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Published: Friday, 5/8/2009

Lag in overseas recovery hurting Libbey, CEO says

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Officials from Toledo maker of table glasses and tableware Libbey Inc. told shareholders yesterday that the company's overseas operations are likely to lag behind those in the United States as the world goes through "the worst recession in 50 years."

John Meier, Libbey's longtime chairman and chief executive, told about 50 people at the company's annual shareholders meeting that the global financial meltdown in late 2008 quickly halted 32 months of growth. But, he said, the major obstacles facing the company are economic issues outside of its control, including a trailing economic recovery in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

"Our entire focus is to get to the other side" of current economic conditions, Mr. Meier said.

Libbey, which reported a $5.5 million loss for 2008 and an additional loss of $27.9 million for the first quarter of 2009, has been taking aggressive steps to improve cash flow across its operations to weather the economic storm. It closed its Syracuse China factory in New York as well as a distribution center in California to aid in its efforts, Mr. Meier told shareholders.

"We're managing hard for cash," he said. The firm's core restaurant and hotel tableware markets seemed to have stabilized after dropping 25 percent in the fourth quarter, and its retail business is exceeding expectations, he said.

Still, he said, a recovery likely won't happen this year.

"I can't say [the economy] has bottomed, but we do see some glimpses of light," Mr. Meier said.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.



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