Cornwall Glass targets London

Consolidation in the glass processing sector has continued with Cornwall Glass’s acquisition of LW Architectural Glass. Glass Times reports.

Cornwall Glass announced its acquisition of LW Architectural Glass last month. Completed at the end of March, the deal saw the £4m turnover former glass division of commercial and architectural specialist, Lee Warren Fabrication and Design, become the latest acquisition by the south west based firm.  

It signals the latest stage in a strategic growth plan, which has seen Cornwall Glass expand from a small family business to become one of the UK’s largest glass processors.

“We have had a little bit of practice,” Mark Mitchell, director of Cornwall Glass, said. “What that does is put us in a good place to move LW Architectural forward.

“That includes growing its market presence but also capitalising on the opportunities for product pull-through by bringing back some of the products that we can now offer, through the rest of the group.”

The new Cornwall Architectural Glass – London offer is impressive. At 50,000ft2, it’s Hayes operational hub is conveniently located just a few miles off the M4. This gives Cornwall Glass an important ‘beach-head’ into commercial markets in London and the south east beyond.

“We have been looking at the area for a long time and got very close to the purchase of another business a few years ago, so Hayes is a good location for us,” Mark said.

“But it’s not just about being close to London, it’s the facility and the capability that it gives us, which is what is so exciting.”

Opened as a purpose-built glass division by Lee Warren Fabrication and Design in 2014, LW Architectural Glass comes with a list of mouth-watering assets.

Straight-line edgers, CNC machines, a paint shop, heat soak ovens and a toughening plant – the fourth within the Cornwall Glass Group – form a list of high-end but standard equipment.

It’s LW’s laminate facility, which sets its offer apart. Working alongside Lee Warren Fabrication and Design, it’s supplied glass to some of the UK’s most prestigious commercial projects including Wembley Stadium and Heathrow Airport, alongside light commercial projects across London.

LW also adds high-end architectural residential markets to this list, processing over-sized insulated glass units, floors, canopies and balustrading. The common denominator across this product portfolio is laminate or more accurately multi-laminates – and LW has made itself a specialist.

This is reflected in its operational facility. It has one of the largest autoclaves in the UK, installed less than three-years ago. And it has a laminate resin pour system and sterile operating-theatre type, climatic lamination facility.

“You only need to look around to see how well it’s set up for handling big sheets of multi-laminates,” Mark said. “The crane and rig infrastructure is there, the lamination facilities. It gives us the capacity to manufacture very substantial units and products.”

With Article 50 triggered, making accurate calls as to the future of the commercial glazing sector against the backdrop of Brexit is difficult. Nonetheless, pre-referendum, forecasts predicted substantial growth, particularly in the light commercial sector.  

The commercial office sector, for example, was forecast for 39% growth to 2020, industrial sectors at 28% and retail at 14% (Palmer, Commercial Glazing).

Separately, laminate glass is forecast to be used in increasing volumes in UK construction through to 2020. The largest volume going into a single market is architectural glass, with market analysts suggesting increasing volumes of up to 44%.

“We’re clearly not immune from market forces but if you ask me what effect Brexit has had on our business, in terms of actual business – it hasn’t had one,” Mark said.

“We’re continuing to see good growth and that’s given us the confidence to continue with our investment strategy.”

LW Architectural Glass is the latest in a long line of purchases which has included Solaglas, Westcountry Glass, Exeter & Mackenzie Glass Centres, the M5 Glass Centre and Colston Glass Centre, among others.

“With forecast growth in light commercial and premium residential markets, we see a huge number of opportunities for Cornwall Glass Cornwall Architectural Glass – London but most importantly the existing and new customers of each,” Mark said.