Sales: $103 million
Description: Plant Locations
Gravatai, Brazil; North America
Hygiene, medical, industrial, filtration, sorbents
Nonwovens sales of $103 million are set to grow higher at Brazil’s Fitesa. In April, the Gravatai-based company, a subsidiary of Petropar S.A., announced plans to invest $120 million in North America with an eye on the hygiene, medical and industrial markets. The new venture will produce high quality, fine denier, lightweight fabrics on two production lines, which have already been ordered. The first line is scheduled to be complete in October 2009 when construction on the second line will begin.
The two U.S. lines will together make 40,000 tons of spunmelt nonwovens, the same amount that Fitesa currently makes in Brazil. “We want to match our North American capacity with our South American capacity,” said Fernanda Gastal, director of marketing. “That is the future of our company.”
According to executives, the expansion is part of the company's long-term growth strategy and reassures Fitesa’s commitment to its customers within the NAFTA region. The company has extensive experience in the U.S. where it operated a production site in North Carolina from 1991 to 1995 before selling it to Polymer Group.
Fitesa’s interest in North America did not end when it sold its North Carolina plant. “We already have a customer base in North America and this will ease capacity on our South American lines to better serve those countries.”
Currently about 55-60% of Fitesa’s sales are targeted domestically; export regions include North America, Latin America, Europe and Africa. “NAFTA is our most important market in the world and it is a very competitive market,” Ms. Gastal said. “We are going in there with the best technology, which is what you need to compete.”
Fitesa was incorporated in 1973 as a fiber and textile company—parent company Petropar has its roots in forestry—and expanded into nonwovens production in 1989 when it became the first Latin American producer of spunmelt nonwovens. In 1991 it invested in the Mooresville, NC site, which it sold a few years later to narrow its focus on Brazil production.
Until 2005, Fitesa continued to operate its two existing spunmelt lines in Brazil. It was that year the company announced it would add a new Reicofil 4 line with a capacity of 15,000 tons per year in Brazil. This line was designed to manufacture hygienic disposable items such as topsheets and leg cuffs for disposable diapers, medical fabrics and other specialty applications.
According to executives, the line is a multiple beam state-of-the-art Reicofil 4 with microdenier features that will allow the line to be upgraded at a later stage according to new market requirements.
A similar line is currently coming onstream at the company’s Gravatai site. Also at this site are two meltblown lines that target the filtration and sorbents markets."