LONDON — Caradon plc is considering the sale of its money-losing British and U.S. vinyl door and window operations.
The British parent company largely blamed ``a major setback'' in the window and door division for its 15 percent fall in 1997 pre-tax profit. Now the company is taking radical steps to reshape the troubled businesses, which include Better-Bilt Inc. of Smyrna, Tenn., and Peachtree Doors Inc. of Gainesville, Ga.
Other businesses in Caradon's door and windows section include Canadian Windows & Doors of Calgary, Alberta; British firms Everest Windows Ltd. of Cuffley and Caradon Doors and Windows Ltd. of Cheltenham; and vinyl window and door producer Weru AG of Rudersberg, Germany.
In the past year, Better-Bilt, a major manufacturer of metal windows, was hit by declining sales of aluminum windows in favor of those with plastic profiles, according to London-based Caradon. In addition, the unit felt the effects of industry restructuring and trading difficulties experienced by key customers.
Caradon accepts that it is not a major vinyl window and door producer in the United States and sees no chance of joining the big players now. It prefers to simplify and boost its metal window operations, concentrating on regional markets in the South and East, according to Robert Mills, chief operating officer for building products.
The U.S. businesses reorganized in 1997, cutting the work force by 17 percent, according to Caradon. The company plans to close Caradon's North American head office at Westport, Conn., in April. It also expects to close some production sites and distribution centers.
The North American door and window businesses reported 1997 sales of $307 million, down from $349 million a year before. It also reported a 1997 operating loss of $12.69 million. The global division reported a loss of $5.8 million.
The firm is taking similar cost-cutting action in England, where a regional shortage of skilled window installers held back sales. Caradon Doors and Windows, which runs seven plants in Britain and extrudes PVC profiles, reduced its work force by 13 percent.
The German subsidiary Weru saw its sales decline 27 percent as a result of difficult domestic market conditions, Caradon reported. But the firm has received a good market response to a new window range launched in November in Germany.
Caradon officials predicted that its remedial measures in the door and windows division should return its businesses to profitability in the second half of 1998.
Caradon may sell or go into partnership with the troubled U.S. and British door and window businesses, Mills said.