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Published: Thursday, 1/31/2008

Local glass maker Owens-Illinois swings to profit

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Despite price increases, glass maker Owens-Illinois Inc. was able to sell more bottles and improve its profit picture in 2007.

The firm made $1.3 billion, or $7.99 a share, last year, up from a loss of $28 million, or 32 cents a share, in 2006, executives reported yesterday after stock markets closed.

About $1 billion of the 2007 improvements was from asset sales, including the remainder of O-I's plastic-bottle operations.

Chief Executive Albert Stroucken, in a written statement, said that "2007 was clearly a successful year for O-I. Our team achieved this success through manufacturing efficiencies, operating-cost improvements, pricing discipline, and procurement initiatives."

Revenues rose 14 percent to $7.7 billion.

And the company trimmed debt by about $1.7 billion to $3.7 billion as of Dec. 31. Mr. Stroucken said lower debt will give the Perrysburg company, which is metro Toledo's second-largest corporation, greater ability to increase sales in the United States and overseas.

O-I, which supplies bottles to brewers, wine makers, and liquor manufacturers and for other uses, is a top producer in its field internationally.

The firm paid $347 million to settle asbestos-injury claims, up from $163 million in 2006. The increase stemmed in part from accelerating settlements on terms favorable to the company, executives said.

The number of pending claims dropped to 14,000 from 19,000 in 2006, although about 30 percent more new claims came in last year.

For the fourth quarter, O-I lost $19 million, or 15 cents a share, on revenues of $2 billion.

That compared with a loss of $103 million, or 71 cents a share, on revenues of $1.7 billion for the same period in 2006. Much of the loss last year resulted from losses from sold or closed operations.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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