The Race To The Top

By Karen Bitz McIntyre, Editor | September 9, 2010

Every September, as I finish up our annual top companies report, I urge readers not to take too much stock in the rankings or in the actual sales figures and instead to read the profiles to determine how the nonwovens producers are producing.

This year, probably more than ever, the sales figures and rankings, do not paint a clear picture of activity in the industry.

This year, many of the makers of petroleum-based nonwovens like those selling into hygiene and wipes applications reported significantly lower sales in 2009 than in 2008. PGI, for example, a company heavily invested in spunmelt for hygiene applications reported its sales at $882 million in 2009 after surpassing the $1 billion mark in 2008. If only sales are considered, one would say that PGI had a bad year and was hit hard by the economy. The truth, however, is that PGI had a great year as hygiene proved to be largely recession-proof and the market for spunmelt nonwovens continues to be tight. In fact, PGI continues to invest in its business with a new plant being built in Waynesboro, VA and a continued focus on being a leader in China.

Within spunlace, Jacob Holm appears to have leveled off its growth streak charted during the past couple of years with sales dipping to $156 million; however volumes have grown 12.5% on lower basis weights and dropping raw material costs. At the same time, the company continues to develop new areas for spunlace and will likely announce a new North American line— which would significantly add to growth—in the next couple of years.

In addition to lower raw material prices, currency exchange rates are influencing this year’s ranking. As the euro has weakened, euro-based companies like Sandler and Pegas have seen their rankings drop as they are converted to U.S. dollars. Meanwhile, after years of declines, the report’s six Japanese companies have improved their positions thanks to a strong yen. This is why we repeatedly emphasize that the strength of this report lies not in the sales figures and rankings but in the profiles themselves. NONWOVENS INDUSTRY literally spends months compiling this information from industry executives, annual reports and other sources to give our readers a clear picture of what is going on in the industry.

Something going on in the industry that has been on everyone’s minds for the past couple of years is China and this year we present—as a complement to the report—a look at the leading nonwovens producers in China. Comprised of western companies doing business in China and local producers making inroads in this market, we hope that this special report is a jumping off point to providing more information about China, which is constantly increasing its importance to our industry.

Karen McIntyre

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