Putting Pizzazz Into Glass

Jun 1, 2003

Vitro, the Mexican glassmaker, is trying to fend off Asian competitors with value-added products. But a weighty debt load and weakening cashflow aren't making the company's survival any easier.

There is little glory being the maker of bottles for the likes of Coke, Corona and Bacardi. A bottle dressed up in someone else's brand is still just a mass of melted and molded glass - in short, a commodity that can't command a premium price.

Vitro, the Mexican company that makes glass bottles, as well as car windshields and construction glass has struggled with this fundamental handicap ever since losing its monopoly in Mexico nearly a decade ago. In the last few years, as cheap Asian glass has flooded the global market, Vitro's weakness has become even more of a liability. It doesn't help that the company is financially overextended, struggling with tightening margins, low sales growth and a weakening peso.

José Domene, Vitro's chief operating officer, says, "Our modus operandi is not sustainable long term unless we start doing something different." He admits that tidy profits from a local...

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