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The importance of being there.

With the largest gathering of the nonwovens industry ever set to take place in Geneva, Switzerland in just a few weeks, all eyes are understandably turned to Europe and the state of the European nonwovens industry. The imminent unification of the European Community and the opening of Eastern Europe to the west is adding even more factors into the international nonwovens equation.

The question being asked in the U.S. is whether all of this activity across the ocean is going to impact on the domestic business. The answer is a solid, unequivocal, resounding yes ... and no.

Yes, there can be no arguing that the growth and opportunity of the European nonwovens business has caught the attention of the large nonwovens producers in the U.S. and has played a major role in investment and expansion moves throughout the past decade. DuPont, Chicopee, Dexter Nonwovens, Veratec and now Reemay have made it a corporate policy to increase the percentage of sales and profits contributed by overseas operations. James River Nonwovens, until its purchase last month by the Swiss Holzstoff Group, had been among the most successful U.S. producers in Europe with its HJR Fiberweb venture. The other big guys in the U.S., including Hoechst Celanese, Freudenberg Spunweb, Freudbnberg Nonwovens and Bonar Fabrics, are already the children of European parents and have had an international philosophy from the start. Europe, and to a lesser extent the Far East, has proved to be a prime avenue for increasing their nonwovens presence outside of their home country.

But no, the domestic nonwovens industry is not going to go into a radical period of change when th e calendar is turned to January 1, 1992. The simple reason is that the industry leaders-the companies that account for at least 80% of domestic nonwovens roll goods sales-are already there. The major machinery and material suppliers that are not based in Europe have either firmly established themselves overseas already or are buying up existing European companies; one need look no further than hot melt equipment supplier Nordson and its purchase late last year of German counterpart Meltex for an example of the moves suppliers have been making.

The simple fact is that U.S. nonwovens companies have already taken the steps that will allow them to compete during the radical changes in the European business. The Holzstoff purchase of James River and its Fiberweb spunbonded operation in Sweden is another example of the attraction of a company that counts the world as its home market.

The top nonwovens manufacturers recognized quite some time ago the importance of being there- when it comes to expanding into Europe. No doubt most of them will be there at INDEX'90 next month and in the European business for some time to come.
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Title Annotation:INDEX '90, nonwoven fabrics industry exhibition, Geneva, Switzerland
Author:Jacobsen, Michael A.
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:editorial
Date:Mar 1, 1990
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