* Eyes "clear improvement" in like-for-like profit
* Sees $1.7 bln Verallia deal closing by April 30
* Aims for 450 mln euros in cost savings
* 2013 net income falls 14.1 pct to 595 mln euros
* Sales fall 2.7 pct to 42.02 bln euros
(Adds detail, CEO quote, background)
PARIS, Feb 19 Saint-Gobain said cost
savings, innovation and a recovery in the United States would
help operating profit to rebound this year after adverse
currency effects and a weak economy in Europe hit 2013 sales and
Europe's biggest supplier of construction materials said on
Wednesday it expected an uptick in construction markets this
year, driven by improved conditions in the UK, Germany and the
The company had said in November it was aiming for 800
million euros in cost savings in 2014-2015 and to spend 4
billion euros on acquisitions through 2018 to focus on
high-growth, high-margin products.
Full-year net income fell 14.1 percent to 595 million euros
($818.33 million). Sales were stable on a like-for-like basis
but fell 2.7 percent to 42.02 billion euros after taking into
account adverse exchange rates effects, mainly from a strong
euro and weaker emerging market currencies, particularly in
Operating profit fell 3.5 percent to 2.76 billion euros, but
Saint-Gobain said it aimed to improve it this year, in part
through 450 million euros in cost savings. These reached 600
million euros last year.
"In 2014, trends for our different markets should improve
even though the climate is likely to remain uncertain, and we
expect a clear like-for-like improvement in operating income,"
Chief Executive Pierre-Andre de Chalendar said in a statement.
The company, founded in 1665 to make mirrors for the royal
court of Versailles, supplies materials used in roofing and
insulation, as well as glass panes for windows and windshields.
Saint-Gobain is striving to refocus on innovative products
that aim to make buildings more energy efficient and
comfortable, such as electronically tintable glass and greener
insulation materials. At the same time, the group is exiting
lower-margin activities such as its Verallia glass packaging
unit, which makes Nutella jars and Dom Perignon bottles.
A $1.7 billion deal to sell Verallia's North American
business to Irish packaging group Ardagh has been on
standby for months due to U.S. antitrust concerns. Saint-Gobain
said it aimed to finalise the deal by the end of April.
($1 = 0.7271 euros)
(Reporting by Lionel Laurent and Natalie Huet; Editing by
Andrew Callus and Jane Merriman)