Location: Manchester, U.K.
Sales: $170 million
Description: Key Personnel
Howard Harris, group CEO
Belgium, France, Sweden, U.K., U.S.
Drylaid, chemical bonded, drylaid thermally bonded, needlefelt, impregnation
A major change this year for British Vita is its new ownership by Fort Worth, TX-based Texas Pacific Group (TPG). The purchase made British Vita a privately owned company that was subsequently de-listed from the London Stock Exchange in June 2005. A private equity firm that invests in franchises across a range of industries, TPG has acquired the controlling interest in British Vita. The arrangement makes TPG a shareholder of the company but not its operator. At the helm of the newly acquired company is Howard Harris, group CEO.
“The change in ownership brought a new strategy for the company,” explained Alison Vesey, corporate PR manager. “The vision is to become the most efficient producer and preferred supplier in our chosen markets, one of which is specialty nonwoven products. We will achieve and sustain this through investing and sustaining best practice in SHE (safety, health & environment), efficiency measures and listening to our customers to develop growth opportunities, leveraging scale and scope of each division and of the group.”
Looking back over 2005, British Vita described a stable business environment with growth achieved in the area of technical applications. In the furniture and bedding sector, the market for fiberfill has continued its evolution with some relocation of customers to lower wage regions and a competitive environment. This has led to some restructuring in the U.K., including the closure at the end of 2005 of its Vitaluxan site.
As for the company’s Libeltex business—which has operations in France and Belgium—the executive board of British Vita decided in March to retain Libeltex as part of the group because it added greater value than being sold as a separate entity. As part of this retention strategy, a program of investing in the people and production capabilities of the company is being formulated to ensure Libeltex maintains its position at the forefront of European nonwovens technology. “The business will continue to attain the standards of product and service quality that our customers have grown to expect, while continuing to focus on operating in a safe and healthy environment,” commented Ms. Vesey.
On the North American front, U.S.-based Vita Nonwovens has undertaken a market re-focus combined with an efficiency improvement exercise. This is expected to give the company a sound footing for growth in the future. The company said it is pleased with progress to date.
In the U.K., British Vita has reduced capacity while European production levels are gradually increasing with improvements in manufacturing operations.
Moving forward, British Vita sees hygiene, automotive, filtration and other technical industrial applications as the clear focus for growth. The company is also carefully considering the development of new products and services to meet the future needs of its customers, which may include looking at new market sectors and new geographies. “Since the acquisition of British Vita, there has been a review of our nonwovens business. This has included an extensive strategy study to identify potential growth areas and the best way for us to compete in these,” said Ms. Vesey."