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PPG to sell Illinois glass plant, shift operations to other sites in North America

| Saturday, July 19, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

PPG Industries Inc. on Friday said it will sell the assets of a glass manufacturing plant in Illinois, the day after an analyst questioned whether the company intends to stay in the business on which it was founded.

PPG will sell its Mt. Zion factory to automotive glass manufacturer Fuyao Glass America Inc. of China for an undisclosed price. The companies expect the transaction to close in the third quarter.

The plant manufactures glass for use in residential and commercial construction markets, and Fuyao plans to rebuild two production lines to make automotive glass. PPG will operate the plant for up to a year, then shift its coated glass and clear glass products to other glass plants in North America, the company said.

The Mt. Zion plant has 175 employees. PPG has other flat-glass plants in Carlisle; Fresno, Calif.; Burlington, Iowa; Salem, Ore.; and Wichita Falls, Texas.

Glass, the product that gave the company its Pittsburgh Plate Glass name from 1883 to 1968, had sales of $1.1 billion, about 7.5 percent of total sales in 2013, down from 27 percent a decade ago.

On a conference call on Thursday, analyst Don Carson of Susquehanna Financial asked whether the glass business continues to fit within PPG, which is expanding in paint. Paint accounts for more than 90 percent of PPG's revenue.

PPG CEO Charles Bunch said the glass business is considered “less core for PPG but still strategically important. We think that we have more to do in those businesses. We continue to invest in them.”

Flat glass and fiberglass products make up PPG's glass business.

PPG said the plant sale is consistent with its strategy to focus on coated glass for construction markets.

“Glass coatings technology remains the engine of our growth, and we plan to make incremental technology investments in our facilities to improve our current capacity for better-performing products,” said Richard Beuke, PPG vice president of flat glass.

John D. Oravecz is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7882 or joravecz@tribweb.com.

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