Nonwovens industry' annual review & forecast.2006 was a big year for nonwovens. BBA finalized its plans to demerger its nonwovens unit, after industry gossip speculated the company would sell the unit to PGI and Create the world's largest nonwovens manufacturer. Cotton continued its crusade to target more disposable applications and has seemingly hit a homerun with the launch of a cotton-containing baby wipe at Wholesaler Costco, Spunbond capacity was announced, and has come onstream, around the world, and now the hygiene markets waits to see where, and how, all of this new capacity will be used. Meanwhile, spunlace capacity expanded significantly in North America to fuel the disposable wipes market.
Additionally, consolidation continued in 2006 with the purchase of SI industries by one of its key competitors, Propex Fabrics, creating a huge needlepunch conglomerate. And, Ahlstrom continued its buying spree, focusing largely on filtration, by snapping up not one but three major filtration producers within in the past 12 months.
As 2006 draws to a close, NONWOVENS INDUSTRY has invited key industry executives to share their views on the past 12 months as well as their predict arts for 2007 Will raw material prices continue to plague nonwovens producers? Will emerging markets such as China and India meet the expectations of the industry? These executives Offer their opinion on how things will shape up in the new year.
Rory Holmes INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry
The nonwovens industry in North America grew at at a little over 4% in 2006, said INDA president Rory Holmes. "Most producers are running fairly full in terms of capacity; some have turned away lower profit business for better margins," he said. "Raw material pricing continues to plague the industry and squeeze margins. Many producers are unable to pass through some or any of the increases. With the recent drop in oil prices, some price reductions in materials are expected, but I believe the drops will be slow in coming."
According to INDA, one of this year's highlights was the launch of the Kirkland Brand of cotton wipes at Costco. This product zoomed to the No. 2 share position within about eight months of launch. "Related to that launch is the ongoing difficulty with rayon products that no longer meet the NAFTA or CAFTA requirements of 'Made in America,'" Mr. Holmes continued. "With Austrian rayon included in the wipes, the fabric and product manufacturers are paying significant duties to export products to Canada and Mexico (our No. 1 and No. 2 export customers)," Mr. Holmes said. "A bright spot on trade, however, is that the rate of increase in nonwoven imports has stalled while the rate of increase of exports has risen. I believe this is directly related to the 'cheap dollar' versus the Euro and the Yen."
INDA believes that GDP growth will continue throughout 2007 and the nonwovens business will continue to grow at around 4% in 2007. "There is some discussion about oil prices continuing to drop to $50/barrel but I believe they will stay closer to $60/barrel," Mr. Holmes said. "With that level of pricing, raw material prices will be slow to drop. I believe that China will continue to grow at record rates of production, between 9% and 10%. This growth will continue the transfer of the whole nonwovens value chain to joint ventures, partnerships and outright investment in China. International companies have been the first to invest in plants and equipment in China. This group will be augmented by some of the smaller companies."
Additionally, India is on the verge of an economic explosion. Established textile businesses in India are anxious to expand their product lines beyond apparel and into technical textiles and nonwovens. INDA will be serving this need through training courses and conferences scheduled for 2007 in India.
Matt Trerotola DuPont Nonwovens
DuPont Nonwovens has seen challenges to growth this year ranging from increases in raw materials, energy and other costs and from events such as the construction slowdown in the U.S. housing market, according to Matt Trerotola, vice president and general manager of DuPont Nonwovens. But, while these challenges have been a significant issue across the industry, DuPont continues to focus on bringing value to the market through new technology.
For example, DuPont has seen strong growth in key segments and product lines that fit its selective barrier solutions strategy. This growth has often been fueled by market-driven product innovations such as: the redesign of DuPont Tyvek Coveralls for improved comfort and durability; the creation of DuPont Tyvek Thermawrap to help improve energy efficiency for today's energy-conscious market and the introduction of DuPont Tyvek Brillion DR and DRC for improved thermal transfer printing of bar codes and variable information.
"We are very thankful for our fantastic customers who are working closely with us to adapt to the changing landscape and define strategies whereby we can all achieve the profitable growth we require," Mr. Trerotola said. "I don't believe the challenges we've faced during the past year will go away. But at DuPont, we are committed to continued growth and innovation, so we will continue to invest in our business by adding new technology and capacity, matching our level and type of innovation with the needs of each segment."
The future of nonwovens is in new products and applications, and DuPont is stretching the limits of what a nonwoven can do. For example, the company's science is very well suited to creating selective barriers, which you see in products such as DuPont Tyvek HomeWrap and medical packaging products and the new DuPont Suprel LS fabric for controlled environment apparel. "DuPont Advanced Composite Technology (ACT) is enabling us to take advantage of the best properties of two different raw materials to create fabrics that meet specific marketplace needs," Mr. Trerotola continued. "In medical fabrics, for example, where barrier protection is a must, yet comfort and breathability are necessities in the operating room. And we recently introduced our new Hybrid Membrane Technology (HMT), a breakthrough in air and liquid filtration that will be offered through DuPont Separation Solutions, a new growth initiative dedicated to filtration technologies."
DuPont has a three-pronged corporate strategy that spans all its markets and businesses, including nonwovens. First, the company puts science to work to create value for its customers and society. "This means that we will continue to use nonwovens technology to create innovative, sustainable solutions that protect people, the environment, processes and property," Mr. Trerotola said. "As an example, we recently launched the DuPont Premium Interior Air Filter, which is effective in capturing up to 96% of fine dust, pollen, allergens and other harmful pollutants inside the car."
Second, the company employs what it calls "the power of One DuPont." "We will continue to focus on bringing each customer the full power of DuPont's technologies, knowledge and market reach. For example, in DuPont Building Innovations, we provide the construction industry with integrated building systems to improve environmental and structural performance. In DuPont Personal Protection, we provide industrial workers, emergency responders and law enforcement officials with a full range of protective apparel that can literally save their lives."
And third, the company goes where the growth is. "We see great promise in global markets such as China, India,
Latin America and Eastern Europe as well as in rapidly expanding filtration and separations markets," Mr. Trerotola continued.
Daniel Dayan and Pieter Meijer Fiberweb
According to executives from Fiberweb, 2006 was a difficult year for the nonwovens industry overall with unprecedented raw materials and utilities prices and continued commissioning of additional capacity. However, volumes continued their healthy development in most geographies, especially Asia and Latin America. "The rapid reduction in U.S. housing starts from the summer onwards did begin to impact sales of nonwovens into the U.S. construction industry, though other sectors exposed to some extent to the economic cycle, such as filtration, continued to grow well," said CEO Daniel Dayan. "Even in the markets for spunlaced nonwovens--especially for baby and cosmetic wipes, which are generally accepted to be oversupplied--volumes were quite healthy, though pricing has been weak."
Additionally, margins were eroded by rapidly escalating raw materials, utilities and transportation expenses and surprisingly these costs have continued high despite the fall in oil prices in late summer and autumn, according to Pieter Meijer, vice president of sales and marketing. "Overall, uncompetitive assets have been suffering, while in those businesses where state-of-the-art assets are employed and where ongoing product development have resulted in cost-effective and valued products, margins remained acceptable," he said.
The environment for new investments is challenging given margin erosion in 2006, but further investments to replace less competitive assets will be needed. Capital efficiency will be key to any new investments, requiring further developments, possibly coming from non-traditional equipment vendors. "With the right strategies in place we believe that we can continue to grow in the markets we have chosen, and we remain cautiously optimistic about future growth potential," Mr. Dayan continued.
All in all, 2006 was a year in which Fiberweb went through dramatic changes. "We are now looking forward with confidence to our independence following the November demerger from BBA," Mr. Meijer said. "The right management team is in place, our business will benefit from recent investments and restructuring and, most importantly, customers are supporting our business and strategies. Fiberweb is focusing growth strategies on market areas where differentiation allows margins to be sustained. These include its successful industrial specialities business, with particular strengths in filtration and specialty construction as well as other polyester and polypropylene spunmelt-based products. Fiberweb will also continue to develop its leading position in sectors of the hygiene market."
Dennis Norman PGI Nonwovens
"This was a year of transition for the industry, marked by raw materials volatility, increased global competition and commodization of products in certain segments," said Dennis Norman, vice president--strategic planning and communication for PGI Nonwovens. "Despite these factors, PGI remains optimistic about the outlook for the industry and the company in the coming year. Innovative new products and technologies will be critical to success."
In 2006, the developing regions of the world continued to grow and PGI completed its capital expansions to capture that growth. In Latin America, increased consumer acceptance for disposable hygiene products is driving growth. The start-up of PGI's new line in Cali, Colombia, in 2006 supplied the demand for baby diapers in the region.
Additionally, global demand for high quality medical fabrics remained strong. PGI opened a new medical facility in Suzhou to provide one of the few local supply sources for high quality medical fabrics for converters located in Asia.
"We are also seeing increased diversity among sources of growth in developing regions as consumers increase the use of disposable and semi-durable products in such markets as agriculture, industrial and building and construction," Mr. Norman said.
Meanwhile, in the developed regions of the U.S. and Europe, PGI launches of innovative new products in the consumer and industrial segments provided growth. Additionally, the company completed its new capacity installation in Mooresville, NC, which provided volume growth during the year and is expected to drive additional growth next year.
But, the commodity markets became even more competitive, leaving companies to prove a distinctive advantage, enter new markets or risk losing market share. Raw material volatility created additional challenges, Mr. Norman explained.
"Spunlace markets, specifically for commodity wipes, are generally facing a very difficult environment, with overcapacity and desperate pricing practices spoiling the market. PGI continues to focus on specialty wipes with proprietary technology that can provide superior performance characteristics to differentiate its offerings.
In the U.S., macro-market influences like weakness in the automotive markets, slower housing starts and soft agricultural markets impacted certain segments of the business. Offsetting these factors was ongoing demand in the developing regions of the world as the acceptance and use of disposable products continues to grow.
Some of PGI's highlights included the completion of its global expansion program initiated in 2005 and investment in a new line in Argentina. "These investments laid the foundation for us to continue to grow in the future," Mr. Norman said. "On the other side, continued volatility in raw material pricing made it extremely challenging and unpredictable for industry participants and customers."
Looking ahead, market maturity and heightened competition will make the need for innovation more critical than ever before in maintaining a competitive advantage. In a number of markets, new technologies will have to be developed to fill the gap between desired price points and manufacturing costs, Mr. Norman continued.
"Certain factors, such as raw materials, will continue to have an impact. However, the severity will most likely not be as intense as some of the changes we saw in 2006," he said. "The predictability of raw material prices continues to be poor and volatility is expected to continue. But capacity installations by raw material suppliers in 2007 should result in some relief to the trend we have seen over the last few years."
PGI is focused on being the innovative leader in nonwovens. "As we continue to grow our business and expand in our markets, we will further leverage our innovative capabilities over a broader base of our business. So in the coming year, you'll be seeing PGI introducing more new products and technologies to meet customers' evolving needs," Mr. Norman concluded.
Claudio Ermondi Ahlstrom
Market conditions for Ahlstrom's nonwovens varied during 2006, depending from applications and geographical areas, according to senior vice president and general manager of nonwovens at Ahlstrom, Claudio Ermondi. "In comparison to 2005, we had a relatively strong first quarter, followed by a weak second quarter and recovery in the third quarter," he said. "Medical and wipes applications were soft for the first part of the year and then recovered while food and industrial applications were stable and relatively weak all over the year, with some strength in the first quarter.
Additionally, raw material costs, especially for synthetic fibers, continued to rise over the year. Energy prices have also been quite high and the winter will not help to release the pressure. The increased costs asked for the implementation of some price increases and internal cost savings to mitigate the impact on the profitability," Mr. Ermondi continued.
"The market situation for nonwovens is anticipated to remain stable for the rest of the year, with some stronger demand in medical nonwovens. Ahlstrom is investing in high growth businesses such as wipes with a new line in Ahlstrom Green Bay and the just-announced investment in Louveira, Brazil. Ahlstrom wants to expand globally and has announced investments in Brazil and China recently. Preferred locations for the investments are the existing sites or locations very close to them. This allows Ahlstrom to leverage on the local cost structure, improving the competitivenss of the coming lines."
Zain Mahmood Johns Manville
"From a roofing nonwovens standpoint, North America started strong in 2006 and the EU was slow to startup due to weather conditions," said Zain Mahmood, vice president and general manager, construction materials for roofing and construction specialist Johns Manville. "Now North America has slowed down due to excess inventories and lack of storms, while the EU has remained strong for the rest of the year. The demand for Asian roofing and geotextiles has remained strong throughout the year and will again continue to grow in the coming years. Raw material prices have affected the overall growth of demand in nonwovens. Some of our customers have slowed down because other chemicals and bitumen prices have skyrocketed in different regions for different market dynamics."
Despite these challenges, Mr. Mahmood predicted that nonwovens will remain a strong platform and by adding enhanced features and functionality, the industry is increasing the use of nonwovens across all platforms. "Raw material input cost increases and transportation costs will continue to dominate the industry scene for days to come," he said. "Our customers expect enhanced value at lower costs and these trends will continue."
JM launched a new roofing spunbond line in July 2006 and started up a new geotextile spunbond facility in Luoyang, China during the fourth quarter. Both of these lines are geared toward specific market segments that have demonstrated growth rates. In 2007, the company will start up a brand new roofing glass mat line in Etowah, TN. With three new investments in three growth poles, JM is poised for strong growth in the coming years in nonwovens. In addition, JM has invested heavily in technical and market capabilities to bring customers more customized solutions that they have requested. JM believes in the nonwoven platform and will continue to invest in assets that manufacture and process nonwovens for future use.
Also in 2006 JM launched many new products including a synthetic underlayment, DuraBase and a housewrap, Gorilla Wrap. These products allow JM to enter completely new spaces that it has not participated in before. "Our customers are asking for more of these products," Mr. Mahmood explained. "JM will remain focused on its ability to create unique value propositions for its customers and users in all the segments that it plays."
Paul Farren Georgia-Pacific
"On the upside of 2006 was the stabilizing of petroleum-based binder costs and the continued downward secular trend," said Paul Farren, vice president of nonwovens for Georgia-Pacific. "This was somewhat offset by the cost increases we have absorbed in fluff pulp prices."
However, cost increases in raw materials remain an issue as airlaid substrates compete with new capacity offered in spunlace, he continued. "Another upside was our uncovering of new emerging market segments using airlaid based substrates. Our growth was also fueled by our existing customers' growth during 2006 and the general health of the industry."
Looking ahead, in 2007 the airlaid producer expects a continuation of its 2006 success with perhaps overall slower growth in the general economy. "We will improve our machine productivity/efficiencies through specific capital improvements," Mr. Farren predicted. "We will continue to review and explore new market segments and build on new ones established in 2006. Our primary objective is to execute against our existing customers new product initiatives. We are also exploring capital opportunities with Koch in both nonwoven substrates and within the general wiper category arena."
Mitch Sanner Norafin
Norafin (a member of the Jacob Holm Group) experienced strong growth both in Europe and North America compared with 2005. "During 2005, we started up our Asheville, NC spunlace facility and qualified many new products," said Mitch Sanner, president and COO of Norafin Americas. "During 2006, we built on this base business with the launch of new applications and an extension of our ongoing business with existing customers. During the year, Jacob Holm Group created a separate entity, Norafin, for its Specialty and Technical businesses to focus on these areas of high growth potential.
"There still exist new applications for nonwovens," Mr. Sanner continued. "For example, the implementation of the mattress FR regulation will lead to growth in our industry. However, the development of new nonwovens applications is not dependent on regulatory changes. We continue to see opportunities to work closely with customers to develop new products, using nonwovens technologies, with greater value and functionality than the current materials employed."
In the coming year, Norafin will concentrate on increasing know-how in its customers' business, while identifying areas where it can deliver solutions in the form of value-added nonwoven products, technical/developmental support, and a high degree of service. "This will, in all likelihood, focus on very specialized applications like fire and thermal protection, acoustical barriers and high performance liquid and air filtration. To achieve success, we need to be able to shorten our development time to meet customers' expectations for quick solutions."
Kirk Hwang KNH Enterprises
In Asia, China particularly, the incremental demands primarily come from the industries of apparel, housing and automotives, said Kirk Hwang, presient of KNH Enterprises, Taipei, Taiwan. "The trend is expected to continue into 2007," he said. "The biggest hit to the industry is due to the price hikes of petrochemicals, which certainly have adverse effects on cost structure. As a result, it has forced consolidation to take place to create scale and improve efficiency."
KNH is well positioned in the industries of personal care hygiene and air filtration. In these particular industries, KNH is focusing on customization, which is becoming critical to its success as it is become more service-oriented and knowledge-based, according to Mr. Hwang.
Serkan Gogus Mogul Nonwovens
From the standpoint of Serkan Gogus, commercial director for Mogul Nonwovens, 2006 can be considered a good year if you look at the demand side. "But, still the industry is under pressure of high polymer prices, high competition and low margins," he said. "Especially on the polypropylene spunbond side of our business, these factors greatly influence our business, but the PET spunbond and meltblown composite sides of our business have done well. On the PET spunbond side after installation of the line in 2003 after three years of hard work, our sales have risen to the required levels. On the meltblown side we had a very busy year."
Mr. Gogus said that the ownership change of three important nonwovens companies--Colbond, Polyfelt and Pegas--were among the most interesting news items of the year. "I believe this is a sign of some problems and changes within industry," he said.
Mr. Gogus said he doesn't expect much change in conditions next year and expects polymer prices will be more or less parallel to 2006 with some slight decline.
For Mogul, 2007 will be a very important year. First of all its new production site will start running with two new meltblown lines as well as a welding machine to produce the wide widths needed for crop covers and one extrusion coating line. "Besides supporting current demand with a meltblown line we want to develop new products with new polymers and composite structures to enter into new market segments especially in the wipes, filtration and building industries," Mr. Gogus said. "With this coating and welding machine, we target to add value to existing products and diversify product range."
Also 2007 is Mogul's 10th anniversary. "I believe in such short time Mogul's growth and reputation in market place should be appreciated." Mr. Gogus said.
George Hargrove Barnhardt Manufacturing
"From the perspective of a raw material supplier, we have seen the retailers and consumer product manufacturers demanding new and innovative products from the nonwovens producers," said George Hargrove, vice president of cotton supplier Barnhardt Manufacturing. "This has created opportunities for cotton fibers in nonwoven structures. The wipes market has embraced cotton as a portion of the blend that enhances both the feel and the performance of the finished product. The nonwovens producers in the U.S. market have responded to this demand for cotton by including the ability to process cotton on the new nonwoven lines or by enhancing existing systems to accommodate cotton in their process. Most spunlace systems in the U.S. market are now capable of processing cotton at this point. There are several new baby wipe programs at retail in both the U.S. and European markets that include cotton as a portion of the fiber blend and the reports we have indicate great success in these programs."
Looking forward to 2007, Barnhardt will continue to work with the roll goods manufacturers to educate and assist them in processing cotton. "We will continue to educate the entire supply chain as to the benefits of cotton in nonwovens at levels of 100% to as little as 15% of the blend," Mr. Barnhardt predicted. "We continue to evaluate available capacity relative to market demand and growth within the nonwovens market to assure sustained growth in the use of cotton."
Janet O'Regan Cotton Incorporated
In the view of Cotton Incorporated, 2006 was very successful for the nonwovens industry. The capital investment needed to be able to run cotton in nonwovens lines is now widely available in the U.S. as well as elsewhere around the world, commented manager for supply chain initiaitves at Cotton Incorporated Janet O'Regan. "The consumer response to cotton wipes introduced in the marketplace underscores their desire for this soft, comfortable, absorbent and natural fiber."
Looking ahead, Cotton Incorporated's plans include continued participation in the nonwovens industry and investment in research to find new applications where cotton brings benefits to nonwoven products. "Two factors are anticipated that will contribute to cotton's success in 2007," Ms. O'Regan continued. "For one, there is strong interest throughout the wipes supply chain for cotton as a means to product improvement and differentiation. For another, pricing has stabilized. A strong global harvest along with upturns in inventories, which we are seeing domestically and internationally, is generally an indication of stability in fiber pricing."
Giampiero De Angelis Fameccanica
According to hygiene machinery supplier Fameccancia, in Western Europe the market has been sparkling while Eastern Europe appears to move slowly. Additionally, the Middle East and Asia are growing well, while in North Africa, 2006 was a phase of settlement following three to four years of steady growth. In Latin America the market is recovering and in North America it's still growing. "In general, the whole diaper market followed an important growth trend mainly due to the introduction of new product features, such as elastic ears and pull-ups," said commercial director Giampiero De Angelis. "Differently, the lady sanitary napkin market seems to be undergoing a phase of stability. Another factor that helped to refuel the baby diaper market was the end of the superabsorbent polymer shortage that for a couple of years kept many baby diaper manufacturers, especially the smaller ones, in a sort of standby situation.
No big changes are expected for 2007, according to Mr. De Angelis. "Maybe the trend of investing in elastic ears for baby diapers and in training pants will continue, as these are becoming product standards, while the situation for sanitary napkins is quite still, as producers seem to prefer investing in raw materials rather than technology. There should also be some product innovation for adult incontinence products, since the market in this sector isn't too lively because of its structure, that is mainly dominated by the institutions, especially in Europe."
As always, Fameccanica will work hard to bring innovation to higher levels, as this has been the key of our success for over 30 years. "In 2006 our growth was determined by the introduction of our adult pull-up machine, as well as an increased use of elastic materials on baby diapers, the high speed of our machine direction training pant converter, that was brought from 250 to 400 pieces per minute, the popularity of our Model FI-U bed underpad machine that can manufacture very low weight, though highly effective products, the great success of the Paksis packaging equipment that went beyond all our most optimistic expectations and our sanitary napkin lines that are faster than ever."
Rusty Elsner Elsner Engineering Works
"2006 continued to be a year of innovation for the industry related to the ongoing introduction of new uses and substrates for consumer, baby, household and industrial disposable wipes that are converted and packaged on Elsner nonwoven rewinders and folding machines, said Rusty Elsner, CEO of wipes equipment supplier Elsner Engineering Works.
"We had a constant stream of dialogue and visits with the key industry players including substrate suppliers and end users. We were pleased to be able to partner with several key players in the industry related to testing new substrates and aligning our equipment to fit those substrates as necessary. We pride ourselves on remaining flexible for the ever-changing requirements our customers place on our equipment.
We were privy to more new product introductions in the household and industrial wipes markets in 2006." Mr. Elsner continued. "I believe this is a result of end user demands for easier to use substrates for more household and industrial applications. The baby wipes market continued to be steady, but substrate and wipe configuration changes were not as prevalent as in other markets."
Like many of its customers, 2006 continued to be a growth year in the nonwovens marketplace for Elsner and the company continues to be excited about the future.
"Our customers need to get the product to market faster and require Elsner equipment to allow them more versatility because of the ever-changing demands for the wipes to be converted and packaged differently. I see more of the same for 2007 and the years ahead and we believe we have positioned ourselves well to support the challenges."
Allessandro Celli A. Celli Nonwovens
Despite Europe continuing to grow and with potential for more growth especially in Central and Eastern Europe, this cannot match the growth rates of other geographical areas such as the Middle and Far East and South America whose economies are constantly gaining strength, according to Allessandro Celli, managing director of A. Celli Nonwovens. "The emphasis on innovation is therefore paramount in order to remain competitive as these emerging markets continue to develop," he said. "This is very much the essence of A. Celli's strategy--investment in research and development in order to constantly improve our existing machinery and diversification, anticipating and responding to the needs of our customers."
One of A. Celli's main highlights of the year was the launch of its new range of products in core markets, of winders, rewinders and slitting devices. "Our main focus has been on a new range of machines complete with state-of-the-art technology," he said. "The renovation of our entire production range is now ready with brand new, fully patented technology providing added advantages for our customers. We have also widened our product range, diversifying in roll handling equipment offering a fully integrated solution for the downstream process of sorting, packaging and labelling the finished roll. The necessity for producers to invest heavily in these new technologies is of fundamental importance for companies wanting to remain competitive in the future," Mr. Celli said.
A. Celli has a very positive outlook for nonwovens in 2007. "The role that nonwovens play in society will continue to grow in the future. As the use of nonwovens continues to increase in different commercial markets with ever more complex responses necessary to satisfy these demands, this, in turn, will create the need for more sophisticated manufacturing equipment that we strive to provide."
Looking ahead, A. Celli will focus on larger dimensions, greater capacity, faster and more innovative solutions in order for producers to meet their production targets--these are the fundamentals behind the machinery A. Celli Nonwovens develops and will be the factors driving its activities in 2007," Mr. Celli said." Further, we expect an upturn in the airlaid market driven by demand for absorbent products and innovative products such as composite wipes consisting of hydroentagled spunbond plus airlaid fabrics. The Wingformer, our patented airlaid web formation technology meets the needs of this market by providing competitive advantages."
Acquisition Activity Strong in 2006
The past 12 months marked a number of ownership changes for some of the world's major nonwovens producers. Perhaps the most talked-about ownership change is that of BBA's nonwovens business, Fiberweb. In November, the London-based company demergered its nonwovens business by granting it a separate listing on the London Stock Exchange. The decision to demerger the unit reportedly came after a sale exploration could not yield a high-enough price.
In late 2005, Pegas A/S, the Czech Republic's largest nonwovens maker, was purchased by a U.K.-based private equity fund Pamplona Capital Partners. Meanwhile, in November 2005 Georgia-Pacific, a North American airlaid manufacturer was purchased by Koch Industries, which has been operating G-P as a separate entity. And, in a major merger on the needlepunch side of the business, in January, Propex Fabrics, formerly BP Amoco, purchased one of its key competitors SI Industries, to form North America's largest needlepunch producer, making an estimated $200 million worth of time material per year.
Other ownership changes in 2006 include Colbond, which was bought by U.K.-based specialty materials group Low & Bonar, and geotextiles specialist Polyfelt, which was purchased by Royal TenCate.
Looking ahead into 2007. there is no evidence that this rash of acquisitions is over and certainly any nonwovens producer out there could be the next object of acquisition, either by a fellow nonwovens maker or by a private equity concern, which have been showing increasing interest in the market.
India: Ripe for Nonwovens Growth
Nonwovens executives around the world are keeping their eyes on India. With a huge population estimated at one billion, the Indian public has the disposable income needed to consume nonwovens-based products such as disposable diapers, feminine hygiene and impregnated wipes. And, already nonwovens interest groups in both Europe and North America are looking to advance the material's exposure in this huge country. EDANA, the European Disposable and Nonwovens Association, has partnered with BCH, an Indian entity aiming to boost India's technical textiles market, by offering nonwovens training courses, in India. And, INDA, North America's nonwovens association, will host a conference and exhibition and training courses in India in 2007.
Amidst this interest, the base of nonwovens production in India is small, only at about 50,000 tons but if this country mirrors growth already seen in China--jumping from 70,000 tons in 1999 to 500,000 tons in 2005, tremendous growth lies in store for India's nonwovens industry.
New Nonwovens Investment Company Name Technology Location Completion Date Advanced Fabrics (SAAFO spunmelt Saudi Arabia 2007 Ahlstrom spunlace Wisconsin 2007 Ahlstrom spunlace Brazil 2007 Ahlstrom needlepunch France 2007 Ahlstrom needlepunch China 2007 Amantea highloft/ Ohio TBD hygiene Avgol spunmelt Eastern Europe 2006 Avgol spunmelt North Carolina Oct. 2005 Bayteks spunbond Turkey 2006 Cerex/WNI spunbond PET Florida 2007 Companhia Providencia spunmelt Brazil 2007 Dounor spunmelt France 2007 DuPont Tyvek expansion Virginia TBD DuPont Tyvek expansion Luxembourg TBD DuPont fine fiber Korea 2006 Fibertex spunmelt Denmark 2007 Fiberweb spunmelt Sweden 2007 Fiberweb airlaid Italy 2007 Fiberweb airlaid China 2007 First Quality Nonwovens spunmelt Pennsylvania 2007 Freudenberg Politex PET spunbond Russia Oct. 2006 Ginni Filament spunlace India 2006 Hydrospun spunlace/ spunbond Germany August 2006 Johns Manville glass mat Tennessee 2007 Johns Manville PET spunbond Germany Oct. 2006 McAirlaids airlaid/ converting Virginia 2007 MHM (Mitsui) spunmelt India 2008 Mogul 2 meltblown Turkey 2007 Pantex/Chisso perforated nw China 2007 PCC needlepunch Maryland 2007 Pegas spunmelt Czech Rep 2007 PGI spunmelt Argentina 2007 PGI spunmelt North Carolina June 2006 PGI spunmelt Colombia June 2006 PGI spunmelt China June 2006 PGI chemical bond China June 2006 Sandier proprietary Germany TBD Southern Felt needlepunch North Carolina 2006 Specialized Nonwovens spunbond Jordan 2007 Toray Saehan spunmelt China 2007