Last updated

Pilkington Group Limited
Company typeSubsidiary to Nippon Sheet Glass of Japan
Industry Glassmaking
Founded1826 (St Helens)
FounderWilliam Pilkington
Lathom, Lancashire
Number of locations
22 sites in the UK
ProductsGlass and glazing solutions for automotive and architectural.
OwnerNippon Sheet Glass
Parent NSG Group
Website www.pilkington.com

Pilkington is a glass-manufacturing company which is based in Lathom, Lancashire, England. It includes several legal entities in the UK, and is a subsidiary of Japanese company Nippon Sheet Glass (NSG).


Prior to its acquisition by NSG in 2006, it was an independent company listed on the London Stock Exchange and for a time was a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.


Pilkington Floatglass former factory in Halmstad, Sweden. Closed since 2012. Pilkington Floatglas, Halmstad.jpg
Pilkington Floatglass former factory in Halmstad, Sweden. Closed since 2012.
Pilkington glass in a Mercedes-Benz Pilkington Glass.JPG
Pilkington glass in a Mercedes-Benz
A trailer with Pilkington livery Pilkington.jpg
A trailer with Pilkington livery

The company was founded in 1826 as a partnership between members of the Pilkington and Greenall families, based in St Helens, Lancashire, England. [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 1894, the business was incorporated under the Companies Act 1862 as Pilkington Brothers Limited. [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 on Alexandra Business Park, off Prescot Road, used as the firm's world HQ, and completed in 1964, still dominates the town's skyline.

Between 1953 and 1957, Pilkington employees Alastair Pilkington (no family relation) 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 Safety Glass, in which it gradually acquired a controlling interest, also became a major world supplier of toughened and laminated safety glass to the automotive, aerospace 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, and also to acquire major existing flat and safety glass producers and plants in the United States (Libbey Owens Ford), Germany and France.

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]

A rank-and-file strike in 1970, sparked off by an error in wage packets, brought 8,000 workers out for nearly two months. The General and Municipal Workers Union and Trades Union Congress leadership failed to provide any support, as they were too closely bound to management and government circles, with the result that strike leaders were blacklisted. Anti-union legislation was introduced by central government. These events were recreated in Ken Loach's film The Rank and File , although the BBC insisted on a change in the name and location of the company, so that the film is set at a Wilkinsons in the West Midlands. [6]

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 BTR's offer in early 1986. [7]


Pilkington aggressively protected its patents and trade secrets through a network of licensing agreements with glass manufacturers around the world. The modern "float" technique (pouring the molten glass on a layer of very pure molten tin) became commercially widespread when Alastair Pilkington developed a practical version, patented in the late 1950s and early 1960s. As Pilkington plc owned all but one of the manufacturing plants around the world employing the float process, Pilkington had a monopoly.

Although the patents had expired by the early 1980s, Pilkington had licensed their use, and required the licensees to keep the details of the float glass process secret. Guardian Industries had tried to challenge Pilkington's dominance but had made a secret agreement to prevent new entrants into the market, with Guardian taking the lead to enable Pilkington, a British company, to reduce its exposure to United States antitrust law. [8]

In May 1994, the United States Department of Justice filed suit on the grounds that Pilkington 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. It was claimed this was a violation of the Sherman Antitrust 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. [9] On the same day, the US government and Pilkington filed a proposed consent decree, which enjoined Pilkington from enforcing these restrictions against its US licensees, or against US non-licensees, or against non-US 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. [10]

Pilkington Optronics

In 1988, Pilkington plc formed a new subsidiary, Pilkington Optronics, in order to group together the company's optronics businesses: Pilkington PE located in North Wales (formed in 1966), and Barr and Stroud (acquired in 1977) which was based in Glasgow. Pilkington PE later became Thales Optics Ltd., which was divested from Thales in December 2005 as Qioptiq Ltd. [11]

Thomson-CSF acquired 50% of Pilkington Optronics in 1991. [12] In 1995, Pilkington Optronics acquired Thorn EMI Electro Optics which was renamed Pilkington Thorn Optronics. [13] Three years later, Thomson-CSF purchased another 40% of Pilkington Optronics from Pilkington and the remainder in 2000 to make it a wholly owned subsidiary. In 2000, Thomson-CSF was renamed Thales and Pilkington Optronics Ltd. became Thales Optronics Ltd. Soon afterward, Thomson-CSF acquired W Vinten Ltd, a British reconnaissance equipment manufacturer, including the Joint Reconnaissance Pod, who now operate as Thales Optronics (Bury St Edmunds) Ltd.

In November 2006, Thales Optronics Limited announced the closure of its manufacturing facility in Taunton, Somerset, with the loss of 180 jobs. [14] In June 2007, Thales sold the beryllium mirrors and structures business of Thales Optronics Limited to GSI Group Inc. for an undisclosed amount. [15]

Takeover by NSG

In late 2005, the company received a takeover bid from a bigger 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 by scheme of arrangement the smaller holdings of other shareholders, [16] many of them being existing and retired employees, who had not wished to support the takeover. The combined company would 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. [17]

The acquisition was completed in June 2006, after the European Commission stated that it would not be opposed. [18]


An incomplete list: [19]


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. [20]

Related Research Articles

BTR plc was a British multinational industrial conglomerate company. It was headquartered in London, United Kingdom.

Thales Group is a French multinational company that designs, develops and manufactures electrical systems as well as devices and equipment for the aerospace, defence, transportation and security sectors. The company is headquartered in Paris' business district, La Défense, and its stock is listed on the Euronext Paris.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Float glass</span> Material; type of glass

Float glass is a sheet of glass made by floating molten glass on a bed of molten metal of a low melting point, typically tin, although lead was used for the process in the past. This method gives the sheet uniform thickness and a very flat surface. The float glass process is also known as the Pilkington process, named after the British glass manufacturer Pilkington, which pioneered the technique in the 1950s at their production site in St Helens, Merseyside.

Vantiva SA, formerly Technicolor SA, Thomson SARL, Thomson SA, and Thomson Multimedia, is a French multinational corporation that provides creative services and technology products for the communication, media and entertainment industries. Vantiva is headquartered in Paris, with other main office locations in Rennes, Beijing, Seoul, Chennai, Edegem, Norcross, Georgia (U.S), and Memphis, Tennessee.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">FTSE 100 Index</span> British stock market index

The Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 Index, also called the FTSE 100 Index, FTSE 100, FTSE, or, informally, the "Footsie", is the United Kingdom's best-known stock market index of the 100 most highly capitalised blue chip companies listed on the London Stock Exchange. Founded in 1984 by Stock Exchange to better reflect activity on the market, it replaced the Financial Times own FT 30. A new index afforded Stock Exchange the opportunity to launch the options contract derived from the FTSE's real-time data while competitors LIFFE launched the futures contract. With Margaret Thatcher's sweeping financial deregulation that culminated in the Big Bang the combination of a new index, LIFFE tradable derivatives and promotion by the Financial Times lead to the FTSE 100 becoming the most widely used barometer of whether the UK stock market was rising or falling.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Racal</span> 1950–2000 British electronics company

Racal Electronics plc was a British electronics company that was founded in 1950.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alastair Pilkington</span> British inventor

Sir Lionel Alexander Bethune Pilkington, known as Sir Alastair Pilkington, was a British engineer and businessman who invented and perfected the float glass process for commercial manufacturing of plate glass.

Thomson-CSF was a French company that specialized in the development and manufacture of electronics with a heavy focus upon the aerospace and defence sectors of the market.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thorn EMI</span> British company, 1979–1996

Thorn EMI was a major British company involved in consumer electronics, music, defence and retail. Created in October 1979, when Thorn Electrical Industries merged with EMI, it was listed on the London Stock Exchange and was once a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. It demerged back to separate companies in 1996.

The Thomson-Houston Electric Company was a manufacturing company that was one of the precursors of General Electric.

Thales Underwater Systems or TUS is a subsidiary of the French defense electronics specialist Thales Group. It was created in 2001 and belongs to its naval division. It specializes in the development and manufacturing of sonar systems for submarines, surface warships and aircraft, as well as communications masts and systems for submarines. Its headquarters are located in Sophia Antipolis, France.

Thales Nederland B.V. is a subsidiary of the French multinational company Thales Group based in the Netherlands.

Thales Optronics is a optronics manufacturer and a division of the French defence corporation Thales Group. It is headquartered in Paris. The company has three main subsidiaries: Thales Optronique SA in France, Thales Optronics Limited in the United Kingdom and Thales Optronics B.V in the Netherlands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Architectural glass</span> Building material

Architectural glass is glass that is used as a building material. It is most typically used as transparent glazing material in the building envelope, including windows in the external walls. Glass is also used for internal partitions and as an architectural feature. When used in buildings, glass is often of a safety type, which include reinforced, toughened and laminated glasses.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nippon Sheet Glass</span> Japanese Glass Manufacturer

Nippon Sheet Glass Co., Ltd. is a Japanese glass manufacturing company. In 2006, it acquired Pilkington of the United Kingdom. This makes NSG/Pilkington one of the four largest glass companies in the world alongside another Japanese company Asahi Glass, Saint-Gobain, and Guardian Industries.

Thales Training & Simulation Ltd. is a multinational company which manufactures simulators, including full flight simulators and military simulators, and provides related training and support services. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Thales Group.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alvis plc</span> British company

Alvis PLC was created when United Scientific Holdings plc acquired the Alvis division of the nationalised vehicle manufacturer British Leyland in 1981. United Scientific maintained its own name until 1992 when the group was renamed Alvis plc. Alvis acquired the armoured vehicle business of the Swedish engineering company Hägglund & Söner in 1997 and the armoured vehicle business of GKN in 1998.

Alsys, SA. was a software development company created to support initial work on the Ada programming language. In July 1995, Alsys merged to become Thomson Software Products (TSP), which merged into Aonix in 1996.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Barr and Stroud</span> Glasgow optical engineering firm

Barr & Stroud Limited was a pioneering Glasgow optical engineering firm. They played a leading role in developing modern optics, including rangefinders, for the Royal Navy and other branches of British Armed Forces during the 20th century. There was a non-military arm of the company which made medical equipment, like photocoagulators and electronic filters, some of which were used by the BBC. The company and its intellectual property passed through Pilkington group to Thales Optronics. The Barr and Stroud name was sold to an importer of optical equipment, who used the trademarked name for a line of binoculars and similar instruments.

Hartford-Empire Co. v. United States, 323 U.S. 386 (1945), was a patent-antitrust case that the Government brought against a cartel in the glass container industry. The cartel, among other things, divided the fields of manufacture of glass containers, first, into blown glass and pressed glass, which was subdivided into: products made under the suction process, milk bottles, and fruit jars. The trial court found the cartel violative of the antitrust laws and the Supreme Court agreed that the market division and related conduct were illegal. The trial court required royalty-free licensing of present patents and reasonable royalty licensing of future patents. A divided Supreme Court reversed the requirement for royalty-free licensing as "confiscatory," but sustained the requirement for reasonable royalty licensing of the patents.


  1. Barker 1977 , p. 31
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Competition Commission Report 1967" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 January 2012. Retrieved 27 December 2008.
  3. Barker 1977 , p. 75
  4. Thomas Skinner (1908). The Stock Exchange Year Book.
  5. Barker 1977 , p. 422
  6. Essay on The Rank and File by John Williams
  7. BTR withdraws offer for Pilkington
  8. "International Technologies Consultants Inc v Pilkington Plc, Case No. 94-17143". United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 6 March 1998. Archived from the original on 16 July 2012. Retrieved 30 March 2012.
  9. Professions and Intellectual Property Section, Antitrust Division, United States Department of Justice (25 May 1994), Complaint: US v. Pilkington plc and Pilkington Holdings Inc. , retrieved 11 March 2009{{citation}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. Professions and Intellectual Property Section, Antitrust Division, United States Department of Justice (22 December 1994), Final Judgment: US v. Pilkington plc and Pilkington Holdings Inc., CV 94-345-TUC-WDB, retrieved 11 March 2009{{citation}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. Rolston Gordon Communications (2005). "Dates for the Diary". Microscopy and Analysis (80–81): 1988.
  12. Stopford, John (1992). Directory of multinationals – Volume 2. Macmillan. p. 1345. ISBN   9781561590537.
  13. Royal Aeronautical Society (1995). "Who's Growing". Aerospace. 22: 51.
  14. "Defence jobs to be cut from depot". BBC News. 9 November 2006. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
  15. "GSI Group buys Thales Optronics beryllium business". Reuters. 4 June 2007. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
  16. "NSG to proceed with recommended cash acquisition of Pilkington plc". 27 February 2006. Archived from the original on 16 June 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
  17. Pilkington in Japanese takeover
  18. "Case No COMP/M.4173 – Nippon Sheet Glass/Pilkington" (PDF). 7 June 2006. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
  19. "History of Pilkington PLC – FundingUniverse".
  20. "Eco glass cleans itself with Sun". 8 June 2004.