Glass Industry

Australia: Glassmaker Seen As $400m Window Of Opportunity

CARLYLE Group and Gresham Private Equity may bid more than $400 million to buy Pilkington Australia, which makes glass for buildings and cars, from its Japanese owners.

News of the likely bid comes from three people who declined to be named because the talks are private. They said Pilkington has appointed Ernst & Young to manage the sale. Catalyst Investment Managers and a venture between Pacific Equity Partners and closely held DMS Glass have also requested sale documents, according to the sources.

The glassmaker, based in Dandenong, Victoria, is a unit of Nippon Sheet Glass Co. Australia's home-building approvals rose 10 per cent in February from a year earlier, signalling a pick-up in construction and demand for sheets of glass. Car, truck and bus sales rose to a record in the first quarter, up almost 9 per cent on the 2006 figure, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries said on Wednesday.

Pilkington has forecast earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and research and development costs of $64 million this year, and $71 million in 2008. The business will require capital expenditure of about $170 million in the next two years, the sources said. This includes plans announced last year to put more energy-efficient equipment into the Dandenong plant.

Ernst & Young declined to comment, while David Roycroft, a UK-based spokesman for Pilkington, was not immediately available. Officials for the bidding parties either declined to comment or could not immediately be reached.

Nippon Sheet Glass bought Pilkington plc for £1.8 billion last year, making it the world's largest supplier of glass used in buildings and cars.

Pilkington Australia, which has 1500 people and 25 sales outlets, meets about 50 per cent of Australia's demand for glass for buildings and cars, according to its website.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald