Belgian Company To Buy Safelite

The Safelite Group is being acquired by a Belgian company in a deal that brings together two of the world’s biggest auto-glass repair and replacement companies.

Belron S.A., of Brussels, has agreed to pay $334 million to buy Safelite, which employs 1,600 in central Ohio.

Belron is the world’s largest player in the auto-glass business, while Columbus-based Safelite is the biggest in the United States.

The deal, which awaits regulatory approval, would increase Belron’s U.S. presence from 11 states to 50.

Safelite employees in the United States probably will not be affected by the sale, said Dan Wilson, Safelite president and CEO.

"Most of the overlap in (resources) is in back-office operations," he said. "Those jobs will be consolidated into the Columbus headquarters."

Safelite’s central Ohio operations include headquarters on Farmers Drive, on the Northwest Side, a call center on Schrock Road, and a service hub on Dearborn Park Lane in Worthington.

Belron’s U.S. division has 800 employees and 90 retail locations. It has no Ohio employees.

"We’re constantly looking for growth opportunities in the U.S.," said Gary Lubner, Belron chief executive, adding that Safelite is "a business that is growing, is profitable, and is run professionally. We have very similar business models."

The sale will have a big effect on the industry, said Charles Cumpston, editor of AGRR Magazine, which covers the autoglass repair and replacement industry. Once the deal is complete, probably in March, the new company would have nearly 20 percent of the U.S. market.

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600450 Belgian Company To Buy Safelite
Date: 9 February 2007

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