PPG reports increased sales

BY Brae Canlen

Paint supplier PPG Industries reported net sales for the first quarter 2012 of $3.8 billion, an increase of 6% versus net sales of $3.5 million during the prior year’s first quarter. Net income for the first fiscal quarter, which ended March 31, 2012, was $13 million, compared to $228 million a year ago. 

Adjusted net income for the quarter, excluding nonrecurring charges, was $279 million, allowing CEO Charles Bunch to point to earnings growth momentum. "We have delivered consistently strong earnings over nearly two years despite the prolonged, gradual recovery from the economic crisis and continued raw materials cost inflation.

"In the quarter, we benefited from strengthening demand in the United States in most end-use markets and growth in emerging regions, which offset weaker European activity," Bunch continued. "In aggregate, our core coatings and Optical and Specialty Materials segments delivered nearly 25% year-over-year earnings growth, with each segment delivering fairly equal growth rates. Business results were strong in the aerospace, automotive OEM coatings, industrial coatings and optical products businesses, as well as in the architectural coatings business in the United States.

"Looking ahead, the second quarter is typically our best sales quarter seasonally, and we expect year-over-year growth rates in the United States to be similar to the first quarter coupled with lower regional natural gas input costs," Bunch said. "We anticipate that growth in emerging regions will accelerate, supported by higher Chinese industrial activity. We expect European demand to remain muted, and we are now implementing restructuring actions focused mainly in this region.”

Based in Pittsburgh, Pa., PPG manufacturers architectural coatings, automotive glass, and specialty optics. Its residential lines of paint sell under the brand names Pittsburgh Paints and Manor Hall, among others. 




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Providing flex options to older workers yields strategic benefits

BY Kathy Gurchiek

A report by the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College points to wide-ranging flexible workplace options that can retain older workers, tap into the experience of retired workers and help employers fill skills and knowledge gaps. Success is dependent, though, on matching flexibility initiatives with the needs of employers and their older employees.

The report, "Flex Strategies to Attract, Engage & Retain Older Workers," released in March 2012, contains case studies of three employers to show how they use flexibility initiatives strategically. The report cited U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that project that from 2008 to 2018 labor force participation by workers age 55 and older is expected to increase by 43% while participation by those ages 16 to 24 is expected to decrease.

“Now is a critical time for us to understand the issues affecting older workers and their employers,” said Sloan Employer Engagement Specialist Samantha Greenfield. “The leading edge of the Baby Boom generation has already reached traditional retirement age. At the same time, our country’s economic challenges have forced many of these older works to extend their work-retirement horizon.”

The report found that the employers in its case studies used a variety of flexibility initiatives. Offering part-time positions, hiring retirees as consultants and temporary workers and offering flexible work arrangements are among the most commonly used strategies with older or retired workers.

The case studies examine Marriott, Central Baptist Hospital and MITRE Corp.

Among the initiatives at Marriott:

• Redesigning the work process by pairing a younger employee with an older one; teaming up for specific tasks; and categorizing tasks according to the physicality involved, such as reaching and bending to clean under beds.

• Cross-training workers so they can pick up shifts in other areas. This helps older workers develop new skills without a major job change.

• Providing job rotations so that a person working in laundry might cross-train as a lobby attendant and work there two days a week.

• Making downtime without pay available to workers in reservations centers when things are slow. They may take longer breaks, work shorter shifts, leave early or take extra days off. This is offered informally to hotel staff during slow periods, too, according to the report.

Have HR-related questions and concerns? Get access to essential forms, policies and guides, plus a live call center, at, powered by HCN and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News.


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Lowe’s creates two new executive positions

BY Ken Clark

Mooresville, N.C.-based has Lowe’s created two new positions for high-ranking executives. The promotions for Greg Bridgeford and Rick Damron are described by the company as an effort to support the retailer’s customer experience goals.

The promotions will take effect May 5.

With more than 30 years of experience in home improvement, Bridgeford, 57, will become chief customer officer, responsible for creating experiences that will best serve customers and differentiate Lowe’s from its competitors.

The CCO’s functional areas will include customer experience design, merchandising, marketing and communications, digital interfaces, and pricing and promotion.

Bridgeford joined the company in 1982 and has served in a variety of increasingly responsible roles, including senior VP merchandising and senior VP marketing.

Damron, 49, will take the position of chief operating officer, responsible for delivering the customer experience. Functions reporting to the COO include stores operations, sales and service fulfillment, product fulfillment, real estate and facilities, and loss prevention and safety. Damron joined Lowe’s in 1981 and has worked in every aspect of the company’s store operations, and has also served as senior VP logistics. He has served as executive VP store operations since 2011, with responsibility for all of Lowe’s stores, as well as the company’s specialty sales businesses.

Both positions will report to CEO Robert Niblock. 

"As we continue to transform Lowe’s to a leaner, more nimble, multichannel company, we took a hard look at our organizational structure and opted to make changes to support our efforts to deliver outstanding customer experiences," Niblock said. "Lowe’s is fortunate to have a deep and talented bench of executives like Greg and Rick, with experience across home improvement disciplines. I am confident these leaders can deliver on our goals to serve customers whenever and however they choose to engage with Lowe’s."


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Who do you view as your biggest competitor?