Location: Manchester, U.K.
Sales: $162 million
Description: Key Personnel
John Oliver, Vita Group CEO; Wim Warnier, Vita Nonwovens CEO
Belgium, France, Sweden, U.S.
ISO 9001:2000; ISO / TS 16949
Drylaid, chemical bonded, drylaid thermally bonded, needlefelt, through air bonded, impregnation
Sales decreased from $170 million to $162 million for Vita Nonwovens due to the closure of the company’s U.K. subsidiaries. However, without these closures, the company reported growth of 5.6% of continuing operations due largely to healthcare, automotive, filtration and industrial application gains and despite a slowdown in the Western European furniture and bedding markets.
With plants remaining in Belgium, France, Sweden and the U.S., Vita Nonwovens targets a number of markets with its proprietary technology. Its largest nonwovens division, Libeltex, continues to grow, driven by healthcare and industrial specialties market. The strong growth prospects of this division led the company’s executive board to abandon plans to sell Libeltex, saying it could add greater value to the company as a division rather than being sold as a separate entity. As part of this retention strategy, a program of investing in the people and production capability of the company is being formulated to ensure the company maintains its position at the forefront of European nonwovens technology, according to executives. Libeltex operates five plants, one in Belgium, two in France and one in Sweden.
Meanwhile, the group’s U.S. subsidiary, Vita Nonwovens, has continued a turnaround phase in 2006, allowing it to end the temporary closure of its Fort Wayne, IN site. The site was opened during an aggressive North American investment period for the company earlier this decade. This included the acquisition of Prelude Nonwovens, High Point, NC, and the addition of four new production lines there as well as the creation of greenfield facilities in San Antonio, TX and Fort Wayne. Both of the greenfield sites contain proprietary drylaid technology and have allowed Vita Nonwovens to be closer to their North American companies.
In recent years, the Vita Group has been transformed from a public to a private company. Fort Worth, TX-based Texas Pacific Group purchased the group (then British Vita) in June 2005, and it was subsequently delisted from the London Stock Exchange. According to executives, this change in ownership brought with it a vision that included the goal of becoming a more efficient and preferred supplier in the field of specialty nonwovens.
Moving forward, Vita Nonwovens 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. “We are exploiting the available technology with breakthrough products for acoustical and thermal insulation,” said CEO Wim Warnier. “And we are studying the relocation to geographical markets, where we believe that demand for highloft nonwovens is likely to grow.”