PILKINGTON owner Nippon Sheet Glass (NSG) has returned to profit after enduring a torrid recession.
The Japanese glassmaker yesterday announced a pre-tax profit of £25m for the year to March, after losing more than £500m in the 2009 and 2010 financial years. Sales, however, were down 2% at £4.35bn, and it warned about the long-term consequences on trade from Japan’s recent earthquake.
The global downturn caused NSG to take drastic action, cutting 15% of its workforce with about 6,700 people leaving the group.
It made about 200 redundancies at its Merseyside operations, and there are now about 1,300 people employed at its production sites in St Helens and the European Technical Centre in Lathom, West Lancashire.
But NSG said its major markets had now stabilised, with some showing gradual improvements.
That includes the building products market in Europe, where increased volumes and cost savings combined to improve profits.
The rising demand saw the restarting of one of its two float lines, UK5, at its Greengate site in St Helens last autumn.
It had been refurbished in 2008 but its start was delayed. The second line, UK6, was due to be mothballed but has been put back until September, 2013.
Last month, Pilkington announced a £36m investment – supported by £5m from the Regional Growth Fund – at its Cowley Hill site, also in St Helens, which will create 50 jobs.
The coating facility will produce a range of energy-saving domestic glazing products which can cut CO² production and heating bills.
That investment is part of a series of developments around the world which it expects will “produce an increasing contribution to group profits”.
NSG is forecasting pre-tax profits of about £170m for its 2012 financial year, with sales budgeted to increase 4% to more than £4.5bn.
March’s earthquake off the north- east coast of Japan caused temporary disruption to some of its operations. However, it expects long-lasting effects as car manufacturing customers cut production because of problems sourcing components.