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Geotextiles remain focus of Polyfelt.

Taking time to catch up with its acquisitions and investments of the past four years is the focus of the Polyfelt Group, Linz, Austria, number 17 in our Top Companies survey this year. The company, which has been involved in a major expansion program worldwide since 1989, is read-justing its resources and gearing up to take advantage of the investments made.

The company in 1990 acquired Bidim Geosynthetics, a geotextile producer in Bezons, France; it also made the decision that year to expand in Linz and in the U.S. at its Evergreen, AL facility. In 1992, it acquired a joint interest in Geofabrics Australasia, a geotextile manufacturer located in Albury, Australia, as well as completing its major expansion in the U.S. "With the development of these initiatives we have invested significant capital and it is now our philosophy to concentrate on these investments," said David Price, president-Polyfelt Americas. "We must now be sure that these investments pay dividends and become optimized to the maximum extent. We've invested aggressively over the past four years; it is now time to develop the profitability of these investments," he said.

Mr. Price pointed out that as these major capital expansions come onstream, the company is facing difficult market conditions around the world. "We have reorganized our resources, primarily repositioning people in their areas of greatest expertise," he said.

To that end, Mr. Price himself has moved to his current position as head of Polyfelt Americas. He is replaced as group manager by Michael Trampert, who will be responsible for worldwide operations but will concentrate mainly on Europe. This change was effective September 1.

Other news at the company centers around a production modernization investment in Bezons, France at the company's Bidim subsidiary. A new production unit will start up late this year, directing 95% of its capacity to geotextile applications.

"Fundamentally we are a geotextile company," said Mr. Price. "We derive 90-95% of our business from geotextiles and related geosynthetic markets; it is our main emphasis and will continue to be." The company's other 5% of sales targets industrial applications.

Polyfelt operates three production facilities and owns 50% of a fourth in Australia. Worldwide the company has a capacity of 42,000 metric tons. It has been concentrating on product and process technology innovations related to the geotextile and geosynthetic market.

At issue at Polyfelt is the overcapacity in the geotextile market, as more and more new capacity has come onstream in 1992 and 1993. This, in combination with the worldwide recession, depressed prices, limiting the Polyfelt Group's growth in sales to 4% in 1992.

At Polyfelt Americas, however, sales volume growth in 1992 exceeded 40%, as the new production line became operational. "We have experienced good volume growth," said Mr. Price; "however, new competitive capacity is also entering the market at a rapid pace. While we feel we are well positioned, we are anticipating a tough market for the next two to three years," said Mr. Price.

The U.S. market has fared better than other world markets in terms of growth, most of which Mr. Price described as flat or experiencing moderate growth. "The European economy and consequently the geotextile market is now where the U.S. was a year and a half ago," said Mr. Price. "Asia and Australia are stable and Eastern Europe, while a potential market, also has geotextile producers that are seeking business in the West, creating some oversupply for Europe as a whole."

ISO certification is on the calendar for Polyfelt and it is planned because it makes good business sense, said Mr. Price. "It creates a higher quality consciousness and is an overall benefit in improving our profitability," he said. "Are we being driven from the outside?," questioned Mr. Price. "Yes, to some extent, but ISO certification will also help us to provide better products and services to the market." The company is expecting to receive ISO 9001 at both European locations by the end of 1994 and America by mid-1995.

In conclusion, Mr. Price said, "The growth of the geotextile market has attracted new competitive entries without consideration for total market demand to supply and acceptable profitability levels. This aggressive behavior is, in the short term, unhealthy for the producers and the industry."

Polyfelt Ges.m.b.H. A-4021 Linz, St.-Peter-Strasse 25, Austria 43 732 5983-0; Fax: 43 732 5983-175

Polyfelt Americas 1000 Abernathy Road, Building 400, Suite 826, Atlanta, GA 30328 404-668-2119; Fax: 404-668-2116

Worldwide Nonwovens Sales: $114 million

U.S. Nonwovens Sales: $19 million

Key Personnel: D. Price, president-Polyfelt Americas: Dr. M. Trampert, group managing director; J. Jahn, managing director-European region; Dr. N. Niedermayr, group controller; H. Bocksrucker, vice president-group R&D and manufacturing, Linz; Dr. P. Woisetschlager, group projects manager; H. Schneider, president-Bidim Geosynthetics S.A.; G. Gohring, vice president-sales, Europe; R. Orr, vice president-sales, Americas; G. Werner, vice president-technical services, Linz; B. Christopher, vice president-technical services, Americas

Plants: Linz, Austria; Evergreen, AL; Bezons, France; Albury, Australia

Processes: Spunbonded, Needlepunched

Brand Names: Polyfelt, Bidim (geotextiles), Earthfelt, Top Tex (agriculture/horticulture), Absorbofelt (industrial)

Major Markets: Geotextiles and Geosynthetics
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Title Annotation:International Top 30
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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