November 27, 2013 / 1:50 PM / in 4 years

Saint-Gobain plans 4 billion euros acquisition spree

PARIS (Reuters) - Saint-Gobain (SGOB.PA) pledged to spend 4 billion euros ($5.4 billion) on acquisitions through 2018 as part of a strategy to focus on high-growth, high-margin products.

Unveiling its medium-term strategy to investors, Europe’s biggest supplier of building materials said it was also targeting 800 million euros of additional cost savings in 2014-15.

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.

Wednesday’s presentation is the group’s first strategy update since late 2010, when it said it would focus on innovative, higher-margin construction materials that make buildings more energy efficient and comfortable.

Saint-Gobain has since been hit by the economic slowdown in Europe and has scrapped several of its strategic targets through 2015, notably in terms of annual sales growth, for which it did not set targets this time.

It said it now aimed to increase by 750 million to 1 billion euros its sales of innovative, high-performance niche products, such as electrochromic glass and insulation materials, while exiting lower-margin activities such as its Verallia North American glass packaging unit.

    “The businesses which have resisted the most are the businesses where we have a higher degree of differentiation,” Chief Executive Pierre-Andre de Chalendar told investors and reporters at a conference in Paris.

    The group also aims to triple the portion of online sales to 15 percent of the total by 2018 from 5 percent currently.

    The company stuck to its 2013 targets last month, saying robust growth in emerging markets, an upturn in the U.S. construction market and stabilization in Europe would help it offset the impact of volatile currencies.

    Editing by James Regan

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