Location: Manchester, U.K.
Sales: $170 million
Description: Key Personnel
David Cottrell, non-executive chairman; D.A. Campbell, CEO; J.J. Van Beijeren, director responsible for nonwovens
Belgium, France, Sweden, U.K., U.S.
Drylaid, chemical bonded, drylaid thermally bonded, needlefelt, impregnation
After a disappointing 2003, British Vita’s nonwovens division recovered progressively in 2004 with volumes increasing 5%. Still, currency fluctuations and tighter margins caused sales to decrease 1% to £92.9 million.
The company’s nonwovens division, which includes Vita Nonwovens in the U.S., Libeltex in France and Belgium and British Vita in the U.K., has been focused on producing higher value-added products in all of its businesses in an effort to reduce dependency on fiberfill markets. The fiberfill markets for bedding and furniture have become more difficult and other core markets have been relocating to lower wage markets. Still, efforts made to improve profitability in European fiberfill operations, which were modernized during the past two years, were successful, according to executives.
The hygiene market has continued to offer opportunities for value-added products such as medical cleaning wipes. These products deliver good volume growth in the segment. But, export into certain economies has been difficult due to the strength of the euro over the dollar.
Other value-added areas targeted for growth include filtration and automotive applications.
Losses in British Vita’s U.S. business, which includes facilities in North Carolina, Texas and Indiana, were reduced significantly in 2004 thanks to a recovery plan announced early in the year. The plan called for a review of all sites and poor quality business was replaced by better margin products. Sales grew by 17% in local currency terms and substantial unused capacity will allow future growth in 2005 and beyond, according to reports Executives expect the division to return to profitability this year.
Among the efforts taking place in North America are new product initiatives, namely in the areas of fire retardant products, which follow California state legislation requiring antiflammmable mattress tops. This legislation is expected to be adopted nationwide in the short term, which would mean great opportunities for antiflammable nonwovens.
Meanwhile, operating conditions remained difficult in the U.K. despite delivery of further production efficiencies and cost rationalization. By contrast, the medical products business continues to be successful.