For 2001, the group has recorded a 3 per cent rise in net profit (excluding capital gains), to 1.057bn, for a turnover of 30.4bn euros. At the same time, however, its activities have been affected by the slump in the US manufacturing markets - which account for 18 per cent of its sales, serious problems in Germany - its second biggest European market after France, and a market slowdown in its piping division.
The French group has managed to withstand these pressures thanks to its core activities of glass and packaging. In fact, it has not only abandoned the idea of selling its packaging division but is planning to develop it "in countries where people drink wine". Saint-Gobain's good 2001 performance is also due to its restructuring efforts. In the course of that year, it shed 4.1 per cent of its worldwide workforce, which now stands at 171,000 people. On Friday, the group launched a 62-euros-per-share takeover bid for the 25.3 per cent of its industrial joinery subsidiary Lapeyre which remains in the public domain.