Expansion has always been key to the world flat glass industry. Since it’s impractical to ship glass long distances, companies must open a new plant whenever they enter a new intended market. But with the cost to open a float plant with a 500 metric ton per day capacity between $150 and $200 million, flat glass producers must be sure that such a large investment will pay off. As a result, in recent years more companies have been expanding in developing areas, where less mature markets have a greater potential for growth.
From 2010-2012, recessionary conditions caused new plant openings to slow and several float lines in Europe to permanently close. However, as the global economy improved in 2012, new plant openings picked up, with particularly strong investment in developing countries in Latin America and Africa. Several projects that were begun in these years became operational in 2014 and 2015. Further expansion activity expected through 2018 includes:
- AGC announced plans in March 2016 to build a float glass production plant in Brazil, increasing its production capacity in the country to 530,000 metric tons annually. The plant is expected to open in 2018.
- Mara Group (United Arab Emirates) began work on a float glass plant in Nigeria in 2014. The plant is expected to open in 2016 with a capacity of 500 metric tons per day.
- In January 2016, Saint-Gobain announced plans to invest $147 million to install a third float glass production facility in Chennai, India, that will open in 2018.
- Vitro is planning to open a new float glass facility in Mexico that will become operational in 2017. The company is also repairing its line in Mexicali, Mexico, which will expand its capacity.
Additionally, China is home to more than half of all float lines in the world and sees a large number of old float lines closing and new float lines opening every year. The majority of these float lines are owned by government-controlled entities, and are older and inefficient. It is anticipated that there will be a substantial number of new lines built in China over the next several years to meet new technological demand in the industry.
Going forward, the trend toward opening more plants in developing areas is expected to continue. Outside of China, most significant new capacity additions in the next several years will likely occur in India, Russia, the Middle East, and South America.
Where to Learn More
For more information on this industry, see World Flat Glass, a comprehensive study by The Freedonia Group, which provides:
- Historical data plus global forecasts
- Demand by market
- Float glass production capacity by company
- Key market environment factors
- Industry structure
About the Author: Allison Blackburn is an Industry Analyst with The Freedonia Group and has written studies on a variety of building products including insulation, flooring and carpets, roofing, and more.