 2005 made a friendly offer to take over Pilkington for 150 pence per share, or approximately £2 billion ($3.5 billion). The Pilkington board rejected this bid and two additional sweetened offerings before accepting NSGs 165 pence per share offer in February 2006. The deal, completed that June, valued Pilkington at £2.2 billion ($4.1 billion). Thus ended a 180-year span of independence as the newly named Pilkington Group Limited became a wholly owned subsidiary of NSG.

Chambers carried on as chief executive of Pilkington. Initially at least, there was only a minor amount of integration stemming from the takeover as the deal was largely aimed at turning NSG into one of the global glass-making leaders. Pilkington continued to pursue growth opportunities in emerging markets. In November 2006 the firm entered into a joint venture to build and operate a float glass manufacturing line in Abu Dhabi. Yet another of Pilkingtons joint ventures launched construction of a float glass production line in Kazakhstan in March 2007. Meanwhile, in a potentially troubling development, the European Commission that same month filed antitrust charges against Pilkington and Asahi Glasss Belgian unit, Glaverbel S.A., following a two-year investigation into allegations of price-fixing in the flat glass sector.

T. C. Barker Updated, David E. Salamie


EUROPE: Pilkington United Kingdom Limited; Pilkington Automotive Limited; Pilkington Technology Management Limited; Pilkington Deutschland AG (Germany; 95%); Pilkington Automotive Deutschland GmbH (Germany; 95%); Pilkington Austria GmbH; Pilkington Norge AS (Norway); Pilkington Schweiz AG (Switzerland); Pilkington Floatglas AB (Sweden); Pilkington Automotive Sweden AB; Pilkington Automotive Finland OY; Pilkington Lahden Lasitehdas OY (Finland); Pilkington France SA; Pilkington Danmark A/S (Denmark); Pilkington International Glass Poland Sp. z o.o.; Pilkington Polska Sp. z o.o. (Poland); Pilkington Italia SpA (Italy). NORTH AMERICA: Pilkington North America Inc. (U.S.A.); L-N Safety Glass SA de CV (Mexico). REST OF THE WORLD: Pilkington (Australia) Limited; Vidrieria Argentina S.A. (51%); Pilkington Automotive Argentina S.A.; Pilkington Brasil Limitada (Brazil); Pilkington (New Zealand) Limited; Guilin Pilkington Safety Glass Co. Limited (China); Changchun Pilkington Safety Glass Co. Limited (China; 73%). HOLDING AND FINANCE COMPANIES: Pilkington Brothers Limited; Pilkington Italy Limited (U.K.); Pilkington Finance Limited; Pilkington Neder-land Holdings BV (Netherlands); Pilkington Germany Holdings BV (Netherlands); Pilkington International Holdings BV (Netherlands); Pilkington Holding GmbH (Germany); Dahlbusch AG (Germany; 99%).


Compagnie de Saint-Gobain; Asahi Glass Company, Limited; Guardian Industries Corp.


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