Pilkington, NSG resume talks for possible sale Ottawa plant workers, EPA watching for takeover bid by Japanese glassmaker NSG

An Ottawa glass plant may soon come under new ownership, after all.For months, reports have circulated of an attempt by a Japanese glass manufacturer, Nippon Sheet Glass, to purchase the worldwide operations and assets of British glassmaker Pilkington.

Late last fall, the attempt appeared to end when Pilkington representatives announced the company had rejected a $3.5 billion takeover bid.However, in recent weeks, new reports have indicated that Pilkington and NSG have begun talking again -- and a deal could be just weeks away to transfer ownership of all of Pilkington's assets, including the company's Ottawa glass plant."There is very little we can actually say at this point," said Robin Walker, a London spokesperson for Pilkington. "But there has not been a higher formal offer yet."

Locally, Pilkington employees and their representatives said they were closely monitoring the possible transaction.

John Roth, president of the Glassmakers International Union Local 19, said he had learned that NSG and Pilkington were again discussing the takeover.

"The last I heard NSG was going over Pilkington's books," said Roth. "And that process could take several weeks to complete."

He said he and many of the 140 union workers at the Ottawa plant were following the situation on the Internet, reading reports in European publications.

"The European press seems to think it's a done deal," said Roth.

For five years, analysts have speculated that NSG, a company about half Pilkington's size and the second-largest glass producer in Japan, would formally move to take over Pilkington, as NSG sought a larger platform from which to sell glass to Japanese automakers, such as Toyota.

The Japanese company already stands as the largest stockholder in Pilkington, owning 20 percent of the British corporation's shares,

Founded in 1826, the U.K.-based Pilkington has become of the world's largest glassmakers, operating 25 glass plants worldwide and employing 23,800 employees.

Locally, Pilkington operates a plant on Ottawa's far west side, adjacent to Naplate, that employs more than 180.

The plant, founded in 1908, was operated for most its existence by Libbey-Owens-Ford.

The facility was purchased by Pilkington in 1986.

The company moved in 2005 to annex the plant into the city of Ottawa, in advance of a $61 million project to modernize the plant by 2008.

As of now, that work continues, Pilkington representatives said.

Likewise, Pilkington, under the supervision of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is continuing with an investigation into the origins and extent of arsenic contamination in the nearby village of Naplate, said Rick Nagel, an EPA lawyer.

The U.S. EPA believes the arsenic originated on the grounds of the former L-O-F plant, spreading to the groundwater under the village and the soil of some residential yards.

Nagel said the EPA was not aware of the possible sale of Pilkington to NSG.

But he said the sale should not interfere with the investigation, as the agency believes that, along with the assets of the Ottawa plant, NSG would also purchase the liabilities, as did Pilkington when it purchased L-O-F in 1986.

Roth, however, said workers at the plant were a little more concerned.

"They're nervous about their future," said Roth. "In NSG, they're dealing with an unknown factor."

He said the union does not believe NSG would close the plant.

"They want to be a major player," said Roth. "So I'm optimistic that they're going to want to keep all their plants open and running.

"But we're watching this very closely."

600450 Pilkington, NSG resume talks for possible sale Ottawa plant workers, EPA watching for takeover bid by Japanese glassmaker NSG glassonweb.com
Date: 10 February 2006
Source: Mywebtimes.com

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