|Headquarters||East Leake, UK|
BPB plc (British Plaster Board) was a British building materials business: it is the world's largest manufacturer of plasterboard. It once was a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. In 2005, the company was purchased by Saint-Gobain of France. The company subsidiary British Gypsum, which was the UK operating arm of the company, operates as a subsidiary of Saint-Gobain, with five manufacturing sites in Britain as of 2012.
The development of plasterboard (a sandwich of gypsum plaster between two sheets of paper) dates back to the late nineteenth century in the USA. The first patent was granted in 1894 but it was not until an American, Frank Culver, persuaded his new employer, Thomas McGhie and Sons, to buy a plasterboard plant from the USA that this new product was introduced to Britain. A site was acquired at Wallasey Cheshire and building started in 1916. However, McGhie’s shareholders could not supply sufficient funding and in 1917 the plasterboard assets were sold to a new company, British Plaster Board Limited [BPB].
The British building industry was initially slow to adopt the new product. Helped by a more modern plant, purchased in 1927, sales gradually increased and by 1932 the Company was able to float on the London Stock Exchange.The additional capital enabled BPB to build a new factory at Erith in 1934. The Erith plant had the capacity to manufacture the gypsum plaster (the core of the plasterboard product) and BPB began importing gypsum rock from Canada. This encouraged negotiations with other gypsum companies in Britain and a “breath-taking series of take-overs” followed in the next two years, making BPB the dominant force in the industry. In particular, these included the Gotham Company with plaster works in the north of England, and The Gypsum Mines Limited, with its large gypsum mine at Mountfield Sussex.
Early post-war history
In 1944, BPB acquired its large rival, Gyproc Products Limited; after that there were only a handful of small companies and when ICI withdrew from the market in 1968 BPB was the 100% British producer of plaster and plasterboard. Organisationally, all domestic gypsum activities were consolidated in the British Gypsum subsidiary and the parent company was BPB Industries. BPB had also acquired the main paper supplier in 1953 – the Aberdeen firm of C. Davidson.
The post-war period saw extensive overseas investment through subsidiaries and associates. South Africa was the first investment (1946) followed by Placoplatre in France (1952), Western Gypsum of Canada (1954) and Sweden (1957).
In 1987 it bought Rigips, a well-known brand in Austria, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.
In April 1996, it bought Borgadts of Germany for £21m. In June 1996, it bought Gypsum Industries of South Africa for £28m. In October 1998, it bought Gyproc of Scandinavia for £95m, already having a joint venture called Scancem. In March 2000 it bought Heidelberger Dammsysteme of Germany, which made polystyrene insulation, for £22m. In June 2000, it acquired the Celotex company of the USA, which made ceiling tiles, for £230m. In January 2001, it bought Rawlplug Ltd. for £27m. In October 2002, it acquired Gyproc Benelux of Belgium for £52m.
BPB regained its place in the FTSE 100 Index in June 2005 after an absence of fourteen years.
However, since May 1996, BPB had a joint venture with the French company Saint-Gobain, making glass fibre insulation. In August 2005, BPB received a hostile takeover bid from Saint-Gobain, which set a price of 720 pence per share.
In 1997 it closed its head office, which was in Northwich.
British Gypsum will be 100 years old on the 26th April 2017
Plasterboard is mainly used for internal partition walls. BPB's other products include plaster, insulating materials, fastenings, decorative wall covering and ceiling components. British Gypsum has plants at Barrow upon Soar in Leicestershire, Kirkby Thore in Cumbria, Mountfield near Robertsbridge in East Sussex, Sherburn-in-Elmet in North Yorkshire and East Leake. It also has training facilities in Erith, south-east London, Clevedon, in Bristol and Flitwick, in Bedfordshire.
- "British Gypsum - Locations", www.british-gypsum.com, retrieved 5 April 2012
- Above is all sourced from: Routley, John [Comp.] A Saga of British Industry (1959); Jenkins, David The History of BPB Industries (1973), ISBN 0-9502572-0-6; and The Monopolies Commission Plasterboard (1974)
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