PPG Industries plans to sell its automotive glass businesses — including its Meadville-area glass-making plant in Greenwood Township — to a private equity firm for approximately $500 million.

Pittsburgh-based PPG announced late Thursday afternoon that it has signed an agreement with Platinum Equity of Beverly Hills, Calif., to sell its automotive original equipment manufacture glass and automotive replacement glass and services businesses.

Under the terms of the agreement, an affiliate of Platinum Equity will acquire the businesses’ assets. Completion of the transaction is expected by the end of the year.

PPG has operated a flat-glass plant in Greenwood Township since 1968; it has 257 employees. The glass made there is used by automakers and other PPG plants to fabricate windshields and side and rear windows for vehicles.

“Managers were notified around 4 p.m.,” Betsy Mallison Bialosky, a PPG spokeswoman, said of the proposed sale. “It was up to each manager how they handled it at their plants.”

Attempts to reach Perry Johnson, the local plant manager, were unsuccessful.

Bialosky said the automotive glass business “did not meet the performance standard for businesses in our portfolio,” adding that business had declined both in 2006 and 2005.

What may happen to the PPG’s Meadville-area operation or eight other glass manufacturing and fabrication plants is unknown at this point.

Bialosky said that was up to Platinum Equity.

“Those are good questions, but we’ve not completed the sale,” Mark Barnhill, a principal with Platinum Equity, said Thursday in a phone interview. “It would be premature to talk about any operational plans. We’re working with the company to get this transaction completed.”

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in February, PPG said it was looking at possible changes to its automotive-related businesses of original equipment manufacturing glass, replacement auto glass and services, and fine chemicals. The options included a restructuring of the businesses, forming strategic alliances to develop new business, or selling them.

A statement issued Thursday by Charles E. Bunch, PPG’s chairman and chief executive officer, said PPG was transforming its business to focus on coatings and specialty products while reducing PPG’s exposure to the U.S. automotive market.

“This sale will also provide us with more resources to pursue profitable growth in coatings, aerospace, optical products and opportunities in Asia,” he said.

PPG’s automotive glass businesses manufacture and fabricate automotive glass at nine North American plants — in Meadville, Creighton and Tipton in Pennsylvania; Berea, Ky.; Crestline, Ohio; Evansville, Ind.; Evart, Mich.; and Hawkesbury and Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

In addition, there are nine satellite parts assembly plants, and there are two insurance claim services management centers in Fort Myers, Fla., and Paducah, Ky., for its replacement automotive glass business.

Combined, the businesses employ approximately 4,400 people, PPG said.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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