Knud Waede Hansen, managing director; Mikael Staal Axelsen, general manager, Personal Care Division; Jorgen Bech Madsen, general manager, Technical Division; Etienne Ficht, business development Director, Kenneth Mynster Dolmer, purchasing director, Ole Houmann, Finance Director
Two in Aalborg; one in Malaysia, two in the Czech Republic
DS/EN ISO 9001 Quality management 1991:2000; DS/ISO 14001 Environmental management 2001; DS 2403 Energy management
Drylaid, carded, needlepunched, thermalbonded, spunbond/ meltblown
Fibertex, Flexback, Formtex, Compoflex, Multigeo, Superflor, Weedseal, Fiberforce, Fibergreen, Fibertex patio, Fibertex universal, Fiberacoustic, Two-in-One, Comfortback, Matchback, Woodback, Q-match, Making the perfect match
Industrial textiles-primary and secondary carpet backings, automotive, furniture and bedding, filtration; technical textiles-building and construction, composites, do-it-yourself, horticulture; hygiene; protective clothing; packaging
Sales increased for Danish nonwovens producer Fibertex thanks to the increased ramp up of its second Malaysian spunmelt line as well as continued integration of its acquired Czech Republic business. The company’s sales reached $190 million in 2005 compared to $160 million in 2004. Despite this remarkable growth, Fibertex, like many nonwovens producers, has been challenged by the increased price of polypropylene, the core raw material of its spunmelt operation. “We have tried to optimize our operations but our price increases were so dramatic, we had to raise prices,” said managing director Knud Waede Hansen. “This is always a challenge for nonwovens producers. We are a smaller player stuck between two larger players—the raw material producers we are buying from and the hygiene companies we are selling to.”
Fibertex’s growth in the hygiene segment has been impressive since the company entered this realm in 1998 Last year alone, sales in the personal care division rose 23% to DKK669 million and this growth is expected to continue.
Currently, Fibertex runs two spunmelt lines at its headquarters in Aalborg, Denmark as well as two lines in its Malaysian facility. And, a third line—a Reicofil 4—is currently under construction in Aalborg. Set to come onstream this fall, this line, like its four sister lines, will mainly produce lightweight products for the hygiene market. “There is still demand for spunmelt nonwovens in Europe,” Mr. Hansen explained. “You have to have the latest technology and to be competitive we had to add another line.”
Meanwhile, Fibertex’s technical division sales increased 17% to DKK491 million, thanks to the establishment of a state-of-the-art facility in the Czech Republic, which Fibertex acquired from Vigona in 2004 and where it has since added a large-scale NSC needleloom measuring six meters in width. This operation, which also produces thermal bonded nonwovens, is allowing Fibertex to target important industrial markets, most notably the automotives segment, which has seen significant activity in Central Europe. “Automotives was traditionally the biggest market for Vigona because many of the tier one and two automotive suppliers are located in that region,” Mr. Hansen explained. “Because they are located there, it is better to serve them from that area.”
According to Mr. Hansen, investment in this area will continue. Upon purchasing the site, Fibertex officials indicated investment in the region could reach as high as DKK200 million.
Beyond automotives, Fibertex’s technical business includes construction and geotextiles, furniture, carpeting and filtration. In fall 2005, Fibertex developed a new geotextile product program with improved properties and all of the necessary market and quality certifications. Other new product initiatives include a line of lightweight nonwovens for automotives, new products for the filtration market and laminated and multilayer products for various industrial and technical markets.
“Technical nonwovens are very different from hygiene,” Mr. Hansen said. “But, both sides are doing very well. It is good to have two legs to stand on.”
After several years of aggressive investment—two lines and a new facility in Malaysia, the acquisition of and improvements to a Czech Republic site and most recently a new line in Denmark—Fibertex is now at a crossroads as to where to focus next. “We are considering what our next move should be,” Mr. Hansen said. “It could be a new line but there are other options.”
For instance, Fibertex has no operation in America or in China, large markets for all of its businesses. “We want to be global but we cannot enter a market just for the sake of entering it,” he continued. “There has to be a plan. For instance, China should not be ignored but the question is how do you attack it?”