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Compagnie de Saint-Gobain S.A.
Type Société Anonyme
Euronext Paris:  SGO
CAC 40 Component
ISIN FR0000125007
Industry Building materials
Founded1665;358 years ago (1665)
Area served
Key people
Pierre-André de Chalendar, chairman and Benoît Bazin CEO
Products Construction materials production and retail, glass, ceramics, plastics, abrasives, gypsum plasterboards
RevenueIncrease2.svg 51.2 billion (2022) [1]
Increase2.svg €5.38 billion (2022) [1]
Increase2.svg €3.1 billion (2022) [1]
Total assets Increase2.svg €55.38 billion (2022) [1]
Total equity Increase2.svg €23.15 billion (2022) [1]
Number of employees
170,714 (2022) [1]

Compagnie de Saint-Gobain S.A. (French pronunciation:  [sɛ̃ ɡɔbɛ̃] ) is a French multinational corporation, founded by the Sun King in 1665 in Paris and headquartered on the outskirts of Paris, at La Défense and in Courbevoie. Originally a mirror manufacturer, it now also produces a variety of construction, high-performance, and other materials. Saint-Gobain is now present in 76 countries and in 2022 employs more than 170,000 people.



1665–1789: Manufacture royale

Since the mid-17th century, luxury products such as silk textiles, lace and mirrors were in high demand. In the 1660s, mirrors had become very popular among the upper classes of society: Italian cabinets, châteaux, 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, the Republic of Venice was known as the world leader in glass manufacturing, controlling a technical and commercial monopoly of the glass and mirror business. [2] As a result, French minister of finance Jean-Baptiste Colbert wanted France to become completely self-sufficient in meeting domestic demand for luxury products, thereby strengthening the national economy. [3]

Colbert established, by letters patent, the public enterprise Manufacture royale de glaces de miroirs (French pronunciation:  [manyfaktyʁ ʁwajal də ɡlas də miʁwaʁ] , Royal Mirror-Glass Factory) in October 1665. [4] The company was created for a period of twenty years and would be financed in part by the State. The beneficiary and first director was the French financier Nicolas du Noyer, receiver of taxes of Orléans, [5] who was granted a monopoly of making glass and mirror-glass for a period of twenty years. The company had the informal name Compagnie du Noyer.

An Early Saint-Gobain Emblem Manufacture royale des glaces emblem.jpg
An Early Saint-Gobain Emblem

To compete with the Italian mirror industry, Colbert commissioned several Venetian glassworkers he had enticed to Paris to work for the company. The first unblemished mirrors were produced in 1666. [6] 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 (1.0 to 1.1 m), 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. Nicolas du Noyer complained in writing that the Venetians were unwilling to impart the secrets of glassmaking to the French workers and that the company was hard-pressed to pay its expenses. Life in Paris proved distracting to the workers, and supplies of firewood to stoke the furnaces were dearer in the capital than elsewhere. In 1667, the glass-making was transferred to a small glass furnace already working at Tourlaville, near Cherbourg in Normandy, and the premises in Faubourg Saint-Antoine were devoted to glass-grinding and polishing the crude product.

Though the Compagnie du Noyer was reduced at times to importing Venetian glass and finishing it in France, by September 1672 the royal French manufacturer was on a sufficiently sound footing for the importation of glass to be forbidden to any of Louis' subjects, under any conditions. [7] In 1678, the company produced the glass for the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles.

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 by 40 inches wide (1.5 by 1.0 m), much bigger than the 40 inches (1.0 m) which the Compagnie du Noyer could create.

The two companies were in competition for seven years, until 1695, when 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, creating the Compagnie Plastier. A mirror factory in the village of Saint-Gobain in Picardie gave its name to the present company. [8]

In 1702, Compagnie Plastier declared bankruptcy. A group of Franco-Swiss Protestant bankers rescued 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 (1789), despite fierce, sometimes violent, protests from free enterprise partisans.

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. [9]

In the 1820s, Saint-Gobain continued to function as it had under the Ancien Régime, manufacturing high-quality mirrors and glass for the luxury market. However, in 1824, a new glass manufacturer was established in Commentry, 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. The manufacture of products of such quality made mirrors and glass 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 and became independent from the state for the first time.

While mirrors remained their primary business, Saint-Gobain began to diversify their product line to include glass panes for skylights, roofs and room dividers, thick mirrors, semi-thick glass for windows, laminated mirrors and glass and finally embossed mirrors and windowpanes. Some of the more famous buildings that Saint-Gobain contributed to during that period were the Crystal Palace in London, Jardin des Plantes, the Grand Palais and adjacent Petit Palais in Paris, and Milan Central railway station.

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. [10]

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 (1.5 m) Hale telescope (online in 1908), the 61-inch (1.54 m) Bosque Alegre telescope built in 1912, for the Argentine National Observatory, directed by Charles D. Perrine, [11] [12] and 100 inch (2.5 m) Hooker telescope (online 1917) at Mount Wilson Observatory (United States), and the 72-inch (1.8 m) Plaskett telescope (online in 1918) at Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (Canada).

1910–1950: Post Industrial Revolution

Saint-Gobain experienced significant success in the early 20th century. In 1918, the company expanded its manufacturing to bottles, jars, tableware and domestic glassware. [13]

In 1920, Saint-Gobain extended its businesses to fibreglass manufacture. Fibreglass was being used to create insulation, industrial textiles and building reinforcements. In 1937, the company founded Isover, a subsidiary fibreglass insulation manufacturer.

During this period, the company developed three new glassmaking techniques and processes; first, a dipping technique used to coat car windows, which prevented the glass from shattering in the event of an accident. As a result of that technique, 10% of Saint-Gobain's 1920 sales came from the car industry, and 28% in 1930. Second, a few years later, another technique was developed that allowed glass to be shaped and bent.[ clarification needed ] Finally, a process was developed to coat glass with aluminium, allowing it to be used as a conductor, and allowed the company to create products such as the ‘radiavers’ (French for “radiating glass”), a unique type of electric heater with the heating element encased in glass. [14]

1950–1970: Pont-à-Mousson merger

Between 1950 and 1969, Saint-Gobain's sales rose at a rate of 10% per year. Its workforce 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 fibreglass 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 square metres (38 million square feet) in 1950 to 45 million square metres (480 million square feet) in 1969. In 1950, fibreglass only represented 4% of the company's turnover, but by 1969, this had grown to 20%.

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

In 1968, Boussois-Souchon-Neuvesel, a French industrial group, made a hostile takeover bid for Saint-Gobain. The company looked for a "white knight" to help fend off the bid. Multinational corporation Suez suggested that Saint-Gobain and Pont-à-Mousson (another French industrial group) should merge, in order to maintain independence from Boussois-Souchon-Neuvesel. After the merger, Saint-Gobain-Pont-à-Mousson, later known simply by the name "Saint-Gobain", produced pipes in addition to glass and fibreglass.

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. [15]

In 1981, and 1982, ten of France's top-performing companies were nationalized by the socialist Fifth Republic 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. [16]

1986–present: Expansion

When Saint-Gobain once again became a private enterprise, control of the company quickly changed hands. Jean-Louis Beffa, an engineer and graduate of the École Polytechnique, became the CEO. Beffa invested heavily in research and development and pushed strongly for the company to produce engineered materials, such as abrasives and ceramics. [17]

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. In 2005, Olivier Bluche took the helm of Supply Chain Operations, quickly modernising the company's lengthy and dated processes. In October 2022, Saint-Gobain Films & Fabrics was renamed Saint-Gobain Composite Solutions. [18]

Company structure

Head office

The company has its head office in Les Miroirs in La Défense and in Courbevoie. [19] [20] The 97-metre (318 ft) building served as the company head office since 1981. [20]

Saint-Gobain sherry bottle factory at Jerez, Andalusia (Spain) Sherry Bottle Factory.jpg
Saint-Gobain sherry bottle factory at Jerez, Andalusia (Spain)
Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, Merrimack, New Hampshire Reeds Ferry, NH 04.jpg
Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, Merrimack, New Hampshire
Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, Garden Grove, California Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Garden Grove California 2021.jpg
Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, Garden Grove, California


Executive committee

As of August 2019, the executive committee of Saint-Gobain is composed of: [21]

  • Pierre-André de Chalendar, Chairman – Chief Executive Officer
  • Benoit Bazin, Chief Operating Officer
  • Laurent Guillot, Senior Vice-President, CEO High Performance Solutions.
  • Patrick Dupin, Senior Vice-President, CEO Northern Europe Region
  • Guillaume Texier, Senior Vice-President, CEO Southern Europe, Middle East and Africa Region
  • Thomas Kinisky, Senior Vice-President, Innovation and Chairman North America
  • Javier Gimeno, Senior Vice-President, CEO Asia-Pacific Region
  • Mike Newnham, CEO Saint-Gobain Building Distribution UK & Ireland and Managing Director of Jewson
  • Claire Pedini, Senior Vice-President, Human Resources and Digital Transformation.
  • Sreedhar N., Chief Financial Officer
  • Armand Ajdari, Vice-President, Research and Development
  • Antoine Vignial, Corporate Secretary in charge of Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Julie Bonamy, Vice-President Strategy
  • Benoit d’Irirbarne, Vice-President Technology and Industrial Performance
  • Laurence Pernot, Vice-President Communications

Business Sectors

Saint-Gobain is organized into three major Sectors (% by 2014 Net Sales restated excluding Verallia): Building Distribution (49%), Construction Products (27.5%), Innovative Materials (23.5%). [22]

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 with Jewson and Graham, in Germany, the Netherlands and Eastern Europe with Raab Karcher and in the Nordic Countries with Dahl). The division has 3,500 stores in 23 countries and employs 52,000 people worldwide. Its 2006 sales amounted to 17.6 billion euros. The divisions current subsidiaries are:

  • Raab Karcher
  • Point P.
  • Lapeyre
  • Brødrene (Brothers) Dahl
  • Norandex Distribution
  • Optimera, with the 'Monter' DIY chain

On 1 March 2023, the UK business was divested and sold to Stark Group [23]

Construction products

The Construction Products division is organized into the following business areas:

- Gypsum, which manufactures drywall
- Insulation, which manufactures acoustic and thermal fibreglass and PIR insulation
- Exterior Products, which manufactures roofing, interior and exterior products
- Pipes, which manufactures cast-iron pipes for water transfer applications
- Mortars, which manufactures expanded clay lightweight aggregates.

The Construction Products division employs 45,000 people worldwide and in 2006 had sales revenues of 10.9 billion euros.


Innovative materials

Skywalk built with SG glass, looking over the Grand Canyon Skywalk grand canyon.jpg
Skywalk built with SG glass, looking over the Grand Canyon

The Innovative Materials division conducts research into various areas of materials science, energy, the environment, and medicine, such as fuel cells or particle filters. It operates centres in Cavaillon, Northborough, Massachusetts and Shanghai, 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. Innovative Materials also manufactures 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 division's sales. It employs a global workforce of 37,100 and in 2006 had sales revenues of 5.1 billion euros. This division is divided in two parts:

- Flat Glass subsidiaries : Saint-Gobain Glass, Glassolutions and Saint-Gobain Sekurit

- High Performance Materials : Saint-Gobain SEFPRO Saint-Gobain Abrasives, Saint-Gobain Crystals, Saint-Gobain Norton, Saint-Gobain Quartz and Saint-Gobain Norpro

In 2006, Saint Gobain announced a JV, Avancis, with Shell to produce PV modules based on CIS film technology. [25] After the company had entirely owned Avancis [26] and its two plants in Germany manufacturing thin CIS film modules for some time, [27] it was sold to China National Building Materials Group Corporation (CNBM) in 2014. [28]

External venturing

Saint-Gobain also has a division that focuses on connecting entrepreneurs, startups, and innovators to the 50+ bin Saint-Gobain called: NOVA External Venturing. The External Venturing unit has staff in Boston, Paris, and Shanghai interested in connecting with entrepreneurs working in advanced materials, construction products, and environmental sustainability. [29]

Acquisitions and sales

Saint-Gobain has made a number of recent acquisitions in the past several years. In December 2005, it purchased the British company BPB plc, the world's largest manufacturer of plasterboard, for US$6.7 billion. [30] In August 2007, the company acquired Maxit Group, doubling the size of its Industrial Mortars business and adding the manufacture of expanded clay aggregates to its business portfolio. In 2012, the company acquired SAGE Electrochromics, an innovative manufacturer of glass that tints on command. [31] In 2018 Saint Gobain acquired UK-based Farécla Products, one of the largest polishing compound manufacturers in the world.

The company has also sold off various assets. Recently the company sold its cosmetic glass manufacturing business, including a plant in Newton County, Georgia, United States.[ citation needed ]

Saint-Gobain Gyproc Middle-East

Saint-Gobain Gyproc Middle East began trading as Gyproc in 2005. In April 2010, the company's first plasterboard manufacturing plant opened on a seven-hectare site in Abu Dhabi.

Gyproc products have been used on some of the largest projects in the region, including the stations and main depot for Dubai Metro; Atlantis Hotel – Palm Jumeirah, Capital Gate – Abu Dhabi, Ferrari Experience – Abu Dhabi and Masdar Institute – Abu Dhabi.

Saint-Gobain in India

Saint-Gobain India Private Limited – Glass Business (formerly Saint-Gobain Glass India Limited) is a subsidiary of Saint Gobain that manufactures and markets solar control glass, fire-resistant glass and other various types of float glasses in India. It has its manufacturing plant at Sriperumbudur, 40 kilometres (25 mi) from Chennai.

Saint-Gobain started its venture in India in 1996 by acquiring a majority stake of Grindwell Norton. Later in 2000, it started its own glass manufacturing unit at Sriperumbudur. In June 2011, Saint Gobain Glass India acquired Sezal Glass float-line 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 US$150 million. In addition, Saint-Gobain Glass invested in Bhiwadi, Rajasthan in 2014, which adds another 950 tons of glass per day. And recently in 2018, Saint-Gobain again invested in Sriperumbudur with 950-ton capacity, which results in the production of 3850 tons of glass per day from India. [32] [33]


Saint-Gobain comprises several brands, including Saint-Gobain Glass, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, RIW, GCP Applied Technologies, Weber, British Gypsum, Decoustics, Glassolutions, Gyproc, Artex, Isover, CTD, Jewson, Ecophon, Pasquill and PAM. [34]

Environmental impact

Saint-Gobain had contaminated ground water supply with PFAS (perfluorooctanoic acid – a highly persistent contaminant) in multiple towns in Southern New Hampshire, USA. Elevated levels of perfluorooctanoic acid were found in 2016, near the Saint-Gobain plant in Merrimack. [35] Pollution has been occurring for over 20 years. [36] Saint-Gobain deliberately and intentionally constructed a bypass stack to thwart environmental inspections and avoid PFAS removal. Despite this flagrant violation of their permit they were allowed to continue to operate. Former state representative and environmental scientist Mindi Messmer has linked exposure to Saint-Gobain’s PFAS emissions with kidney and renal pelvis cancer, testicular cancer, female breast cancer, prostate cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, cardiovascular impacts. [37] As of 2022, Saint Gobain is involved in multimillion-dollar class-action lawsuits. Its former company lawyer was terminated after he repeatedly urged "the company to do more to address contamination from their plants in Merrimack; Bennington, Vermont; and Hoosick Falls, N.Y". [36]

See also

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  2. "History of Murano Glass | History of Venetian Glass-making | Glass of Venice". Retrieved 31 March 2023.
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  5. Receveur général des tailles en la Généralité d'Orléans. Nicolas du Noyer had other financial irons in the fire. In 1666, a plea was brought against him and a partner requesting the dismantling of a tile factory they were constructing at Popincourt, Étampes. (Corpus Bibliographique Étampois: Arrests d'Ancien Régime on-line). Du Noyer married Marie Le Normand. Their son, Nicolas du Noyer, was treasurer to the Marechal of Flanders and Hainaut.
  6. Warren C. Scoville, Capitalism and French Glassmaking, 1640-1789 (University of California Publications in Economics) 2006:28.
  7. Scovill 2006:28.
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  9. Buridant, Jérôme; Bercé, Yves-Marie (1999). Les espaces forestiers laonnois : début XVIIe-début XIXe siècle : hommes, environnement et paysages à l'époque pré-industrielle (Thesis) (in French). Université Paris-Sorbonne. OCLC   496165004.
  10. Annales Des Mines (in French). 1858. p. 104. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  11. Warner & Swasey (1923). "The Sixty-Inch Reflector for the Argentine National Observatory". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 35 (203): 50–54. Bibcode:1923PASP...35...50W. doi:10.1086/123264. S2CID   120051872.
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  18. "Saint-Gobain Films & Fabrics Rebranding as Saint-Gobain Composite Solutions" (Press release). 17 October 2022..
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  20. 1 2 "Saint-Gobain : les miroirs des verriers." Le Journal du Net. Retrieved on 7 July 2010.
  21. Executive Committee
  22. "Saint-Gobain prend le contrôle de Sika". le Monde. 8 December 2014. Retrieved 22 September 2021..
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  27. "CIS photovoltaics, CIGS, manufacturer of CIS solar modules – AVANCIS". 29 August 2014. Archived from the original on 2 May 2015. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
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  31. "SAGE Electrochromics to become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Saint-Gobain | SageGlass". Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  32. "Saint-Gobain seeks land to set up solar glass facility". The Hindu. 3 June 2011.
  33. "Saint-Gobain Announces the Acquisition of Sezal Glass Ltd's Float Glass Business in India". Bloomberg. 31 May 2011.
  34. "Our brands". Saint-Gobain. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  35. "Saint-Gobain agrees to permanently provide drinking water to parts of 5 towns". WMUR. 18 April 2022. Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  36. 1 2 "Thousands of people in New Hampshire may still be drinking polluted water, years after the largest contamination in state history". Boston Globe. 5 June 2022. Retrieved 28 June 2022.
  37. "Leaders, advocates call on state to close Saint-Gobain operations in Merrimack". Nashua Telegraph. Retrieved 11 May 2022.


Further reading

List of fines, monetary settlements and costs such as supplementary environmental projects or consumer relief that Saint-Gobain has been compelled to undertake as part of settlements.