The two largest companies in the automotive glass repair and replacement industry announced today they will merge operations in the United States, subject to regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions. Belron S.A., a vehicle glass repair and replacement company operating in 29 countries, will acquire Safelite Group Inc. The transaction is expected to close in March and the integration of Belron Inc., the U.S. operation of Belron, and Safelite operations will begin at that time. Upon closing, the newly combined organization will be Belron US. “This acquisition is the early phase of an overarching plan to profitably grow market share in an industry teeming with potential,” said Dan Wilson, president and chief executive officer of Safelite Group. “Growth will be organic and through additional strategic, targeted acquisitions. Safelite’s customers, business partners and staff will benefit from a parent company with a global focus on the automotive glass industry.” In a very fragmented industry, the merged Safelite Group and Belron Inc. operations will have less than 20 percent market share in the United States. Belron posted global sales of $1.5 billion (U.S.) in 2005. “Belron’s 110-year track record of global success will position the combined companies with opportunities to provide more locations, increased capacity and expanded service offerings to individual consumers as well as insurance, fleet and commercial customers,” said Gary Lubner, Group chief executive officer of Belron. Safelite Group Inc. is a multi-faceted automotive glass and claims management service organization based in Columbus, Ohio. The company is composed of three major business operations that include automotive glass fulfillment services, windshield manufacturing, and fleet and insurance claims management services. The privately held company employs more than 5,700 people throughout the United States. Belron owns many well-known brands in the industry including Autoglass, Lebeau, Duro, Speedy Glass, Apple Auto Glass, and Carglass, operating in 29 countries across four continents, with more than 12,000 employees serving the needs of more than 5 million customers each year.