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Asia off-sets US slowdown for glass giant

French materials giant Saint Gobain has posted a 10 per cent decline in net income to £1.2 billion for the year to last December.

The group's profitability fell on the back of a £542.3 million provision for fines issued by the European Commission after an investigation into flat glass price-fixing.

Earnings before interest and tax climbed 10.6 per cent to £3.2 billion from sales of £33.9 billion, up 4.4 per cent.

The troubled American market proved a headache for the group, with sales falling 14.7 per cent and operating profit slumping more than half to £269 million.

But Saint Gobain's operations in Asia and other emerging markets – where sales and operating income climbed 16.7 per cent and 48.8 per cent respectively – off-set the negative US growth.

The company's western European heartland proved resilient, with sales climbing 7.9 per cent outside France and a modest 3.2 per cent within the country.

The European Commission fined Saint Gobain and three other glassmakers – Britain's Pilkington, US group Guardian Industries and Japan's Asahi – a combined €489.9 million (£383 million) last November relating to a cartel that the commission said ran for about a year from early 2004.