A great glassmaking tradition
In the 19th century Belgium was the largest exporter of glass in the world and one of the main producers of polished glass. At the dawn of the 20th century, with the help of Emile Gobbe, the Belgian engineer Emile Fourcault introduced the first mechanical system for glass production. This vertical drawing system influenced the entire glass industry around the world, replacing the manual glassblowing method universally used until then for making window glass. With the rapid development of mechanisation, there came a concentration of the industry in Belgium. This ultimately led in 1961 to the merger of the two largest producers of flat glass, “Glaces et Verres” (Glaver S.A.) and “Union des Verreries Mécaniques Belges” (Univerbel S.A.) to form Glaverbel.
The float revolution
In 1963 Glaverbel expanded into the Netherlands with construction of a glass drawing plant in Tiel. In 1965, Glaverbel opened the first float glass line in continental Europe, at Moustier (Belgium). In 1972 the French company BSN (Danone) took control of Glaverbel and integrated the Belgian company in its own flat glass division. The technological revolution engendered by the float process brought radical restructuring of the glass industry, with the shutdown of sheet glass furnaces. The worldwide recession added to the crisis in the glass industry, with drastic effects on employment. Glaverbel began to diversify into glass processing.
From the Benelux to multinational group
In 1981, BSN shed its flat glass activities and Glaverbel was acquired by Asahi Glass Co. Ltd. (Japan). Benefiting from a wide degree of management independence, Glaverbel expanded in western Europe through investments, partnerships and acquisitions. The stock exchange flotation in 1987 gave it the resources necessary to engage in an ambitious strategy of growth, with geographical expansion of its industrial base and investment in high-tech products.
Pioneer and leader in Eastern Europe
In 1991, Glaverbel was the first western industrial company to invest in the former Czechoslovakia, with phased acquisition of the national flat glass producer (now AGC Flat Glass Czech). Glaverbel subsequently expanded in central Europe, setting up a vast distribution and processing network. In 1997, Glaverbel continued its eastward march, becoming the first western glass producer to invest in Russia, again with phased acquisition of the country’s leading flat glass producer (now AGC Bor Glassworks). It also set up an extensive distribution network in Russia. In 1998, Glaverbel acquired the European flat glass activities of PPG Glass Industries, mainly located in France and Italy. Finally, Glaverbel confirmed its leadership in Russia with the construction in 2004 of an industrial complex in Klin for production of float glass, mirrors and superinsulating glass. This was the first plant to be built by a western glass producer on a greenfield site in Russia.
Becoming a full part of AGC
In 2002, as part of its worldwide reorganisation AGC took full control of Glaverbel, which was delisted from the stock exchange. In 2007, AGC adopted a single name for all its companies around the world, and so Glaverbel became AGC Flat Glass Europe, and in 2010, AGC Glass Europe.
A visionary future
With glass that can now be antibacterial or electroluminescent, large energy savings for float glass production with a combustion system that is unique in Europe, construction in Russia of the largest float plant in the world ... the future of AGC Glass Europe is shaping up to be innovative, clean and dynamic, not only for customers but also for the community at large, in line with our Vision.