Glass company sees profits up

Glass maker Pilkington yesterday forecast a 20% surge in half-year profits but admitted its markets remained "challenging".

The company, which is based in St Helens and is one of the world's biggest glass producers, said it remained on track to meet expectations for its annual results.

Pilkington reported trading improvements for its core divisions of building products and automotive.

In a trading update, the group added that ongoing progress in manufacturing efficiency and cost reduction had also helped.

It expected first-half profits to rise by a fifth, although this performance was helped by the timing of money banked from the licensing of its technology.

The firm's statement said: "The market background remains challenging, made more so with rising energy costs, however, solid progress is being made in automotive and the group expects to meet market expectations for the full year."

Analysts have pencilled in a profits figure of £196.2m for the 12 months to the end of March, compared with £184m a year earlier.

The performance reflects a drive to make the business more competitive, following the loss of around a third of its workforce over the past decade.

Pilkington, which employs around 24,000 people and also has plants in Birmingham and Doncaster, is now expected to look for profitable growth opportunities as part of the final phase of its recovery programme.

In the building products division, Pilkington said revenues were up 5% despite conditions remaining competitive and the UK market being soft.

Rising energy and raw material prices put pressure on input costs but were offset by cost reduction and efficiency efforts as Pilkington forecast a 10% improvement in first-half profits from the division.

Meanwhile, the company said successful new product launches by vehicle manufacturers left the automotive division on course for a 25% rise in first-half operating profits on a year earlier. More than 55% of the division's sales are in Europe.

600450 Glass company sees profits up

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