Saint-Gobain headquarters in Courbevoie, near Paris
|Headquarters||La Défense, Courbevoie, France|
|Pierre-André de Chalendar (Chairman and CEO)|
|Products||Construction materials production and retail, glass, ceramics, plastics, abrasives, packaging, gypsum plasterboards|
|Revenue||€42.025 billion (2013)|
|€2.764 billion (2013)|
|Profit||€0.595 billion (2013)|
|Total assets||€45.726 billion (2013)|
|Total equity||€17.870 billion (2013)|
Number of employees
|185,364 (end 2013)|
Saint-Gobain S.A. is a French multinational corporation, founded in 1665 in Paris and headquartered on the outskirts of Paris, at La Défense and in Courbevoie. Originally a mirror manufacturer, it now also produces a variety of construction and high-performance materials. The company is a component of the Euro Stoxx 50 stock market index.
1665-1789: Manufacture royale
Since the middle of the 17th century, luxury products such as silk textiles, lace and mirrors were in high demand. In the 1660s, mirrors had become very popular among the upper classes of society: Italian cabinets, châteaux and ornate side tables and pier-tables were decorated with this expensive and luxurious product. At the time, however, the French were not known for mirror technology; instead, the Republic of Venice was known as the world leader in glass manufacturing, controlling a technical and commercial monopoly of the glass and mirror business. French minister of finance Jean-Baptiste Colbert wanted France to become completely self-sufficient in meeting domestic demand for luxury products, thereby strengthening the national economy.
Colbert established by letters patent the public enterprise Manufacture royale de glaces de miroirs (French pronunciation: [manyfaktyʁ ʁwajal də ɡlas də miʁwaʁ], Royal Mirror-Glass Factory) in October 1665. The company was created for a period of twenty years and would be financed in part by the State. The beneficiary and first director was the French financier Nicolas du Noyer, receiver of taxes of Orléans, who was granted a monopoly of making glass and mirror-glass for a period of twenty years. The company had the informal name Compagnie du Noyer.
To compete with the Italian mirror industry, Colbert commissioned several Venetian glassworkers he had enticed to Paris to work for the company. The first unblemished mirrors were produced in 1666. Soon the mirrors created in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, under the French company, began to rival those of Venice. The French company was capable of producing mirrors that were 40 to 45 inches long (1.0 to 1.1 m), which at the time was considered impressive. Competition between France and the Venetians became so fierce that Venice considered it a crime for any glass artisan to leave and practice their trade elsewhere, especially in foreign territory. Nicolas du Noyer complained in writing that the jealous Venetians were unwilling to impart the secrets of glassmaking to the French workers, and that the Company was hard-pressed to pay its expenses. The distractions of Paris proved distracting to the workers, and supplies of firewood to stoke the furnaces were dearer in the capital than elsewhere. In 1667 the glass-making was transferred to a small glass furnace already working at Tourlaville, near Cherbourg in Normandy, and the premises in Faubourg Saint-Antoine were devoted to glass-grinding and polishing the crude product.
Though the Compagnie du Noyer was reduced at times to importing Venetian glass and finishing it in France, by September 1672 the royal French manufacturer was on a sufficiently sound footing for the importation of glass to be forbidden to any of Louis' subjects, under any conditions. In 1678, the company produced the glass for the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles.
In 1683 the company's financial arrangement with the State was renewed for another two decades. However, in 1688 the rival Compagnie Thévart was created, also financed in part by the state. Compagnie Thévart used a new pouring process that allowed it to make plate glass mirrors measuring at least 60 by 40 inches wide (1.5 by 1.0 m), much bigger than the 40 inches (1.0 m) which the Compagnie du Noyer could create.
The two companies were in competition for seven years, until 1695, when the economy slowed down and their technical and commercial rivalry became counterproductive. Under an order from the French government, the two companies were forced to merge, creating the Compagnie Plastier.
In 1702 Compagnie Plastier declared bankruptcy. A group of Franco-Swiss Protestant bankers rescued the collapsing company, changing the name to Compagnie Dagincourt. At the same time, the company was provided royal patents which allowed it to maintain a legal monopoly in the glass-manufacturing industry up until the French Revolution (1789), despite fierce, sometimes violent, protests from free enterprise partisans.
1789-1910: Industrial revolution
In 1789, as a consequence of the French Revolution, the state financial and competitive privileges accorded to Compagnie Dagincourt were abolished. The company now had to depend on the participation and capital of private investors, although it continued to remain partly under the control of the French state.
In the 1820s, Saint-Gobain continued to function as it had under the Ancien Régime, manufacturing high-quality mirrors and glass for the luxury market. However, in 1824, a new glass manufacturer was established in Commentry, France, and in 1837 several Belgian glass manufacturers were also founded. While Saint-Gobain continued to dominate the luxury high-quality mirror and glass markets, its newly created competitors focused their attention on making medium and low-quality products. The manufacture of products of such quality made mirrors and glass affordable for the masses. In response, the company extended its product line to include lower-quality glass and mirrors.
While mirrors remained their primary business, Saint-Gobain began to diversify their product line to include glass panes for skylights, roofs and room dividers, thick mirrors, semi-thick glass for windows, laminated mirrors and glass, and finally embossed mirrors and window panes. Some of the more famous buildings that Saint-Gobain contributed to during that period were the Crystal Palace in London, le Jardin des Plantes, les Grand et Petit Palais and les Halles in Paris, and the Milan railway station.
Saint-Gobain merged with another French glass and mirror manufacturer, Saint-Quirin, in the mid-19th century. After the merger, the company was able to gain control of 25% of European glass and mirror production (before, it had only controlled 10–15%). In response to growing international competition, the company began to open up new manufacturing facilities in countries without any domestic manufacturers.
Saint-Gobain cast the glass blanks of some of the largest optical reflecting telescopes of the early 20th century, including the ground-breaking 60-inch (1.5 m) Hale telescope (online in 1908) and 100 inch (2.5 m) Hooker telescope (online 1917) at Mount Wilson Observatory (USA), and the 72-inch (1.8 m) Plaskett telescope (online in 1918) at Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (Canada).
1910-1950: Post industrial revolution
Saint-Gobain experienced significant success in the early 20th century. In 1918 the company expanded its manufacturing to bottles, jars, tableware and domestic glassware.
In 1920, Saint-Gobain extended its businesses to fiberglass manufacture. Fiberglass was being used to create insulation, industrial textiles, and building reinforcements. In 1937 the company founded Isover, a subsidiary fiberglass insulation manufacturer.
During this period, the company developed three new glassmaking techniques and processes; first, a dipping technique used to coat automobile windows, which prevented glass from shattering in the event of an accident. As a result of that technique, 10% of Saint-Gobain's 1920 sales came from the automobile industry, and 28% in 1930. Second, a few years later, another technique was developed that allowed glass to be shaped and bent. Finally, a process was developed to coat glass with aluminum, allowing it to be used as a conductor, and allowed the company to create products such as radiavers (a glass heater).
1950–1970: Pont-à-Mousson merger
Between 1950 and 1969, Saint-Gobain's sales rose at a rate of 10% per year. Its work force grew from 35,000 in 1950 to 100,000 in 1969. By the end of the 1960s, Saint-Gobain had more than 150 subsidiaries under its control.
Glass and fiberglass sales benefited from the booming construction industry and the rise in mass consumption after the Second World War. Saint-Gobain's yearly glass production went from 3.5 million square metres (38 million square feet) in 1950 to 45 million square metres (480 million square feet) in 1969. In 1950, fiberglass only represented 4% of the company's turnover, but by 1969, this had grown to 20%.
Domestic sales in France accounted for only a fifth of the company's revenue. Spain, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Belgium were also important markets.
In 1968, Boussois-Souchon-Neuvesel (BSN), a French industrial group, made a hostile takeover bid for Saint-Gobain. The company looked for a "white knight" to help fend off the bid. Multinational corporation Suez suggested that Saint-Gobain and Pont-à-Mousson (another French industrial group) should merge, in order to maintain independence from BSN. After the merger, Saint-Gobain-Pont-à-Mousson, later known simply by the name "Saint-Gobain", produced pipes in addition to glass and fiberglass.
The next fifteen years were a time of change and reorganization for the newly merged companies. In the 1970s, Western economies were suffering a sharp downturn. Saint-Gobain's financial performance was adversely affected by the economic and petrol crisis.
In 1981 and 1982, ten of France's top-performing companies were nationalized by the socialist Fifth Republic of France. By February 1982, Saint-Gobain was officially controlled by the state. However, the company did not last long as a government-owned corporation; it was re-privatized in 1987.
When Saint-Gobain once again became a private enterprise, control of the company quickly changed hands. Jean-Louis Beffa, an engineer and graduate of the École Polytechnique, became the CEO. Beffa invested heavily in research and development and pushed strongly for the company to produce engineered materials, such as abrasives and ceramics.
Under Beffa, the company continued to expand internationally, setting up foreign factories, and acquiring many of its foreign competitors. In 1996 the company bought Poliet (the French building and construction distribution group) and its subsidiaries, such as Point P. and Lapeyre. This expanded Saint-Gobain's product line into construction materials and their distribution.
- Pierre-André de Chalendar, CEO
- Laurent Guillot, CFO
General management committee
- Pierre-André de Chalendar, Chairman and Group CEO
- Laurent Guillot, Group CFO
- Paul Neeteson, General Delegate to Germany and Central Europe
- Benoît Bazin, President of the Building Distribution Sector
- Jean-Claude Breffort, President of Human Resources and International Development
- John Crowe, General Delegate to the North America Region
- Emmanuel Normant, General Delegate to the Asia-Pacific Region
- Jérôme Fessard, President of the Packaging Sector
- Bernard Field, Corporate Secretary
- Jean-Pierre Floris, President of the Flat Glass Sector
- Claude Imauven, President of the Construction Product Sector
- Jean-François Phelizon, Advisor to the CEO
- Didier Roux, President of Research and Development
Saint-Gobain is organized into three major Sectors (% by 2014 Net Sales restated excluding Verallia): Building Distribution (49%), Construction Products (27.5%), Innovative Materials (23.5%).
Saint-Gobain's Building Distribution (building supplies) division was created in 1996. Since then it has grown both internally and through acquisitions (in France with Point P. and Lapeyre, the UK with Jewson and Graham, in Germany, the Netherlands and Eastern Europe with Raab Karcher and in the Nordic Countries with Dahl). The division has 4,000 stores in 24 countries and employs 63,000 people worldwide. Its 2006 sales amounted to 17.6 billion euros. The divisions current subsidiaries are:
- SGBD UK
- Raab Karcher
- Point P.
- Brødrene (Brothers) Dahl
- Norandex Distribution
- Optimera, with the 'Monter' DIY chain
The Construction Products division is organized into the following business areas:
- Gypsum, which manufactures drywall
- Insulation, which manufactures acoustic and thermal fiberglass insulation
- Exterior Products, which manufactures roofing, interior and exterior products
- Pipes, which manufactures cast-iron pipes for water transfer applications
- Mortars, which manufactures expanded clay lightweight aggregates.
The Construction Products division employs 45,000 people worldwide and in 2006 had sales revenues of 10.9 billion euros.
The Innovative Materials division conducts research into various areas of materials science, energy, the environment, and medicine, such as fuel cells or particle filters. It operates centres in Cavaillon, Northborough, Massachusetts and Shanghai, employing 35,800 people. Overall, the division's sales are made up of at least 30% new products. In 2006, total sales revenue was 4.9 billion euros. Innovative Materials also manufactures glass products, including self-cleaning, electrochromic, low-emissivity and sun-shielding glass. It is active in 39 countries, targeting emerging economies, a market that now accounts for more than one-third of the divisions sales. It employs a global workforce of 37,100 and in 2006 had sales revenues of 5.1 billion euros. This division is divided in two parts :
- Flat Glass subsidiaries : Saint-Gobain Glass, Glassolutions and Saint-Gobain Sekurit
- High Performance Materials : Saint-Gobain_SEFPRO Saint-Gobain Abrasives, Saint-Gobain Crystals, Saint-Gobain Norton, Saint-Gobain Quartz and Saint-Gobain Norpro
In 2006, Saint Gobain announced a JV, Avancis, with Shell to produce PV modules based on CIS film technology. Currently the company entirely owns Avancis and has two plants in Germany manufacturing thin CIS film modules.
The Packaging division produces glassware for the food and beverage industry. The division's 2006 sales revenue was 4.1 billion euros, and it employs 20,000 people worldwide. The Packaging division was renamed as Verallia. In accordance with the announcement of June 8, 2015, Saint-Gobain today sold Verallia to funds managed by affiliates of Apollo Global Management LLC and BPI France, which currently hold 90% and 10%, respectively, of the share capital.
Saint-Gobain also has a division that focuses on connecting entrepreneurs, startups, and innovators to the 50+ bin Saint-Gobain called: NOVA External Venturing. The External Venturing unit has staff in Boston, Paris, and Shanghai interested in connecting with entrepreneurs working in advanced materials, construction products, and environmental sustainability.
Acquisitions and sales
Saint-Gobain has made a number of recent acquisitions in the past several years. In December 2005, it purchased the British company BPB plc, the world's largest manufacturer of plasterboard, for $6.7 billion USD. In August 2007, the company acquired Maxit Group, doubling the size of its Industrial Mortars business and adding the manufacture of expanded clay aggregates to its business portfolio. In 2012, the company acquired SAGE Electrochromics, an innovative manufacturer of glass that tints on command.
The company has also sold off various assets. Recently the company sold its cosmetic glass manufacturing business, including a plant in Newton County, Georgia, United States.
Saint-Gobain Gyproc Middle-East
Saint-Gobain Gyproc Middle East began trading as Gyproc in 2005. In April 2010, the company's first plasterboard manufacturing plant opened on a seven hectare site in Abu Dhabi.
Gyproc products have been used on some of the largest projects in the region, including the stations and main depot for Dubai Metro; Atlantis Hotel – Palm Jumeirah, Capital Gate – Abu Dhabi, Ferrari Experience – Abu Dhabi and Masdar Institute – Abu Dhabi.
Saint-Gobain Glass India
Saint-Gobain Glass India is a subsidiary of Saint Gobain that manufactures and markets solar control glass, fire resistant glass and other various types of float glasses in India. Saint-Gobain Glass India has its manufacturing plant at Sriperumbudur, 40 kilometres (25 mi) from Chennai.
Saint-Gobain started its venture in India in 1996 by acquiring a majority stake of Grindwell Norton. Later in 2000 it started its own glass manufacturing unit at Sriperumbudur. In June 2011, Saint Gobain Glass India acquired Sezal Glass floatline business, based in the state of Gujarat, India. The acquisition adds about 550 tons per day additional capacity, and the deal was inked at around 150 million USD.
- "Annual Results 2013" (PDF). Saint-Gobain. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
- Frankfurt Stock Exchange
- Abbott Payson Usher, "Colbert and Governmental Control of Industry in Seventeenth Century France" in The Review of Economics and Statistics 16.11 (November 1934:237-240).
- Receveur général des tailles en la Généralité d'Orléans. Nicolas du Noyer had other financial irons in the fire. In 1666, a plea was brought against him and a partner requesting the dismantling of a tile factory they were constructing at Popincourt, Étampes. (Corpus Bibliographique Étampois: Arrests d'Ancien Régime on-line). Du Noyer married Marie Le Normand. Their son, Nicolas du Noyer, was treasurer to the Marechal of Flanders and Hainaut.
- Warren C. Scoville, Capitalism and French Glassmaking, 1640-1789 (University of California Publications in Economics) 2006:28.
- Scovill 2006:28.
- "Legal notice." Saint-Gobain. Retrieved on 7 July 2010.
- "Saint-Gobain : les miroirs des verriers." Le Journal du Net. Retrieved on 7 July 2010.
- "Fiche d'entreprise". OpesC. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
- Archived 17 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Saint-Gobain buys Shell's stake in Avancis JV". EETimes. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
- "CIS photovoltaics, CIGS, manufacturer of CIS solar modules – AVANCIS". avancis.de. 29 August 2014. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
- Press release: Verallia sale finalized
- Archived 7 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
- "BPB accepts bid from French firm". BBC News. 17 November 2005.
- "SAGE Electrochromics to become wholly owned subsidiary of Saint-Gobain | SageGlass". www.sageglass.com. Retrieved 2016-07-21.
- "Saint-Gobain seeks land to set up solar glass facility". The Hindu. 3 June 2011.
- "Saint-Gobain Announces the Acquisition of Sezal Glass Ltd's Float Glass Business in India". Bloomberg. 31 May 2011.
- Hamon, Maurice (1999) From Sun to Earth, 1665-1999: a history of Saint-Gobain. Jean-Claude Lattès
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