2006 Top 40 Company Report

September 6, 2006

Investment Heavy In Global Nonwovens Industry

Despite the tough times plaguing the global nonwovens industry—increased raw material and manufacturing costs, pricing pressures, heavy competition—millions and millions of dollars continue to pour into the market. Proof of this can be seen in the following pages as nearly every one of the top companies mentioned in this issue has made significant investment in their businesses or have received private equity investment in their companies.

New production lines are rampant throughout the industry. And, while many of these center on spunmelt nonwovens targeted at the hygiene market, expansion lies beyond this technology as manufacturers look to diversify and add value to their businesses. As these new lines come onstream during the next 12-18 months, it will be interesting to see how the marketplace responds.

As for private equity investment, several nonwovens producers are under new ownership this year. Propex Fabrics—which was purchased from BP Amoco itself last year—has purchased competitor SI Industries, creating a huge needlepunch manufacturer. Meanwhile, Polyfelt was acquired by technical textiles powerhouse Royal Ten Cate, which will give the Austrian geotextiles specialist increased global exposure. On the private equity front, Georgia-Pacific has been purchased by Koch Industries, the same conglomerate that bought its fluff pulp business a few years back, and British Vita is now owned by Texas Pacific Group. And, Foss Manufacturing, which experienced its own bankruptcy drama this year, has been purchased by Alinian Capital Group and is already operating at a profit.

Perhaps the most watched ownership change has yet to occur as BBA Fiberweb, the world’s fourth largest nonwovens producer, prepares to demerge itself from parent company BBA Group and get its own listing on the London Stock Exchange. BBA had reportedly looked to sell its nonwovens unit but determined a demerger would create more value for its stockholders.

The Report By The Numbers

This year our top companies report profiles 40 companies located throughout the world. Newcomers include Italian producers Albis and Union Industries, debuting at number 36 and 35, respectively. Both of these companies target mainly hygiene applications and a history of regular investments in new technologies proves their success in this segment.

Freudenberg continues its uninterrupted run as the world’s largest producer of nonwovens, reporting $1.4 billion in sales in 2005 but this position continues to be threatened by sales gains among other large nonwovens producers such as DuPont and Kimberly-Clark, whose sales rose to $1.35 and $1.2 billion, respectively. Also, BBA Fiberweb and Polymer Group, Inc. continue to grow their sales.

Each company is ranked on the basis of their 2005 sales, which were translated from local currencies into U.S. dollars using the average exchange rate for 2005, as provided by www.oanda.com. The continued strength of the Euro continued to give European-based companies an edge over firms located in other regions, most notably the U.S. Therefore, performance should not be judged solely on sales figures—although ranking companies by sales was necessary due to the nature of this report—but also on key activities reported in each profile.

The Top Companies

(click on company name to read this year's profile)

  $1.4 billion
2. DuPont $1.35 billion
3. Kimberly-Clark $1.2 billion
4. BBA Fiberweb Updated $1.1 billion (£619m)
5. PGI Updated $948 million
6. Ahlstrom Updated $928 million
7. JM $530 million
8. Buckeye $241 million
9. Companhia Providencia $220 million
10. Owens-Corning $202 million
11. Propex  Fabrics $200 million
11. Japan Vilene $200 million (¥22 billion)
13. Fibertex $190 million
14. Hollingsworth & Vose Updated $187 million
15. Colbond $184 million
16. Asahi Kasei $176 million (¥19.4 billion)
17. British Vita $170 million
18. Avgol $160 million
19. Western Nonwovens $150 million
19. Pegas A/S $150 million
21. Georgia-Pacific $145 million
21. Sandler $145 million (€113 million)
21. Toyobo $145 million (¥16 billion)
24. Mitsui Chemical $132 million (¥14.6 billion)
25. Lydall Inc. $113 million
26. Concert Industries $110 million
27. Foss Manufacturing $100 million
27. Orlandi $100 million
29. Toray Saehan $99 million
30. Andrew Industries New $96 million
31. Polyfelt $91 million (€73 million)
32. Jacob Holm Updated $87 million
33. Textilgruppe Hof $87 million
34 Suominen $85 million
35. Unitika $82 million (¥9 billion)
36. Union Industries $81 million (€65 million)
37. Albis $79 million (€63 million)
38. Precision Custom Coatings $75 million
39. Kuraray $72 million (¥9 billion)
40. KNH Enterprises $71 million
41. Lantor $55 million

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