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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Type Private
Founded 1826
Headquarters St Helens, UK
Industry Glass
Parent NSG

Pilkington plc is the largest glass manufacturer in the United Kingdom. It is based in St Helens, Merseyside. It was formerly an independent company listed on the London Stock Exchange and for a time was a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index, but in 2006 it was taken over by NSG of Japan.



The company was founded in 1826 as a partnership by members of the Pilkington and Greenall families, based in St Helens, Lancashire.[1]. The venture used the trading name of St Helens Crown Glass Company.[2] On the departure from the partnership of the last Greenall in 1845, the firm became known as Pilkington Brothers. [3] In July 1894 the business was incorporated under the Companies Act 1862 as Pilkington Brothers Limited.[2] [4]

Pilkington was floated as a public company on the London Stock Exchange in 1970.[5] It was for many years the biggest employer in the northwest industrial town. The distinctive blue-glass head office tower-block in Prescot Road, used as the firm's world HQ, and completed in 1964, still dominates the town's skyline.

A Pilkington trailer

Between 1953 and 1957, (Sir) Alastair Pilkington and Kenneth Bickerstaff invented the Float Glass Process, a revolutionary method of high quality flat glass production by floating molten glass over a bath of molten tin, avoiding the costly need to grind and polish plate glass to make it clear.[2] Pilkington then allowed the Float Process to be used under licence by numerous manufacturers around the world.

Pilkington, with its subsidiary Triplex which it acquired in 1965, also became a major world supplier of toughened and laminated safety glass to the automotive and building industries.[2]

During the 1960s and 1970s, Pilkington used the flow of Float royalties to invest in float glass plants in several countries including Argentina, Australia, Canada and Sweden; also to acquire major existing flat and safety glass producers and plants in USA (Libbey Owens Ford), Germany and elsewhere. A Monopolies Commission report in 1967 concluded that Pilkington and Triplex operations were efficient and entrepreneurial and, despite their high share of the UK glass trade, operated in a manner suited to consumers best interests.[2]

In late 1985, Pilkington was the subject of an unfriendly take-over bid from BTR Industries, a large British-based conglomerate group. Pilkington's efforts to reject the bid were assisted by its employees, the town and some government ministers. Their joint successful work was followed by a withdrawal of BTRs offer in early 1986.[6]

On 25 May 1994, the United States Department of Justice filed suit in U.S. District Court alleging that Pilkington, through its technology license agreements with more than 60 companies around the world, had created a cartel by exercising control over the markets in which its licensees could sell float glass and construct float-glass manufacturing plants, and over the customers within each market to which each licensee could serve. Furthermore, the agreements required disclosure and license-back of any improvements to the process developed by the licensees. Such behavior is permissible when the business engaging in it has legitimate intellectual property interests, but according to the government, in this case it was a violation of the Sherman Act, because Pilkington's patents had expired and any trade secrets which it might have had in the process used by the licensees had long since become publicly known.[7] On the same day, the government and Pilkington filed a proposed consent decree, which enjoined Pilkington from enforcing these restrictions against its U.S. licensees, or against U.S. non-licensees, or against non-U.S. licensees wishing to export either technology or glass products to the United States. The agreement came into force on 22 December 1994, and expired ten years later.[8]

Pilkington glass in a Mercedes-Benz

In late 2005 the company received a takeover bid from the smaller Japanese company NSG. The initial bid and the first revised bid were not accepted, but on 16 February 2006 NSG increased its offer for the 80% it did not already own to 165 pence per share (£1.8 billion or $3.14 billion in total) and this was accepted by Pilkington's major institutional shareholders, enabling NSG to compulsorily acquire the smaller holdings of other shareholders, many of them being existing and retired employees, who had not wished to support the takeover. The combined company will compete for global leadership in the glass industry with the leading Japanese glassmaker Asahi Glass, which had around a quarter of the global market at the time of the deal. Pilkington had 19% and NSG around half that.[9]


Pilkington has manufacturing operations on five continents and makes sales in more than a hundred countries.

Pilkington has developed a self-cleaning coated float glass product, called Pilkington Activ. This self-cleaning glass has a coating which uses a method of photocatalysis to break down organic dirt with sunlight. The dirt is then washed away by the rain during a hydrophilic process.[10]

Pilkington has also developed and launched Pilkington energiKare - Energy Efficient Glazing, which can increase the energy efficiency of your home and reduce environmental impact.[11]


  • Barker, T. C. (1977), The Glassmakers: Pilkington: 1826-1976, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, ISBN 0-297-76909-X  

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