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Pilkington Plc Business Information, Profile, and History

Prescot Road
St. Helens WA10 3TT
United Kingdom

Company Perspectives:

We aim to be a dynamic, market driven, global provider of glass products, judged best in class by our customers, our people and our shareholders.

History of Pilkington Plc

Pilkington plc is one of the largest glassmakers in the world, specializing in the flat glass and safety glass sectors. With about 85 percent of its sales originating outside the United Kingdom, the company operates 23 float glass plants in 11 countries--Finland, Italy, Germany, Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Australia--and has interests in ten more. Pilkington invented the float glass process, which is the standard method for producing high-quality flat glass. About half of Pilkington's sales come from glass products for buildings, with 45 percent from automotive glass products and the remainder from technical products, such as very thin float glass for the electronics industry and for solar energy panels. Pilkington's rise to international preeminence occurred during the mid-to-late 20th century.

19th-Century Roots: Becoming the U.K. Glass Leader

The St. Helens Crown Glass Company&mdashø give Pilkington its original name--was formed in 1826 at St. Helens, then a small town 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 company's 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 glassmaking venture because of an attempt to evade paying excise duty on their flint glass, William Pilkington--who had been apprenticed to a Liverpool distiller, ran the family distillery, and was already considered an astute business man--was called in to take charge. William's 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 glass blowers, drawn mainly from Dumbarton, Scotland, where a glass manufacturer had gone bankrupt, provided the necessary technical expertise, and Peter Greenall--a partner in Parr's 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 sleeping, 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. PB's 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 PB's 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 week-long glassmaking campaigns while the pots were recharged and reheated--with Siemens's glassmaking 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 firm's 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 Ltd., with £800,000 in ordinary shares and £600,000 in five 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 Pilkingtons of the second generation reaped the financial rewards of their success on a scale far greater than did their fathers.

Early 20th Century: Saving Itself from Near Disaster

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. 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 non-executive 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 firm's technical director. They were joined by Edward Cozens-Hardy (Lord Cozens-Hardy after his elder brother's death in 1924), formerly a partner in the London electrical engineering consultancy of O'Gorman and Cozens-Hardy, whose sister, Hope, had married Austin Pilkington. Cozens-Hardy had moved north and taken Austin Pilkington's place at PB in 1908, but had stayed on after his brother-in-law's return.

Just before World War I, this weakened third generation made two decisions which 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 glass blowers 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 only be made 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. Secondly, 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 which 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 which float glass was to replace, but, being to a large degree continuous--a twin grinder was developed which ground both sides of the ribbon simultaneously, but not a twin polisher--it 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 which 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 which 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 Chance's 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 which 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. Ronald 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 Pilkington's 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 which 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.

Postwar Era: The Float Glass Process and Diversification

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 company's 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. PB's 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 Pilkington's safety glass processing plants, PB took a share in AWG when PB helped to modernize AWG's 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. PB's 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 ° C and formed into a ribbon which floated, frictionless and in a controlled atmosphere, down the bath through a temperature gradient falling to about 600 ° C 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 cheaply 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 on stream in overseas markets which 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 People's Republic. It also acquired a majority, in Flachglas AG, the leading German producer, in 1980, followed by the 1986 purchase of the glassmaking interests of Libbey-Owens-Ford (LOF), second in this field in the United States.

Alastair Pilkington, who invented the float glass process, was unrelated to the St. Helens glassmaking 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 world's leading supplier of special reinforced belting for engines and machinery, that is, 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 afterwards. 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. company's 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 Revlon's 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 company's business devolved to the five divisional boards. One or two outstanding managers had joined the executive committee from the 1930s. Now a few more followed Alastair Pilkington to the top. Harry Pilkington, the company's 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 Ltd., 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 U.K. alone. While this changed the atmosphere at St. Helens, it revived the company's 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--the chairman, Sir Antony Pilkington, son of Arthur Pilkington, knighted for his service to U.K. business in 1990.

1990s: Refocusing on Glass and Restructuring

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 company's main markets--the automotive and building sectors--being particularly hard hit. Compounding the situation was Pilkington's 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, Pilkington's 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 company's holdings in South Africa. A 50 percent interest in Pilkington Optronics was also quickly sold off, but the troubled eyecare business--Pilkington Visioncare&mdash′oved 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 1995--the lens care operations of Pilkington Barnes Hind and Paragon Optical--and the exit from opthalmics 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 country's 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 glassmaker 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 Citroen 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 company's Finnish float glass subsidiary, Lahden Lasitehdas OY. In 1995 Pilkington acquired the Interpane Group's glass processing and distribution businesses in Switzerland, Denmark, and Norway for £58 million.

By early 1996 Leverton's 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, Pilkington's 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.

But 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 company's worldwide automotive products operations. Scaroni had previously led a rapid restructuring of SIV, and had once served as global head of the glassmaking operations of Saint-Gobain.

Aiming to make Pilkington the world's 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 (US$376 million) in writeoffs for the 1998 fiscal year, leading to a net loss of £186 million (US$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 now 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 company's 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 world's first integrated float glass manufacturing, laminating, and coating plant.

Principal Subsidiaries: EUROPE: Pilkington United Kingdom Limited; Pilkington Automotive UK Limited (80%); Flachglas AG (Germany; 95%); Flachglas Automotive GmbH (Germany; 95%); Flabeg GmbH (Germany; 95%); Pilkington EOMAG AG (Austria); Pilkington Norge AS (Norway); Interpane Glas AG (Switzerland); Pilkington Floatglas AB (Sweden); Pilkington Bilglas AB (Sweden); Pilkington Lamino OY (Finland); Pilkington Lahden Lasitehdas OY (Finland); Pilkington France SA; Pilkington Danmark A/S (Denmark); Pilkington Aerospace Limited; Pilkington IGP SA (Poland); Pilkington Sandoglass Sp.z o.o. (Poland; 75%); SIV SpA (Italy); Pilkington Micronics Limited; Pilkington Special Glass Limited. NORTH AMERICA: Libbey-Owens-Ford Co. (U.S.A.; 80%); Libbey-Nippon Holdings Inc. (U.S.A.; 40%); L-N Safety Glass, SA de CV (Mexico; 40%); Pilkington Aerospace Inc. (U.S.A.). REST OF THE WORLD: Pilkington (Australia) Limited; Vidrieria Argentina SA (51%); Vidrios Lirquen SA (Chile; 26%); Santa Lucia Cristal S.A.C.I.F. (Argentina); Pilkington Vidros Limitada (Brazil); Blindex Vidros De Seguranca Limitada (Brazil); Pilkington (New Zealand) Limited; Guilin Pilkington Safety Glass Co Limited (China; 60%); Changchun Pilkington Safety Glass Co Limited (China; 51%). HOLDING AND FINANCE COMPANIES: Pilkington Holdings Inc. (U.S.A.); Pilkington Nederland Holdings BV (Netherlands); Pilkington International Holdings BV (Netherlands); Pilkington Nederland (No 2) BV (Netherlands); Pilkington Australasia Limited (Australia); Pilkington Finance Limited; Pilkington (Forex) Limited; Pilkington Channel Islands Limited (Jersey; 66%); Pilkington Deutschland GmbH (Germany); Dahlbusch AG (Germany; 99%).

Principal Competitors: Apogee Enterprises, Inc.; Asahi Glass Company, Limited; Compagnie de Saint-Gobain; Corning Incorporated; Donnelly Corporation; Glaverbel Group; Guardian Industries Corp.; Nippon Sheet Glass Company, Limited; Oberland Glas AG; PPG Industries, Inc.; Safelite Glass Corp.; Schott Glas; Vitro, S.A. de C.V.


  • Key Dates:

  • 1826: The St. Helens Crown Glass Company is formed at St. Helens, England, to make window glass.
  • 1829: Company is renamed Greenall & Pilkington.
  • 1849: Company is renamed Pilkington Brothers.
  • 1894: Company is incorporated as Pilkington Brothers Ltd.
  • 1903: Pilkington emerges as the sole U.K. producer of plate glass.
  • 1936: An agreement is reached with Chance Brothers whereby Pilkington will buy its old rival over a number of years.
  • 1952: Pilkington completes its acquisition of Chance; Alastair Pilkington invents the revolutionary float glass process.
  • 1967: Pilkington stops making polished plate glass.
  • 1970: Company goes public.
  • 1980: Majority stake in Flachglas AG, the leading German flat glass maker, is acquired.
  • 1985: Company changes its name to Pilkington Brothers plc.
  • 1986: The glassmaking interests of Libbey-Owens-Ford are acquired; company fends off a hostile takeover attempt by U.K. conglomerate BTR.
  • 1987: Revlon's Barnes-Hind and Coburn Vision Care companies are acquired; company is renamed Pilkington plc.
  • 1992: 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.
  • 1993: 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 glassmaker; heightened competition, economic recession, and an ill-conceived diversification lead the company to post a bottom-line loss.
  • 1995: Pilkington gains full control of SIV; the company begins restructuring its operations into three business lines: automotive products, building products, and technical glass products.
  • 1996: The divestment of Pilkington Visioncare is completed.
  • 1997: 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.

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