Glass maker Saint-Gobain has approached the Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh governments seeking 60 acres for putting up a factory to produce glass for solar power plants, Mr B. Santhanam, President-Flat Glass, South Asia, Egypt and Managing Director – Saint-Gobain Glass India Ltd, told a press conference here today.

Depending upon its outlook of the solar power industry (which would be influenced by how the Centre approaches the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission), the French multinational could invest anywhere between Rs 600 crore and Rs 3,000 crore in creating the facilities, he said.

At its Sriperumbudur complex (near Chennai), where Saint-Gobain has a 1,200 tonnes-per-day float glass plant, the company has some 50 acres of spare land, but would prefer to earmark it for expansion of float glass capacity.

Solar glass (base glass and mirrors) is an entirely different product, based on a different technology and hence Saint-Gobain would like the facility to be at another place, but close to its main plant at Chennai.

An additional, major attraction is the prospect of getting liquefied natural gas from the upcoming LNG terminal project that is being put up by Indian Oil Corporation at Ennore, near Chennai.

Sezal acquisition

Saint-Gobain Glass India Ltd, which recently received $140 million (Rs 630 crore) of equity infusion from its parent, announced on Tuesday its intention to acquire the float glass business of Sezal Glass Ltd, based in Bharuch, Gujarat, for Rs 686 crore. Glass business is heavy on logistics costs and a geographically distributed production helps cut down the costs. The Sezal acquisition gives Saint-Gobain a foothold in the western part of India.

On an average, Saint-Gobain's products travel 1,400 km to reach the customer. The Sezal acquisition halves this distance, Mr Santhanam said. Further, Sezal will help Saint-Gobain address the growing automotive market in Gujarat. India's largest car manufacturer Maruti is to set up a car plant in the State. General Motors (at Halol) and Tata Motors (at Sanand, for Nano cars) have facilities there.

Bhiwadi plant

Saint-Gobain is putting up another plant at Bhiwadi, Rajasthan (65 km from Delhi) with an investment of Rs 1,000 crore (in phases). The 300,000 tonnes-a-year plant (same as Chennai) is expected to be production-ready in early 2012, Mr Santhanam said.

(This article was published on June 3, 2011)
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