Owens Corning's hot faux stone veneer division is about to make big ripples across the pond.
The firm has struck a $32 million deal to buy France's Modulo/ParMur Group, which the Toledo buildings materials giant said is the largest maker of stone veneer in Europe.
OC, the largest seller of manufactured stone veneer in the United States, intends to become sales leader in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region by 2010, according to documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeking approval for the deal.
"This represents the globalization of the product," spokesman Jason Saragian said of the purchase. "It allows us to meet the needs of customers worldwide." The deal could close as early as September.
Faux stone veneer has become increasingly popular with builders and home buyers as a result of production advances that have led to a more realistic product and because it offers a relatively inexpensive antidote to the cookie-cutter look of suburban tract-housing. OC calls its product cultured stone.
Faux stone is made with cement and dyes in stone-shaped molds.
As part of the deal, the Toledo company would acquire a factory and headquarters offices in Bray-sur-Seine, France, as well as plants in Forbach, France, and Turda, Romania. Brands include ParMur, Madrague, and Cote Mur. The operation employs 150.
Additionally, Christian Roggeman, one of the principals of the company being acquired, will become general manager of OC's cultured stone division in Europe, Mr. Saragian said.
Regulatory officials in Europe will be asked to sign off on the deal, and a U.S. bankruptcy judge is to consider the purchase Aug. 21.
OC didn't disclose its faux stone sales or those of the company being purchased, but the spokesman said the deal will boost division revenues by 10 percent.
Sales of faux stone are believed to be a fraction of the $5 billion-a-year company's insulation, roofing shingle, and vinyl-siding lines. But they have grown at a breakneck pace. Over the past decade, production of faux stone at OC has tripled and is expected to continue to grow 15 to 20 percent annually.
The firm recently opened a factory in China to make the product for the Asia-Pacific region and produces cultured stone in Napa, Calif., Navarre, Ohio, and Chester, S.C.
Producers of faux stone peg the current European market at $200 million, and believe it is poised for rapid growth.
But an official of a trade group that represents quarries and other producers of natural stone questioned that assumption. Jeff Buczkiewicz, executive vice president of the Building Stone Institute in Itasca, Ill., predicted that Europeans will want natural stone that lasts longer than the cement product.
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