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French glassmaker Duralex gets rescue from rival

·2-min read

A French court Thursday approved a takeover of the storied glassmaker Duralex by the parent of its homegrown rival Pyrex, fusing two brands known worldwide for their ultra-tough cups and cookware.

Pyrex, part of the International Cookware group, was the only candidate still standing after two other bidders dropped out ahead of a hearing at the court in Orleans, central France, last week.

International Cookware will pay 3.5 million euros ($4.2 million) for Duralex and its 248 employees -- just two directors will leave as part of the sale -- and has promised to invest a further 17.4 million euros between now and 2024.

Production problems and the Covid crisis, which forced key restaurant and hotel clients to halt orders, forced Duralex into receivership last September after it racked up a debt of some 32 million euros.

Home cooks and professionals prize the tempered glasses, bowls and baking dishes from both companies, which pioneered distinctive technologies for making glass more resistant to chips and breakage.

Duralex's Picardie tumblers are considered icons of modern design, sold at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and used by James Bond during the drinking contest involving a scorpion in 2012's "Skyfall".

Generations of French children also grew up with Duralex glasses that were ubiquitous in school cafeterias in the 1960s and '70s.

But since 2017 the company has struggled to recover from a problem that emerged while replacing the furnace at its factory in La Chapelle-Saint-Mesmin -- a nine million euro investment that was to improve quality as well as production capacity.

It needed to replace a key part of the production line at the same time, but delays and technical mishaps caused a drop in output that persisted for years.

And since last year Duralex has lost key restaurant and hotel orders as coronavirus restrictions have shut down restaurants and tourism.

Export orders overall make up 80 percent of the group's revenue.

"Our ambition is to make Duralex once again a world leader, and develop an international unit based on the two brands," International Cookware chief Jose Luis Llacuna said at last week's hearing.

Despite sharing reputations for robustness, the companies use different techniques and materials -- Duralex glass is better at surviving impacts while Pyrex can withstand higher temperatures, hence its specialisation in glass ovenware.

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