The International Top 40

August 17, 2005

annual survey profiles the top nonwoven roll goods producers worldwide

Top Companies Welcome A New Century
Manufacturers transition smoothly into new millennium but raw material costs are a major concern and translation into Euro impacts EU member rankings

For more information on these companies, please refer to the print version of the September 2000issue of Nonwovens Industry.

1999 was characterized by many manufacturers as a tough year despite the fact that the worldwide economy fared well overall. “Painful” and “difficult” are not exactly the words one expects to hear when inquiring about the year in nonwovens, particularly in light of recently sunny economic skies in Asia, Europe and the U.S. The number one trend this year—reported by the overwhelming majority of Top Companies—was an unprecedented and worrisome escalation of raw material costs. This issue was on the mind of just about every manufacturer we interviewed, regardless of company size, technology and geographic positioning. Characterized by one European producer in this year’s survey as the steepest and longest price hike in the history of nonwovens (five consecutive quarters and running), the current situation is one many manufacturers thought they’d never see, with polypropylene prices—up 60-70% from a year ago—even higher than polyester. Like many other industries, nonwovens has been hard hit by gas prices that are today about 25% higher than they’ve been in a decade.

Exacerbating the situation is the fact that—along with heightened raw material costs—manufacturers are feeling the squeeze for lower prices and are facing eroding margins as well as increasing competition. Additional capacity is also complicating matters, with as many as nine new spunmelt lines slated to come onstream in Europe by the end of 2001. As the numbers show, for many manufacturers the constant push for lower prices has translated into higher volumes but lower or equal sales.

Who’s Who Among The Leading Players
This year’s Top 40 includes 17 European companies, 14 North American companies, six Japanese companies, one Brazilian company, one Taiwanese company and one Middle Eastern company. Making a debut this year are two Italian companies, IMP Group—tied at number 13—and Orlandi SpA, which holds 38th place.

According to consultant John R. Starr, Osterville, MA, in 1999 the roll goods portion of the industry totaled approximately $9.76 billion. The 41 manufacturers listed by Nonwovens Industry this year account for approximately 93% of the overall roll goods figure for 1999. Disposable applications accounted for 53% of the sales value in 1999 while durables represented 47%. The developed markets of the U.S. and Canada, Western Europe and Japan accounted for 73% of nonwovens sales last year. Sales in these markets are expected to increase by 7.3% per year during the next five years, according to Mr. Starr.

In the case of this year’s largest acquisition—the pending purchase of Dexter by Ahlstrom—we have followed our tradition of including the purchaser and the acquired companies’ 1999 sales in the sales figure of the purchasing company, in spite of the fact that the acquisition will not be completed until later in 2000. Another major shake-up at the top this year is the planned acquisition of Fort James—our 19th largest manufacturer—by Georgia Pacific.

As usual, some of the companies—notably DuPont, Kimberly-Clark and Foss Manufacturing—do not provide sales figures and the numbers are gleaned from industry sources and Nonwovens Industry estimates. When possible, sales were provided in the currency of the country in which the company is headquartered and sales figures were calculated at the 1999 average exchange rate as provided by the Federal Reserve. This year for the first time, currencies of many European Union members were translated into Euro and then into dollars, which caused some companies to drop several spots in the rankings. We expect the situation to work itself out next year as an increasing number of EU companies report their sales in the uniform Euro currency rather than in that of their individual country.

Special thanks to Kin Ohmura, president of Osaka Chemical Marketing Center, for providing information on the Japanese Top Companies.


Company (ranking last year)
Worldwide Nonwovens Sales
U.S. Nonwovens Sales
Freudenberg (1) $1.25 billion
(1.33 billion Euro)
$244 million
(260 million Euro)
(N. and S. American)
DuPont (2)
$1.18 billion
$670 million
BBA (3)
$844 million
$506 million
(N. and S. American)
PGI (4)
$801 million
$417 million
Kimberly-Clark (5)
$694 million
$630 million
(N. American)
Johns Manville (6)
$500 million
$290 million
Ahlstrom/Dexter (35/7)*
$296 million
$144 million
(N. American)
Japan Vilene (9)
$219 million
Buckeye Technologies (10)
$217 million
Colbond bv (8)
$203 million
$56 million
BP Fabrics & Fibers (11)
$173 million
$121 million
Asahi Chemical (13)
$158 million
IMP Group
$156 million
Western Nonwovens (14)
$156 million
Foss Manufacturing (12)
$152 million
$130 million
Hollingsworth & Vose (23)
$150 million
Synthetic Industries (15)
$139 million
$122 million
Toyobo (19)
$134 million
Fort James (17)
$130 million
$90 million
Lydall, Inc. (16)
$126 million
$115 million
Lantor/IPT Group (17)
$121 million
$35 million
C.H. Sandler (21)
$118 million
Libeltex (21)
$100 million
J.W. Suominen Oy (20)
$90 million
Mitsui Chemicals (26)
$88 million
Unitika (27)
$83 million
Kuraray (27)
$76 million
Polyfelt (24)
$72 million
Textilgruppe Hof (25)
$62 million
$5.3 million
Companhia Providência (30)
$60 million
Fibertex (37)
$59 million
Pantex (32)
$59 million
Tex Tech (34)
$57 million
$40 million
Tenotex (29)
$54 million
Stearns (32)
$53 million (95% North American)
Kang Na (35)
$52 million
Avgol (37)
$48 million
Milyon (Honorable Mention)
$40 million
$40 million
Lohmann (40)
$39 million
Honorable Mention—BFF Nonwovens (39)
$35 million

*includes $258 million in 1999 sales for Dexter Nonwovens

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