Glass act on road to top

The US Department of Commerce found Chinese makers of automotive replacement glass guilty of selling their products for less than their manufacturing costs.

This followed a complaint by American firms in 2002.

Working as a driver in his younger days, Lee Yin Yee found that flying rocks from China's rough roads meant frequent windshield replacements.

Good replacement glass was in short supply, so Lee started a company to import it.

Today, as chairman of Hong Kong-listed Xinyi Glass Holdings, Lee makes his own glass, exporting 60 percent of his output. The United States is his largest market.

``We want to be the world leader in automotive replacement glass,'' he says. ``We will also look for opportunities in the original equipment market.''

Bold words for a small company dreaming of competing with multinationals such as PPG Industries.

But in a backhanded sort of way, Xinyi has already received validation of its growing stature from its American competitors. In 2002, major US glass manufacturers filed a dumping complaint against a passel of Chinese glassmakers, including Xinyi, accusing them of selling their products for less than they what they cost to make.

The US Department of Commerce found the Chinese companies guilty in February 2002. However, Xinyi and Fuyao Glass Industry Group are appealing the verdict in the Court of International Trade. Industry observers acknowledge that Xinyi has a chance to make a significant dent in the original equipment manufacturing market, making products for better known companies to put their brandnames on.

But to do so, they say it may have to make more alliances with North American and European parts suppliers that know the ins and outs of the Western market more intimately - something that could run counter to the instincts of the self-made Lee.

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600450 Glass act on road to top
Date: 29 August 2005

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