Volume 11, Issue 6 - July/August 2010


VKR Holding Acquires Loewen
Canadian-based manufacturer Loewen of Steinbach, Manitoba, has been acquired by VKR Holding of Denmark.

“Through much consideration, the Loewen family shareholders have come to the collective decision that the needs of the company and those of the Loewen shareholders would be best served through a transition of ownership to a new ownership group,” says Clyde Loewen, leader of the Loewen family shareholder group. “The Loewen shareholders believe that VKR will bring the resources, capabilities and character to ensure the future success of Loewen in the marketplace while maintaining respect for all of its stakeholders as well as for the culture of the staff and the community.”

VKR is no stranger to the window business, says VKR CEO Leif Jensen.

“We already own several vertical window companies and now we extend those activities in Canada and the [United States] where the population growth is larger than in Europe,” he says.

He does admit, however, that the Canadian and American markets have been affected by severe decline in the last three years but he still sees great promise.

The fact that [VKR is] in the window and door industry overall in Europe is a good synergistic fit.
—Al Babiuk, Loewen

“The markets are slowly stabilizing and we see great potential in Loewen, not least because the company holds a strong niche position in the high-end segment of the market and engages in extensive product development,” adds Jensen.

The existing Loewen executive team will remain in place. Al Babiuk, previously chief operating officer, will assume the chief executive officer role, and Clyde Loewen will remain as the executive responsible for products. Charles Loewen will sit as a member of the board of directors. Claes Warnander, a member of VKR’s team, will act as chairman of the board.

Babiuk and Warnander also point out that there are no intentions to move Loewen’s head office and main manufacturing out of Steinbach. In an exclusive interview with DWM magazine, Babiuk advised he thinks the acquisition by VKR is a good fit for Loewen.

“The fact that [VKR is] in the window and door industry overall in Europe is a good synergistic fit,” he says. “They are just now moving further into North America [they are the parent company of Velux], and less than a year ago they purchased Gienow in Canada—none of those brands were competitive with Loewen. We had the opportunity to be at the forefront for VKR to grow in the North American market—that puts us in a good position. The goal was not to seek a buyer arrangement in which Loewen would have to be integrated with other brands. This acquisition allows us to continue to operate the company using our current brand strategy and stand-alone model. These were all considerations for our shareholders, and VKR brings substantial resources to help us do that.”

FeneTech Opens European Operation
FeneTech has announced the start of a European operation, FeneTech Europe SARL, based in Strassen, Luxemburg. From this office the company will handle all sales, implementation, support and training services for its European customer base. Local engineering staff has been hired and additional positions will be added on an ongoing basis.

“FeneVision has rapidly gained acceptance in Europe as being a modern, innovative, flexible and complete ERP software solution for the glass processing industry,” says Ron Crowl, president of FeneTech Inc., who also serves as a manager for FeneTech Europe.

“FeneVision is truly exceptional software, but to do even more business in Europe, to offer the best customer service, the implementation teams must speak the local languages, understand the different manufacturing methods in order to provide excellent support to our customers. This is the reason the company was formed,” says Horst Mertes, who is the managing partner of FeneTech Europe SARL.

WDMA and Other Industry Groups Sue EPA Over Removal of Opt-Out Provision
Contractors can no longer offer homeowners the opt-out clause as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (LRRP), effective July 6. But some industry associations still are working to retain the opt-out clause. On July 8, the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA), along with a coalition of housing industry associations, filed suit in federal appeals court against the EPA for removing the opt-out provision.

The opt-out provision, which was in the original final LRRP rule, let homeowners grant permission to contractors to forgo extra preparation, clean-up and recordkeeping requirements in pre-1978 homes if there are no children under 6 or pregnant women present.

“It’s clear that EPA’s removal of the opt-out provision will significantly impact the window, door and skylight retrofit market,” says WDMA chair Steve Sisson, general manager of Karona Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich. “Millions of additional homeowners will be subject to substantial unnecessary costs as a result of the LRRP, which will only discourage them from making energy-efficient improvements or cause them to seek out uncertified contractors.”

At least one industry representative says he was pleased with the news.

“This is a critical step in saying enough to the government’s intrusion into matters of personal responsibility,” says David Steele, chief executive officer for The Window Gallery in Augusta, Ga. “Their science is flawed and their approach to regulation is arrogant.”

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the Hearth, Patio & Barbeque Association, and the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association joined WDMA in the suit, which was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
The coalition is challenging the removal of the opt-out provision on the grounds that EPA substantially amended the LRRP rule without any new scientific data before the regulation was put into place on April 22.

“Removing the opt-out provision more than doubles the number of homes subject to the regulation,” says NAHB chairperson Bob Jones, a home builder and developer in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. “About 79 million homes are affected, even though EPA estimates that only 38 million homes contain lead-based paint. Removing the opt-out provision extends the rule to consumers who need no protection.”

Steele was pleased with the NAHB’s involvement in this important issue.

“Go, NAHB—I’m glad all my years of dues paying will go for something I believe in,” he says.

Formaldehyde Bill Signed into Law
Landmark formaldehyde legislation urged by the Composite Panel Association (CPA) and others passed the U.S. House of Representatives by voice vote on June 23, after being approved by the unanimous consent of the U.S. Senate a week earlier. President Obama signed the bill into law on July 7.

The Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act, S. 1660, will establish the first comprehensive national standard for formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products, and directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promulgate implementing regulations by January 1, 2013. These regulations will be effective 180 days after promulgation.

“This is a historic moment for the North American composite panel industry, which has always been at the forefront of environmental stewardship,” says Tom Julia, CPA president. “The legislation represents a responsible, bi-partisan approach to advancing consumer protection, fair trade and domestic jobs.”

The emission limitations called for in the legislation are modeled on a regulation adopted by California in 2008.

“The result will be the toughest production standard in the world, including provisions to ensure that products made with composite wood panels meet the standard,” Julia adds. “The legislation also will encourage the development of lower-emitting adhesive technologies and establish a transparent chain of custody for purposes of enforcement. Manufacturer quality assurance requirements and third party testing and certification of panel products will give consumers the highest confidence in the composite wood products they purchase, regardless of where in the world they are manufactured.”

The legislation, introduced last fall by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), quickly garnered strong bi-partisan support in the Senate. A companion bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) earlier this year.

EPA Delays Enforcement of Lead Rules Until Later this Year
In response to industry concerns that not enough contractors were trained to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting rule, the EPA recently announced that it is delaying enforcement for those contractors not yet certified, giving contractors more time to receive the lead certification training.

According to an EPA memo, the agency will not take enforcement action for violations of the RRP Rule’s firm certification requirement until October 1, 2010. Additionally, EPA will not enforce the rule against individual renovation workers if the person has applied to enroll in, or has enrolled in a certified renovator class to train contractors in practices necessary for compliance with the final rules, before or on September 30, 2010. Renovators must complete the training by December 31, 2010. However, for those contractors who are certified, EPA will continue to enforce the work practice requirements of the rule.

Ultra Hardware Products Partners with Fapim Products
Ultra Hardware Products LLC recently announced that it has partnered with Fapim products as its new U.S. distributor.

As the new U.S. distributor, Ultra Hardware currently stocks Fapim’s full line of European Style door and window products including the following product categories: tilt and turn window hardware; Lora+ Hinges: three-way independent adjustability for doors; in-swing casement hardware; and rollers for commercial sliding windows and sliding doors.

Ultra Hardware says Fapim will provide full engineering support to help window manufacturers design door and window systems around Fapim’s European Hardware utilizing the EuroGrove profiles.

Frontline Building Products Purchases Assets of B&B Engineering
FrontLine Building Products Inc. has purchased the assets and property of B&B Engineering of Medford, Wis. As of June 14, B&B began operating as FrontLine Building Products Inc., Medford Division. Product development and sales will continue from both locations, utilizing all existing and new personnel.

“I am very confident that this acquisition will enhance the product offerings of FrontLine Building Products, Green Bay and Medford Divisions,” says Paul Buntin, FrontLine division manager. “We look forward to a mutually beneficial growth in both locations and feel we now an offer a complete line of transoms, architectural windows and grilles to our existing customer bases and potential new accounts.”

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