Saint-Gobain S.A. is a French multinational corporation
Multinational corporation
A multi national corporation or enterprise , is a corporation or an enterprise that manages production or delivers services in more than one country. It can also be referred to as an international corporation...

, founded in 1665 in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 and headquartered on the outskirts of Paris at La Défense
La Défense
La Défense is a major business district of the Paris aire urbaine. With a population of 20,000, it is centered in an orbital motorway straddling the Hauts-de-Seine département municipalities of Nanterre, Courbevoie and Puteaux...

 and in Courbevoie
Courbevoie is a commune located very close to the centre of Paris, France. The centre of Courbevoie is situated 2 kilometres from the outer limits of Paris and 8.2 km...

. Originally a mirror
A mirror is an object that reflects light or sound in a way that preserves much of its original quality prior to its contact with the mirror. Some mirrors also filter out some wavelengths, while preserving other wavelengths in the reflection...

 manufacturer, it now also produces a variety of construction and high-performance material
Material is anything made of matter, constituted of one or more substances. Wood, cement, hydrogen, air and water are all examples of materials. Sometimes the term "material" is used more narrowly to refer to substances or components with certain physical properties that are used as inputs to...


The company has its head office in Les Miroirs in La Défense
La Défense
La Défense is a major business district of the Paris aire urbaine. With a population of 20,000, it is centered in an orbital motorway straddling the Hauts-de-Seine département municipalities of Nanterre, Courbevoie and Puteaux...

 and in Courbevoie
Courbevoie is a commune located very close to the centre of Paris, France. The centre of Courbevoie is situated 2 kilometres from the outer limits of Paris and 8.2 km...

. The 97 metres (318.2 ft) building served as the company head office since 1981.

1665-1789: Manufacture royale

The company was founded in October 1665 as Manufacture royale de glaces de miroirs under the direction of French minister of finance Jean-Baptiste Colbert
Jean-Baptiste Colbert
Jean-Baptiste Colbert was a French politician who served as the Minister of Finances of France from 1665 to 1683 under the rule of King Louis XIV. His relentless hard work and thrift made him an esteemed minister. He achieved a reputation for his work of improving the state of French manufacturing...

. The company, which had the informal name Compagnie du Noyer from the beneficiary of the monopoly granted to it, the financier Nicolas du Noyer, a receveur of taxes of Orléans, was created for a period of twenty years and would be financed in part by the State.
Since the middle of the 17th century, luxury products such as silk textiles, lace
Lace is an openwork fabric, patterned with open holes in the work, made by machine or by hand. The holes can be formed via removal of threads or cloth from a previously woven fabric, but more often open spaces are created as part of the lace fabric. Lace-making is an ancient craft. True lace was...

 and mirrors were in high demand. In the 1660s, mirrors had become very popular among the upper classes of society: Italian cabinets, ballrooms, châteaux and ornate side tables and pier-tables were decorated with this expensive and luxurious product. At the time, however, the French were not known for mirror technology; instead Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 was known as the world leader in glass manufacturing, controlling a technical and commercial monopoly
A monopoly exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity...

 of the glass and mirror business. Colbert saw Manufacture royale de glaces de miroirs as a way for France to become completely self-sufficient in meeting domestic demand for luxury products.

To compete with the Italian mirror industry, Colbert commissioned several expatriate
An expatriate is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing...

 Venetians. Soon the mirrors created in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine under the French company began to rival those of Venice. The French company was capable of producing mirrors that were 40 to 45 inches long, which at the time was considered impressive. Competition between France and the Venetians became so fierce that Venice considered it a crime for any glass artisan to leave and practice their trade elsewhere, especially in foreign territory.

In 1683 the company's financial arrangement with the State was renewed for another two decades. However, in 1688 the rival Compagnie Thévart was created, also financed in part by the state. Compagnie Thévart used a new pouring process that allowed it to make plate glass mirrors measuring at least 60 inches long by 40 inches wide, much bigger than the 40 inches the Compagnie du Noyer could create.

For seven years, the two companies were in competition until, in 1695, the economy slowed down and their technical and commercial rivalry became counterproductive. Under an order from the French government the two companies were forced to merge together, creating the Compagnie Plastier.

In 1702 Compagnie Plastier declared bankruptcy
Bankruptcy is a legal status of an insolvent person or an organisation, that is, one that cannot repay the debts owed to creditors. In most jurisdictions bankruptcy is imposed by a court order, often initiated by the debtor....

. A group of Franco-Swiss Protestant bankers rescued of the collapsing company changing the name to Compagnie Dagincourt. At the same time the company was provided royal patents which allowed it to maintain a legal monopoly in the glass manufacturing industry up until the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...


1789-1910: Industrial revolution

In 1789, as a consequence of the French Revolution, the state financial and competitive privileges accorded to Compagnie Dagincourt were abolished. The company now had to depend on the participation and capital of private investors, although it continued to remain partly under the control of the French state.

In the 1820s, Saint-Gobain continued to function as it had under the Ancien Regime, manufacturing high quality mirrors and glass for the luxury market. However, in 1824, a new glass manufacturer was established in Commentry
Commentry is a commune in the department of Allier in central France. It lies southwest of Moulins by the Orléans railway.-Population:-Economy:...

, France and in 1837 several Belgian glass manufacturers were also founded. While Saint-Gobain continued to dominate the luxury, high quality mirror and glass markets, its newly created competitors focused their attention on making medium and low quality products. By manufacturing products of such quality, mirrors and glass became affordable for the masses. In response the company extended its product line to include lower quality glass and mirrors.

In 1830, just as Louis-Philippe became King of the newly restored French Monarchy, Saint-Gobain was transformed into a Public Limited Company
Public limited company
A public limited company is a limited liability company that sells shares to the public in United Kingdom company law, in the Republic of Ireland and Commonwealth jurisdictions....

 and became independent from the state for the first time.

While mirrors remained their primary business, Saint-Gobain began to diversify their product line; glass panes for skylight
Skylight may refer to:* Skylight * Skylight , by David Hare* Skylight of a lava tube, a hole in the ceiling of the tube* Skylight, Arkansas* Skylight, a short film by David Clayton Rogers* Skylight Pictures, a film company...

s, roofs and room dividers, thick mirrors, semi-thick glass for windows, laminated mirrors and glass, and finally embossed mirrors and window panes. Some of the more famous buildings that Saint-Gobain contributed to during that period were the Crystal Palace
The Crystal Palace
The Crystal Palace was a cast-iron and glass building originally erected in Hyde Park, London, England, to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. More than 14,000 exhibitors from around the world gathered in the Palace's of exhibition space to display examples of the latest technology developed in...

 in London, le Jardin des Plantes, les Grand et Petit Palais and les Halles
Les Halles
Les Halles is an area of Paris, France, located in the 1er arrondissement, just south of the fashionable rue Montorgueil. It is named for the large central wholesale marketplace, which was demolished in 1971, to be replaced with an underground modern shopping precinct, the Forum des Halles...

 in Paris, the Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

 railway station and buildings in Philadelphia, Sydney
Sydney is the most populous city in Australia and the state capital of New South Wales. Sydney is located on Australia's south-east coast of the Tasman Sea. As of June 2010, the greater metropolitan area had an approximate population of 4.6 million people...

 and New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...


Saint-Gobain merged with another French glass and mirror manufacturer, Saint-Quirin, in the mid-19th century. After the merger the company was able to gain control of 25% of European glass and mirror production (before it had only controlled 10—15%). In response to growing international competition the company began to open up new manufacturing facilities in countries without any domestic manufacturers.

Saint-Gobain cast the glass blanks of some of the largest optical reflecting telescopes of the early 20th century, including the ground-breaking 60-inch Hale telescope (online in 1908) and 100 inch (2.5 m) Hooker telescope (online 1917) at Mount Wilson Observatory
Mount Wilson Observatory
The Mount Wilson Observatory is an astronomical observatory in Los Angeles County, California, United States. The MWO is located on Mount Wilson, a 5,715 foot peak in the San Gabriel Mountains near Pasadena, northeast of Los Angeles...

 (USA), and the 72-inch Plaskett telescope (online in 1918) at Dominion Astrophysical Observatory
Dominion Astrophysical Observatory
The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, located on Observatory Hill, in Saanich, British Columbia, was completed in 1918 by the Canadian government. Proposed and designed by John S...


1910-1950: Post industrial revolution

Saint-Gobain's experienced significant success in the early 20th century. In 1918 the company expanded its manufacturing to bottles, jars, tableware and domestic glassware.

In 1920, Saint-Gobain extended its businesses to fiberglass
Glass fiber is a material consisting of numerous extremely fine fibers of glass.Glassmakers throughout history have experimented with glass fibers, but mass manufacture of glass fiber was only made possible with the invention of finer machine tooling...

 manufacture. Fiberglass was being used to create insulation
Insulation means:* Building insulation, added to buildings for comfort and energy efficiency* Soundproofing, also known as acoustic insulation, any means of reducing the intensity of sound...

, industrial textiles, and building reinforcements. In 1937 the company founded Isover, a subsidiary
A subsidiary company, subsidiary, or daughter company is a company that is completely or partly owned and wholly controlled by another company that owns more than half of the subsidiary's stock. The subsidiary can be a company, corporation, or limited liability company. In some cases it is a...

 fiberglass insulation manufacturer.

During this period the company developed three new glassmaking techniques and processes; firstly a dipping technique used to coat for automobile windows which prevented glass from shattering in the event of an accident. As a result of this 10% of Saint-Gobain's 1920 sales came from the automobile industry and 28% in 1930. A few years later another technique was developed that allowed glass to be shaped and bent. Finally, a process was developed to coat glass with aluminum allowing it to be used as a conductor and allowed the company to create products such as radiavers (a glass heater).

1950–1970: Pont-à-Mousson merger

Between 1950 and 1969, Saint-Gobain's sales rose at a rate of 10% per year. Its work force grew from 35,000 in 1950 to 100,000 in 1969. By the end of the 1960s, Saint-Gobain had more than 150 subsidiaries under its control.

Glass and fiberglass sales benefited from the booming construction industry and the rise in mass consumption after the Second World War. Saint-Gobain's yearly glass production went from 3.5 million m² in 1950 to 45 million m² in 1969. In 1950, fiberglass only represented 4% of the company's turnover, in 1969 this had grown to 20%.

Domestic sales in France accounted for only a fifth of the companies revenue; Spain, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Belgium were also important markets.

In 1968, Boussois-Souchon-Neuvesel (BSN), a French industrial group, made a hostile takeover bid for Saint-Gobain. The company looked for a "white knight
White knight (business)
In business, a white knight, or "friendly investor," may be a corporation or a person that intends to help another firm. There are many types of white knights...

" to help fend off the bid. Multinational corporation Suez suggested that Saint-Gobain and Pont-à-Mousson
Pont-à-Mousson is a commune in the Meurthe-et-Moselle department in north-eastern France.Population : 14,592 . It is an industrial town , situated on the Moselle River...

 (another French industrial group) merge in order to maintain independence from BSN. After the merger, Saint-Gobain-Pont-à-Mousson, later known simply by the name Saint-Gobain, produced pipes in addition to glass and fiberglass.

1971–1986: Nationalisation

The next fifteen years were a time of change and reorganization for the newly merged companies. In the 1970s, Western economies were suffering a sharp downturn. Saint-Gobain's financial performance was adversely affected by the economic and petrol crisis.

In 1981 and 1982, 10 of France's top-performing companies were nationalized by the socialist
Socialist Party (France)
The Socialist Party is a social-democratic political party in France and the largest party of the French centre-left. It is one of the two major contemporary political parties in France, along with the center-right Union for a Popular Movement...

 Fifth Republic
French Fifth Republic
The Fifth Republic is the fifth and current republican constitution of France, introduced on 4 October 1958. The Fifth Republic emerged from the collapse of the French Fourth Republic, replacing the prior parliamentary government with a semi-presidential system...

 of France. By February 1982, Saint-Gobain was officially controlled by the state. However, the company did not last long as a government-owned corporation; it was re-privatized in 1987.

1986-Present: Expansion

When Saint-Gobain once again became a private enterprise, control of the company quickly changed hands. Jean-Louis Beffa
Jean-Louis Beffa
Jean-Louis Beffa is a French businessman. He was the chairman and CEO of Saint-Gobain, he is now the Chairman of the board of Saint-Gobain, and a former member of the Saint-Simon Foundation think-tank....

, an engineer and graduate of the École Polytechnique
École Polytechnique
The École Polytechnique is a state-run institution of higher education and research in Palaiseau, Essonne, France, near Paris. Polytechnique is renowned for its four year undergraduate/graduate Master's program...

, became the CEO. Beffa invested heavily in research and development
Research and development
The phrase research and development , according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, refers to "creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this stock of...

 and pushed strongly for the company to produce engineered materials (such as abrasives and ceramics).

Under Beffa the company continued to expand internationally; setting up foreign factories and acquiring many of its foreign competitors. In 1996 the company bought Poliet (the French building and construction distribution group) and its subsidiaries such as Point P. and Lapeyre, this expanded Saint-Gobain's product line into construction materials and their distribution.

Company structure

Executive committee

  • Pierre-André de Chalendar
    Pierre-André de Chalendar
    Pierre-André de Chalendar born April 2, 1958 in Vichy , is a French entrepreneur.He is Chairman and CEO of Saint-Gobain Group since June 3, 2010 and CEO since June 2007.- Formation :* Graduated from ESSEC business school in 1979...

    , CEO
  • Lourent Guillot, CFO
  • Bernard Field, Corporate Secretary
  • Guillaume Texier, President of Corporate Planning, Secretary of the Executive Committee

General management committee

  • Pierre-André de Chalendar, Chairman and Group CEO
  • Laurent Guillot, Group CFO
  • Paul Neeteson, General Delegate to Germany and Central Europe
  • Benoît Bazin, President of the Building Distribution Sector
  • Jean-Claude Breffort, President of Human Resources and International Development
  • Gilles Colas, General Delegate to the North America Region
  • Emmanuel Normant, General Delegate to the Asia-Pacific Region
  • Jérôme Fessard, President of the Packaging Sector
  • Bernard Field, Corporate Secretary
  • Jean-Pierre Floris, President of the Flat Glass Sector
  • Claude Imauven, President of the Construction Product Sector
  • Jean-François Phelizon, Advisor to the CEO
  • Didier Roux, President of Research and Development
  • Guillaume Texier, President of Corporate Planning

Financial data

Financial data, , in millions of euro.
Year 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
A sale is the act of selling a product or service in return for money or other compensation. It is an act of completion of a commercial activity....

28 815 30 390 30 274 29 590 32 025 35 110 41 596
EBITDA is an acronym for earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. It is a non-GAAP metric that is measured exactly as stated. All interest, tax, depreciation and amortization entries in the income statement are reversed out from the bottom-line net income...

4 194 4 317 4 185 3 800 4 086 3 903 5 431
Net Results 1 517 1 134 1 040 1 039 1 112 1 294 1 637
Net Debt 8 217 8 614 7 012 5 657 5 566 12 850 11 599
Staff 171 125 173 329 172 357 172 811 181 228 199 630 206 839

Business units

The company is built around five business sectors: Building Distribution, Construction Products, Flat Glass, Containers / Packaging and High-Performance Materials.

Building distribution

Saint-Gobain's Building Distribution (building supplies) division was created in 1996 since then it has grown both internally and through acquisitions (in France with Point P. and Lapeyre, the UK
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 with Jewson
Jewson is one of the largest chain of British general builders' merchants, selling to small building contractors and the general public with over 500 branches across the country....

 and Graham, in Germany, the Netherlands and Eastern Europe with Raab Karcher and in the Nordic Countries with Dahl). The division has 4,000 stores in 24 countries and employs 63,000 people worldwide. Its 2006 Sales amounted to 17.6 billion euros. The divisions current subsidiaries are:
  • CertainTeed
    CertainTeed Corporation is a North American manufacturer of building materials for both commercial and residential construction. It is the largest manufacturer of building materials in North America and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Compagnie de Saint-Gobain SA of France...

  • Raab Karcher
  • Point P.
  • Lapeyre
  • Dahl
  • Norandex Distribution

Construction products

The Construction Products division manufactures drywall, acoustic and thermal insulation, façade coatings, roofing, interior and exterior products and pipes. It employs 45,000 people worldwide and in 2006 had sales revenues of 10.9 Billion Euros. Saint-Gobain Gyproc Saint-Gobain Gyproc India
Saint-Gobain Gyproc India
Saint-Gobain Gyproc India Ltd. is a part of the Compagnie de Saint-Gobain SA Saint-Gobain of France.It is the amongst the well known players in the gypsum based construction materials space in India for well over two decades...

 is the leader in offering gypsum platerboards and finishing plasters for interiors.

Flat glass

The Flat Glass division manufacturers glass products including self-cleaning, electrochromic, low-emissivity and sun-shielding glass. It is active in 39 countries targeting emerging economies, a market that now accounts for more than one third of the divisions sales. It employs a global workforce of 37,100 and in 2006 had sales revenues of 5.1 billion Euros.

The Flat Glass division is currently building a plant to produce photovoltaic cells jointly with Shell
Royal Dutch Shell
Royal Dutch Shell plc , commonly known as Shell, is a global oil and gas company headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands and with its registered office in London, United Kingdom. It is the fifth-largest company in the world according to a composite measure by Forbes magazine and one of the six...

, and is developing a pilot factory for the production of electronic glass in Spain.

High performance materials

The High Performance Materials division conducts research into various areas of materials science
Materials science
Materials science is an interdisciplinary field applying the properties of matter to various areas of science and engineering. This scientific field investigates the relationship between the structure of materials at atomic or molecular scales and their macroscopic properties. It incorporates...

, energy, the environment and medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

; such as fuel cell
Fuel cell
A fuel cell is a device that converts the chemical energy from a fuel into electricity through a chemical reaction with oxygen or another oxidizing agent. Hydrogen is the most common fuel, but hydrocarbons such as natural gas and alcohols like methanol are sometimes used...

s or particle filters. It operates centers in Cavaillon
Cavaillon is a commune in the Vaucluse department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France.-Geography:The Calavon, a tributary of the Durance locally called Coulon, flows westward through the middle of the commune....

, Northborough and Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

 employing 35,800 people. Overall, the division's sales are made up of at least 30% new products, in 2006 total sales revenue was 4.9 billion Euros.


The Packaging division produces glassware for the food and beverage industry. The division's 2006 sales revenue was 4.1 billion Euros and it employs 20,000 people worldwide. The Packaging division was renamed as Verallia.

Acquisitions and sales

Saint-Gobain has made a number of recent acquisitions. In December 2005, it purchased the British company BPB plc
BPB plc
BPB plc is a British building materials business: it is the world's largest manufacturer of plasterboard. It once was a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index...

, the world's largest manufacturer of plasterboard, for $6.7 billion USD. In August 2007, the company acquired Maxit, doubling the size of its Industrial Mortars business.
In June 2011, Saint Gobain Glass India acquired Sezal Glass floatline business based in the state of Gujarat, India. The acquisition adds about 550 tons per day additional capacity, and the deal was inked at around 150 million USD..

The company has also sold off various assets. Recently the company sold its cosmetic glass manufacturing business, including a plant in Newton County, Georgia
Newton County, Georgia
Newton County is a county located in the U.S. state of Georgia. As of 2000, the population was 62,001. The 2010 Census showed a population of 99,958. The county seat is Covington....



External links

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