The Group's performance in 2001, compared to a year of strong growth in 2000, reflects the Saint-Gobain Group's resilience in a markedly more difficult economic environment, particularly in the United States.It is attributable to the Group's more balanced operations mix, added to the ongoing profitability-boosting efforts pursued in each of the business sectors (see Appendix).
The Glass Sector posted the strongest performance within the Group in 2001. Its sales and earnings were again bolstered by higher prices across all business lines and sustained demand in Flat Glass and Containers.
The High-Performance Materials Sector, which had already seen a dip in sales and profitability in the first half due to the downturn in the global electronics market, was further affected in the second half due to the gradual slowdown in industrial activity and investment in both the United States and Europe, particularly after the events of September 11, without any recovery in electronics.
The Housing Products Sector posted higher operating income in all three divisions. Building Materials Distribution continued to develop through both organic growth and bolt-on acquisitions, and it began to benefit from synergies. Its operating income rose strongly, bringing operating margin to 4.9%, against 4.5% in 2000 (including Raab Karcher and Meyer for the full year). The Pipe Division achieved profitability gains thanks to the cost-reduction drive undertaken in the final months of 2000. Following a dip in sales in the first half, the performance of the Building Materials Division was boosted in the second half by the industrial rationalization efforts it had carried out and by a healthy U.S. construction market.
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