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Published: Wednesday, 7/12/2006

Analysts see potential in Toledo glassware firm

BY HOMER BRICKEY
BLADE SENIOR BUSINESS WRITER

Analysts are beginning to see upsides in the badly beaten-down shares of Toledo's Libbey Inc.

After reaching a peak of $42.25 and having topped $40 in 1997, 2001, and 2002 shares of the Toledo-based maker of glass tableware has hit a series of lows. Its stock dropped under $10, then below $8, and within the last month dropped briefly below $6 - apparently an investor reaction to problems including high energy costs, losses, and plant closings.

Libbey did have some good news in recent weeks, including a refinancing of more than $300 million of debt and an acquisition of its Mexican joint venture.

In recent months, its stock has been upgraded by several analysts, balancing the downgrades by others.

Arnold Ursaner, of CJS Securities Inc. in White Plains, N.Y., said that although he recognizes the upside potential, he cautioned that Libbey had "unfortunate timing" on its debt rollover, resulting in higher interest rates than hoped.

Still, he told investors in a recent newsletter that Libbey "should gather some steam the balance of this year into 2007."

"The key to Libbey's success is execute, execute, execute," said Mr. Ursaner, who has kept his rating at "market perform" for a long time. "Their restructuring is done, the debt refinancing is done," he said, adding that "meeting expectations" is the next, important step.

Officials at the glass manufacturer couldn't be reached for comment yesterday but chief executive John Meier said at the company's annual meeting in May that last year had been difficult, adding he was convinced Libbey is now on the right track and could have $800 million in sales in 2007. It had $545 million in sales last year.

Libbey shares closed yesterday at $6.55 in New York Stock Exchange trading.

Contact Homer Brickey at

homerbrickey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.



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