Japanese glassmaker increases stake in Pilks.
JAPANESE glassmaker Nippon Sheet Glass has substantially increased its stake in St Helens-based Pilkington.
Last night analysts were left guessing about the reason for the sudden interest in the world's biggest glass manufacturer by the Tokyo-based company.
The buying spree, costing millions of pounds, has taken Nippon's holding in Pilkington from around 11pc to 18.61pc.
Last week Nippon bought several million shares that took its holding to over 14pc. But as the two companies have close links the purchase did not raise any eyebrows.
But this week Nippon made yet another purchase of shares, snapping up almost 55m at a cost of pounds 60m.
One stockbroker in Liverpool commented last night: "We have watched the developments over the past few days with interest, but do not know what to read into this."
It seems likely that Nippon wants to boost its holding in Pilkington to help it rival another Japanese glassmaker, Asahi, rated as one of top three manufacturers in the world.
Nippon, with interests spanning the world, was already the biggest single shareholder in Pilkington, with its 11pc holding.
Its business is advancing in Japan, the US and Mexico, England and Belgium, China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Vietnam.
With the aim of developing and designing products quickly as a global supplier, the company says its activities centre on a dynamic approach incorporating the use of computer simulation and latest CAD/CAM computer technologies.
Links between Pilkington and Nippon go back to the 1980s when Pilkington acquired an established North American glassmaker.
Pilkington North America was established following the acquisition and in 1990 Nippon bought a 20pc stake and soon after purchased a 20pc stake in Triplex, the UK based auto glass manufacturer.
Last year Pilkington took back the two 20pc stakeholdings from Nippon, paying for it by the issue of 122m shares. It made Nippon the biggest shareholder in the once family owned business.
Last night Nippon Sheet Glass held more than 231m shares in Pilkington.
North America accounts for 45pc of Pilkington's sales, though last week the company reported that demand in its key north American building products unit had weakened, while US sales for its automotive glass had also fallen.
Trading during the first five months of the year have been in line with expectations.
Pilkington has issued a trading statement ahead of its interim results announcement for the period to 30 September 2001, which will be made on Thursday, 25 October 2001.
Chief executive Paolo Scaroni commented: "Pilkington has performed well in the first five months of the year, in line with the expectations set out in our previous statements. Once again, we expect to report a good underlying improvement in the Group's performance in the first half.
"It is too early to predict the impact of the terrorist attack in North America on the economies in which we operate."
PERFORMED WELL: Paolo Scaroni