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Saint-Gobain, Instem buy rivals as Philly-based European firms seek U.S. customers

European companies based in the Philadelphia area, such as Saint-Gobain, are buying companies in the U.S. in part to spur sales.

Saint-Gobain's new North American Corporate Headquarters in Malvern
Saint-Gobain's new North American Corporate Headquarters in MalvernRead moreJeffrey Totaro

Saint-Gobain, the French construction-products giant whose U.S. headquarters near Malvern is a showplace for light-adjusting glass, has seen its shares rebound since Wednesday’s pricey $1.4 billion buyout of U.S. rival Continental Building Products surprised investors.

The deal price works out to about one-third above Continental’s recent stock-market value, at a time when U.S. construction sales are expected to slow. But Saint-Gobain shares closed at $8.22, up 0.17 or 2.11% on Friday. It’s still below the $8.45 where it traded Tuesday before the deal announcement sent the stock lower.

Continental expects to sell a half-billion dollars worth of gypsum-based plasterboard this year, mostly in warm southern states where Saint-Gobain and its Malvern-based CertainTeed subsidiary are trying to pick up customers.

“We are very happy to welcome them,” said Pierre-Andre de Chalendar, Saint-Gobain’s CEO, in a statement.

While buying up suppliers in the United States and Latin America, Saint-Gobain has also sold businesses in Europe and other slow-growth markets, raising around $1 billion in cash so far this year.

"The company is trying to get more customer-centric and more agile,” using a simpler, regional and customer-industry-based management structure, Mark Rayfield, who heads CertainTeed and the U.S. arm of Saint-Gobain, said in an interview earlier this year.

Saint-Gobain, which employs 980 in the Philadelphia area, has plants around the world, including local production sites in Mickleton, Montgomeryville, and Wilmington. Continental Building, based in Herndon, Va., employs about 600.

Saint-Gobain plans to shave about $50 million from its yearly expenses as it merges Continental into its gypsum warehousing, purchasing and sales operations.

Ed Bosowski, chairman of Continental, called Saint-Gobain “the ideal strategic partner.” Both companies are undergoing cost-cutting programs — Saint-Gobain calls its effort “World Class Manufacturing,” while Continental’s is the “Bison Way.” The transaction still needs approvals from Continental shareholders and U.S. regulators.

Separately, Instem, a publicly traded information technology company with headquarters in Conshohocken and Stone, England, has agreed to acquire Leadscope, a Columbus, Ohio, company that develops informatics, prediction and database systems for drug developers to project toxicities in new products.

Instem, which is targeting drug developers including GlaxoSmithKline and WuXi AppTec, is paying $3.3 million in cash and new shares, plus additional performance payments totaling $1.3 million if Leadscope products sell well in the near future.

The deal is the latest in a string of Instem acquisitions that move the company into “adjacent market areas” in heavily regulated health-related markets, chief executive Phil Reason said in a statement. Instem employs about 45 in the U.S., a count that should expand to about 55 after the merger, spokesman Gary Mitchell said.

Reason called his latest acquisition “a great fit.” The company has offices in the U.S., United Kingdom, France, Japan, China, and India.