Saint-Gobain's 2002 performance, achieved against the backdrop of a challenging economic environment, testifies to the Group's resilience and its swift reaction to changing business conditions.The Glass Sector posted the strongest like-for-like growth within the Group in 2002, driven by high sales volumes across the board.Profitability eased back slightly however, due to a contraction in sales prices in the Flat Glass and Insulation/Reinforcements divisions which could not be offset by the significant increase in earnings for Containers.
Business and earnings in the High-Performance Materials Sector - which slowed considerably during the first half - continued to contract in the second half of the year, albeit less significantly. Markets linked to industrial investment remain severely depressed both in Europe and the United States and the electronics market has not yet shown any tangible signs of recovery.
The Housing Products Sector continued down the same growth track as in the first half, slightly outstripping average growth for the Group as a whole and boosting profitability. The Building Materials division reaped the benefits of the buoyant construction market in the United States. The Building Materials Distribution division continued to expand, fuelled by organic growth and bolt-on acquisitions, and continued to leverage synergies. Operating margin for the division surged to 4.9 percent, from 4.5 percent in 2001 (pro forma, including full-year contributions from pipe distribution operations). Full-year Pipe division sales slipped slightly however, but the division reported a strong recovery in the fourth quarter, led by the first deliveries under the Abu Dhabi contract.