Nippon Sheet modifies plants to make solar glass

Japan“s Nippon Sheet Glass (NSG) said on 16 October 2008 that it has been modifying its US plants to boost solar cell glass output but expressed concerns about missing business chances as demand will…

Japan“s Nippon Sheet Glass (NSG) said on 16 October 2008 that it has been modifying its US plants to boost solar cell glass output but expressed concerns about missing business chances as demand will likely grow faster than it can keep up with. Nippon Sheet Glass, which competes with Japan“s Asahi Glass Co Ltd , France“s Saint-Gobain and US-based Guardian, sees glass for solar power equipment as a growth driver in a booming market for renewable energy. “The issue is not the lack of growth opportunity. The issue is in the business decision that we make”, NSG CEO Stuart Chambers told reporters, citing the outlook for solar cell glass demand as jumping seven times in five years. “It“s very, very difficult for us to be able to invest fast enough to keep pace with capacity demands of our customers, and therefore we“ve got a bit of a concern in about three years time we are going to have a real problem supplying enough”, he said. Nippon Sheet Glass generated a little over 1% of its annual revenues from selling solar cell glass in the last business year, while 90% of revenues still came from its two main divisions: building products and automotive glass. The company has six float lines in the United States, which can be modified to produce solar cell glass much more cheaply than building a new plant. Mr. Chambers did not discuss in detail the firm“s investment plans for the solar cell glass business. Nippon Sheet could face extra obstacles to new investments because it still has net debt of around JPY 320 billion (USD 3.2 billion) from its acquisition of UK glass maker Pilkington in 2006. Mr. Chambers, a British national, became the glass maker“s CEO in June 2008, joining Nissan Motor“s Carlos Ghosn and Sony Corp“s Howard Stringer as one of the few non-Japanese to lead a Japanese firm.