Profits from automotive industry and joint ventures will help counter effects of difficult UK trading conditions.

Pilkington has predicted that it will increase pre-tax profits by 15% for the year to 31 March 2005 despite a very competitive building products market in Europe.

Pilkington’s Building Products Europe division represents two thirds of building products sales. The glass manufacturer said that prices for glass in Europe were at historically low levels and there had been difficult trading conditions in the UK.

Elsewhere it said building products markets were either holding up or improving principally in Central and Eastern Europe. Pilkington said its Russian joint venture float glass plant is on schedule for commissioning in summer 2005.

The firm said that the healthy profit rise was a result of lower interest costs, improved profits in automotive and in joint ventures.

Exceptional items for the year will include the cost of closing the Building Products decorative glass division in Australia, the closure of Building Products processing and merchanting operations in Austria and the anticipated closure of the optical glass operations in the UK.

Pilkington said the exceptional costs would be offset by the profit from the disposal of the 50% share in joint venture investment in US-based SDC Technologies.