Companies To Watch

September 11, 2006

a look at some other important nonwovens producers

Beyond the top 40 leading producers of nonwovens in the world, the industry contains a number of innovation- and growth-minded companies who are posed to become market leaders in their own right.

As the following companies continue to invest in new equipment and technologies, it would not be surprising to see them in future top companies report, but for now Nonwovens Industry has created a special companion piece to our annual report. Companies to Watch is a look at the nonwovens leaders of tomorrow.

Saint-Elzeac, Quebec, Canada
$52 million

Texel, saint-elzeac, quebec, Canada, reported sales growth of 19.4% in 2005 to $52 million. The increase was largely attributed to gains in the wipes, filtration and geotextiles markets as well as an increased focus on niche markets, said Jeff Girard, business unit manager. These efforts have helped Texel deal with several negative issues facing the nonwovens industry.

“Increases in raw material and in transportation costs hit us hard last year,” Mr. Girard said. “A lot of efforts were put in developing better and more reliable sources of raw material. Production was asked to be more efficient and to reduce the waste and in some cases in partnership with customers, products were redesigned to keep the cost lower.”

Texel has been in business for 38 years and operates six needlepunched lines in two plants in Quebec. The company is divided into six platforms—wipes, absorbents, industrial, geotextiles, agrotextiles and sportswear—and serves the medical, civil engineering, horticulture, farming, personal care, home care and footwear markets. In recent years, Texel has become more market-oriented instead of doing development one on one with customers, Mr. Girard said. Geographical markets include Canada, the U.S., Europe and China.

According to company documents, wipes growth continued to grow on new product development. For the year ended January 2006, the company’s wipes sales grew nearly 30%. The company will continue to penetrate these personal care wipes markets with continued innovation in needlepunch technology. Meanwhile, the filtration business is benefiting from its Tribo product line, although development of this innovative concept was more time-consuming than anticipated. Other successes in filtration include the Tribo-R liquid biofiltration media and the Hydro Switch capillary water mat. Texel has also been recognized as a root control specialist for green roofs, a concept under development in the U.S.

Texel’s industrial platform grew nicely in the last quarter of the fiscal year following the development of new products in niche markets. These efforts, combined with an increase in sales force, will make industrial a growth platform in the near term.

Meanwhile, in footwear, the migration of winter boot and thermal insulation component production to Asia intensified over the year, leading certain longtime Quebec customers to move manufacturing to Asia. The company will carefully monitor this production trend, and if all goes as planned, it will follow suit. At the same time, the company will redouble its efforts to stimulate innovation in this sector. During the next year, it will emphasize the development of attractive products designed for northern climates.

In geotextiles, the company turned in an outstanding performance for the year in this market. Record-time implementation of more efficient equipment enabled the sales force to increase marketshare in Canada and land a large international contract in Qatar. This win has made Texel a respected and recognized international geotextile player. Additionally, joint venture company Solmax-Texel Geosynthetics Inc. posted a banner year with sales up more than 35% compared the previous year, thanks to its full line of products and services designed to meet the special needs of the civil engineering and landfill markets.

Neuville En Ferrain, France
$53 million (€43 million)

A 20-year veteran in the nonwovens industry, Dounor, Neuville En Ferrain, France, got its start with carded technologies and later expanded into spunbond and then spunmelt production as the hygiene market’s demands shifted. Now with approximately 20,000 tons of spunbond/spunmelt capacity compared to its 4000 ton carded output, Dounor is poised to expand its business further with the addition of a a new line—its fourth multibeam spunmelt line—in its sole facility located in Northern France. The Reicofil 4 line, set to come onstream in June 2007, will add 12,000 tons of lightweight spunmelt nonwovens to Dounor’s current capacity. Its output will target hygiene and medical applications.

Currently about 80% of Dounor’s business revolves around the hygiene business. This business is largely served through its three existing Reicofil 3 spunmelt lines as well as its carded lines, whose higher weight output is sold in feminine hygiene and wiping products. Dounor’s single beam Reicofil 1 spunbond line, erected in 1992, typically targets industrial applications such as bedding, furniture, filtration, insulation, agricultural products and packaging

“The carded lines are based on older,  lower productivity technology for the hygiene market,” said sales manager Hugues Cavrois. “Currently, we are supplying feminine hygiene with this thanks to the very good properties it can bring to this application, and we have some business in wipes but it is difficult with the weight of the material—our lowest weight is 18 gpsm—to compete with spunmelt for the baby diaper market.”

That said, Dounor is currently examining new markets and new products for its carded nonwovens but if these markets do not gel within the next one to two years, the company will likely be forced  to reconsider its strategy on this operation. Currently, about 70-75% of Dounor’s carded capacity is being utilized.

Currently about 85% of its business is conducted in Europe with the remainder split between North Africa, the Middle East and South America. Dounor has no plans to expand its manufacturing base beyond its one facility in Northern France at this time. “We are working very hard to expand our base in France and this is our main focus for the time being but do not expect us to expand anywhere else in the world,” Mr. Cavrois said. “It is good for us to have some exotic customers outside of Europe but we feel we can still serve them with a good service from a base in France.

Gaziantep, Turkey
$22 million

Recent news from mogul Nonwovens, a Turkish roll goods producer, include plans for a new facility  located three kilometers away from its existing plant in Gaziantep, Turkey. The facility will house a number of new machines including two new meltblown lines, a welding machine, a coater and a laminator, which will enhance Mogul’s existing business and allow its entry into new markets.

“By adding value to existing products, we want to develop new products and markets and try to keep a competitive edge in the industry. We plan to strengthen our position in the market by being a one-stop shop for various nonwovens needs,” explained Serkan Gogus, commercial director.

Beyond the planned investment, Mogul produces polypropylene spunbond, polyester spunbond and  polypropylene meltblown as well as composite materials  for a number of applications. The company was founded in 1995.

Settala, Italy
$40 million

With plants in gainesville, GA and Settala and Borgo Ticino, Italy, Atex (Advanced Technological Extrusions) produces spunbond and meltblown nonwovens for a number of markets. In the wipes market, Atex is continuously innovating to offer competitive and modern solutions. Atex has reduced the weight of its nonwoven wipes by nearly 30% to reduce waste and increase cost.

Atex has been involved in the nonwovens business since 1993. Beyond wipes, Atex also serves the hygiene as well as a number of other markets in the U.S., Europe and Mexico.

Advanced Fabrics
Al-Ahsa, Saudi Arabia

Since beginning operation iN 2002, Advanced Fabrics (SAAF) has made positive inroads in the medical and hygiene markets with its spunmelt nonwovens. The company is already adding a second Reifenhauser line to its Al-Ahsa, Saudi  Arabia operation, where a five-beam Reifenhauser spunmelt line, capable of 14,000 tons of nonwovens, is currently located. Executives said the new line will largely serve SAAF’s hygiene customers while medical fabrics will continue to be made on the first line.

In other news, SAAF has taken steps to broaden its global reach through a partnership with Ahlstrom, the world’s sixth largest nonwovens producer. Through the partnership Ahlstrom will sell SAAF’s Medalon medical fabric in certain markets. Executives said Ahlstrom’s strong global sales network will help broaden awareness of Medalon.

Strategic markets for the company include medical and hygiene where it focuses on adding value to create win–win partnerships with customers who its regards as long term partners, according to managing director Ian Disley. This approach led to the development of the Medalon brand of fabrics for operating theatres and continual development with parties in hygiene to produce lighter weight fabrics that perform to the same specifications as traditional heavier products.

The desire to offer the best quality combined with fast response times and flexibility of product offer led to SAAF being the first company, in 2005, to offer alcohol repellent/antistatic fabrics, branded as Medalon, treated “off-line” in house. It also led to  the alliance with Ahlstrom to offer Medalon  products to markets where SAAF was under represented.

The new success of SAAF’s strategy and the customer loyalties rapidly built up, led to the 2005 decision to install a second Reifenhauser line, this time a 4.2m Recofil IV, which comes on stream in September 2006. Aimed, initially, at the Hygiene market this will also free up more capacity on Line I for the expanding medical growth and will increase SAAF’s annual capacity to over 25,000 metric tons per year.

With both lines in Saudi Arabia, offering relatively quick shipment times to all major customers and an office and warehouse in China to support China and southeast Asian customers, SAAF is poised to continue its international growth. Thoughts are now turning to the location of Line III which is likely to be outside of Saudi Arabia as SAAF becomes a truly worldwide player, Mr. Disley continued.

Rovereto, Italy
€33 million

Since its establishment in 1989, Texbond’s growth has been significant. Most recently, the Italian-based company has been charting 16% growth, allowing its sales to reach €33 million last year. The company  currently operates for Reicofil lines from which it serves markets throughout continental Europe.

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