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Fibertex


Location: Aalborg Ost, Denmark

Sales: $78 million

Description: Key Personnel
Knud Waede Hansen, managing director; Knud Erik Justesen, deputy managing director; Jesper Frank Carstens, general manager, needlepunch division; Mikael Staal Axelsen, general manager, spunbond divisions; Etienne Ficht, business development manager

Plants
Two plants in Aalborg, Denmark; one in Malaysia (under construction)

ISO Status
ISO 9001 certified, 1991; DES ISO 14001 environmental certification, 2001

Processes
Drylaid, needlepunched, spunbond/melt blown

Brand Names
Fibertex, Matchback, Comfortback, Flexback, Two-in-One, Formtex, Superflor, Alupor

Major Markets
Industrial textiles—primary and secondary carpet backings, automotive, furniture and bedding; technical textiles—building and construction, horticulture; hygiene; protective clothing; packaging

With a new ownership structure and concrete plans for expansion into Asia, Fibertex A/S, Aalborg, Denmark, is certainly poised for a bright future. The company was purchased by Aktieselskabet Schouw & Co. from its original owner, East Asiatic Company, which established Fibertex as a wholly-owned subsidiary in 1968. The change in ownership has not substantially affected the day-to-day operations of Fibertex, and the company management has remained the same, according to executives.
 
Schouw & Co. is a diversified group including various independent companies covering markets that range from lighting, wind powered energy production to packaging and industrial bakeries. The new ownership structure is expected to benefit Fibertex and its customers by providing long-term stability and additional investment capabilities.
 
“The new investor is an industrial conglomerate that invests in companies with leading positions in their fields,” CEO Knud Waede Hansen explained. “Not only does the new structure help our business today, it gives us support for long-term de­velopment.”

At the forefront of Fibertex’s long-term development strategy is the company’s plan, announced in April, to begin operating a facility in Malaysia—a move that not only represents the company’s first entry into Asia but also its first manufacturing capabilities outside of Denmark.  Expected to be finished in the middle of 2003, the new facility will contain a state-of-the-art, multi-beam spunmelt line, which will target mainly hygiene applications but also produce goods for protective apparel and industrial clothing applications in the region. It is expected to add about $25 million per year to Fibertex’s overall sales.
 
“Malaysia is well suited for this investment,” Mr. Hansen said. “It is an area that is good for non-labor intensive operations and offers a positive business atmosphere.”
 
The new facility is not only expected to boost Fibertex’s sales in the Asia-Pacific market, which now represent approximately 10% of total sales, but will also boost the size of its hygiene business to exceed the needlepunch side of the company. This is a significant accomplishment considering Fibertex only entered the hygiene business in 1997 when it commissioned its first spunbond line. Despite the highly competitive nature of the hygiene market, Fibertex has been able to thrive in the area during the past five years.  In 2001, the company’s spunbond sales increased from $20 million to $37.4 million, while the needlepunch side of the business decreased slightly from $41.6 million to $41.4 million. The sharp increase on the spunbond side of the business was the result of the addition of a second line at the end of 2000 as well as increased demand for Fibertex’s products by leading hygiene companies around the world, according to Mr. Hansen.
 
“A lot of people complain about the hygiene market, but it’s just that it is not a protected area anymore,” Mr. Hansen explained. “We are very happy that we made the strategic decision to move into the hygiene market. I think everybody will agree that competition has increased during the past several years, but you can still operate a good business if you have good organization and a good product mix across all of your markets.”
 
On the hygiene side of the business, Fibertex currently produces approximately 25,000 tons of spunbond material per year, mainly for barrier applications. The company produces this material on two lines—the first one commissioned in 1997 and the second brought onstream in 2000—at its Aalborg facility.

Moving away from hygiene, Fibertex’s needlepunch business, the area where it began, continues to fare well, mainly targeting the furniture and bedding, carpeting, automotive and technical markets. To further enhance this business, the company earlier this year reconfigured its five needlepunch lines, all located in Aalborg, to optimize them and increase their capacity. Mr. Hansen said that reconfiguring machinery increases productivity and subsequently generates a better return on the investment. Additionally, the company has been investing in research and development in this area to further diversify its offerings, a measure that Mr. Hansen describes as necessary in today’s competitive business climate.
 
Turning back to the hygiene side of the business, the company has been busy looking into the use of polypropylene metallocene in spunbond applications. Polypropylene metallocene, while more expensive than other grades of polypropylene, is ideal for fine fiber production to create more premium, softer hygiene products. Interest is particularly being paid to this technology for soft, elasticized products such as diaper leg cuffs and waist bands.
 
On the raw material side of the business, one way that Fibertex has been able to combat fluctuating  costs has been producing its own polypropylene fiber for its needlepunch business since 1974. This move has further helped Fibertex boost its efficiencies. Another successful project was achieving DS ISO 14001 certification for environmental management in December 2001. The certification was reportedly the result of a year of intensive work by all the departments of Fibertex and is in sync with the company’s policy to develop, manufacture and supply high quality products and to act as a trustworthy and reliable supplier.
 
In the future, the company is expecting growth to come in the adult incontinence segments in developed areas such as North America and Europe and from increased baby diaper penetration in less developed regions such as Asia. “Our growth strategy is to increase capacity and production in markets where there is growth potential, while focusing on sophisticated product development in all of our areas,” Mr. Hansen said. “It’s a general concept but it’s true and valid.”

Location: Aalborg Ost, Denmark

Sales: $89 million

Description: Key Personnel
Knud Waede Hansen, managing director; Knud Erik Justesen, deputy managing director; Jesper Bech Masen, general manager, needlepunch division; Mikael Staal Axelsen, general manager, personal care division; Etienne Ficht, business development manager

Plants
Two in Aalborg; one in Malaysia

ISO Status
ISO 9001 certified, 1991; DES ISO 14001 environmental certification, 2001

Processes
Drylaid, needlepunched, spunbond/meltblown

Brand Names
Fibertex, Matchback, Comfortback, Flexback, Two-in-One, Formtex, Superflor, Alupor

Major Markets
Industrial textiles—primary and secondary carpet backings, automotive, furniture and bedding; technical textiles—building and construction, horticulture; hygiene; protective clothing; packaging.

The ability to offer products with clear advantages of the competition has been the backbone of success for Fibertex, Aalborg Ost, Denmark. Not only has the company been able to build a successful spunmelt business during the past five years, it has also been able to continue its growth levels despite economic and pricing pressures in the industry.
 
In 2002, sales rose 7% to $89 million million while before-tax profit rose 11%. This growth has continued into 2003 and executives expect this to be a better year than last year.
 
Fibertex first entered the spunmelt market in 1998 when it decided to diversify from its core business of needlepunched nonwovens. Two years later, this side of the business received a boost when a second spunmelt line was added in Aalborg. In 2002, spunbond growth led to the division’s sales equaling needlepunch sales. In 2003, the size of the spunbond business is expected to dominate Fibertex’s overall sales at its Malaysian operation, featuring a multibeam spunmelt line, which will come onstream during the remainder of this year.
 
Expected to add $25 million per year to Fibertex’s annual sales, the Malaysian plant was announced in April 2002 and was completed ahead of schedule in June 2003. Output from the facility—Fibertex’s first outside of Denmark—will boost Asian sales, now representing 10% of overall business, while supplementing shipments to existing European and American customers.
 
The three southeast Asian countries most ripe for growth in Fibertex executives’ opinion are Malaysia, Japan and Thailand. The use of hygiene products in these three countries will continue to rise, quite a change from the mature markets of Europe, which represent 80% of current sales. Growth of diaper and feminine hygiene product usage has been stagnant there in recent years.
 
“In Europe, growth has been caused by the increased amounts of nonwovens used per diaper—not by an actual rise in the number of diapers being produced,” explained managing director Knud Waede Hansen. “In Southeast Asia, there is a lot of room for growth in penetration.”
 
Fibertex has been able to achieve solid growth in the hygiene segment, where it mainly supplies spunmelt topsheets for baby diapers and feminine hygiene products, because of its ability to offer advantages in its products. In 1998, when it first entered the spunmelt market, Fibertex was the only European-based manufacturer with its type of machine configuration, allowing it to exclusively make lightweight products coveted by the hygiene market.
 
In more recent years, Fibertex has developed an extremely soft product line of spunmelt products that are ideal for the hygiene segments. Additionally, stretchable nonwovens technology, both in spunmelt and needlepunch, has provided advantages in hygiene as well as on the industrial portion of the business.
 
Speaking of the industrial side of Fibertex’s business, the company continues to defend its status as one of Europe’s most important needlepunch producers. After working on ramping up its spunmelt and hygiene business during the last five years, the company has now returned its focus to the needlepunch arena. The fruits of this were born in mid-August when a new needlepunch line was brought onstream in Aalborg. The new line, representing a DKK60 million investment, not only adds capacity but also improves the quality of its product offerings.
 
“We still have a strong position in needlepunch, particularly in the European furniture and bedding markets,” Mr. Hansen explained. “It’s important to have several markets to rely on so if one loses its stability, another can make up for it.”
 
Other markets for Fibertex’s needlepunch output are carpet backings, automotives, building and construction and horticulture.
 
With the Malaysian facility and the new needlepunch line just coming onstream, expansion plans are currently not a big push. Still, executives realize the importance of moving with the market for future success. For instance, the possibility of diversifying into a new technology, similar to how Fibertex approached spunmelt in the late 1990s, has not been ruled out. To make this move, Fibertex would have to have a competitive advantage in its product line to make it worthwhile.
 
For now, however, the Malaysian business and its impact on Fibertex’s Asian business, are taking center stage. “We have a goal to be a global company,” Mr. Hansen explained. “Since we are a small company, we have to achieve this with small, controlled steps.”

Location: Aalborg, Denmark

Sales: $107 MILLION

Description: Key Personnel
Knud Waede Hansen, managing director; Knud Erik Justesen, deputy managing director; Jorgen Bech Masen, general manager, needlepunch division; Mikael Staal Axelsen, general manager, personal care division; Etienne Ficht, business development manager

Plants
Two in Aalborg; one in Malaysia, two in Czech Republic

ISO Status
ISO 9001 certified, 1991; DES ISO 14001 environmental certification, 2001

Processes
Drylaid, needlepunched, spunbond/meltblown, thermal bond

Brand Names
Fibertex, Matchback, Comfortback, Flexback, Two-in-One, formtex, Superflor, Alupor

Major Markets
Industrial textiles—primary and secondary carpet backings, automotive, furniture and bedding; technical textiles—building and construction, horticulture; hygiene; protective clothing; packaging.

An ambitious global expansion strategy is clearly evident through the recent activities of Aalborg, Denmark-based Fibertex A/S. Just one year after building a spunmelt facility in Nilai, Malaysia, the company has already announced plans to add a second line to this operation. And, the acquisition of a Czech roll goods producer will boost Fibertex’s technical business, particularly in Central Europe.
 
“Our top priority is to become more global for a number of reasons,” said Knud Waede Hansen, managing director. “It boosts our credibility with large customers and brings us closer to markets we want to enter.”
 Mr. Hansen is cognizant of the importance of prudence when expanding.
 
“You need to have a controlled expansion,” he explained. “You don’t want to fall into a trap of expanding too quickly.”
 
Currently, about 80% of Fibertex’s $130 million annual sales are generated within Europe, with the remaining split between North America and the Far East. This breakdown is expected to change as the company’s Malaysian operation—which represented only $3 million of total sales last year—contributes more. The successful startup of this line has already been proven through Fibertex’s decision, announced in April, to add a second line on a sharp increase in demand for nonwovens from the personal care segment. Representing a E36 million investment, the second line will reportedly have a 25% higher output than the existing line and be the first-of-its-kind operation in Southeast Asia when it comes onstream in mid-2005.
 
Adding a second line will benefit the Asian business in a number of ways “For an optimal operation, it’s better to have two lines for critical mass,” Mr. Hansen said. “This makes your operation more efficient. If you have a minor breakdown, it doesn’t throw everything off.”
 
The addition of the Malaysian operations has made personal care the larger of Fibertex’s two divisions, representing $70 million in annual sales. This segment, which Fibertex first entered in 1997, has been successful thanks to a strong commitment to producing soft, lightweight products for the market.
 
Meanwhile, Fibertex’s technical division is poised to benefit from the recent acquisition of Vigona, a Svitavy, Czech Republic-based manufacturer of needlepunched and thermal bonded nonwovens. This acquisition not only increases Fibertex’s presence in Eastern Europe, where manufacturing costs are considerably lower, it also provides access to markets such as specialty automotives, a booming business in this region.
 
With current sales of about DKK60 million, Vigona currently operates three facilities in the Czech Republic and employs 220 people. After spending DKK35 million for the company, Fibertex expects to invest as much as DKK200 million in improving the two Vigona sites located in Svitavy. While plans for the third site, located in Opatov, are unclear, executives said it could likely be consolidated into the two larger sites and closed.
 
This investment in the technical side of the business parallels recent investments in the personal care segment. While much attention has been paid to spunmelt during the past six years, executives are keen to express their continued commitment to technical applications. In August 2003, the company installed a new needlepunch line in Aalborg, which not only added capacity but also improved the quality of product offerings. This investment was followed by the construction of a large storage facility to improve logistics. Beyond automotives, key markets for the technical division include furniture and bedding and construction.
 
Having interests in both personal care and technical markets allows Fibertex enjoy the benefits of two worlds. In hygiene, the focus tends to be on a few big customers who are highly price conscious;  in technical, customers tend to be more diversified with many different customers and applications as well as the ability to offer value-added properties.   “It’s important to focus on developing new products and new niche markets,” Mr. Hansen said. “To do this, though, you need a certain capacity, so you can be taken seriously on the market.”



Location: Aalborg, Denmark

Sales: $160 million

Description: Key Personnel
Knud Waede Hansen, managing director; Knud Erik Justesen, deputy managing director; Jorgen Bech Masen, general manager, needlepunch division; Mikael Staal Axelsen, general manager, personal care division; Etienne Ficht, business development manager

Plants
Two in Aalborg; one in Malaysia, two in Czech Republic

ISO Status
ISO 9001 certified, 1991; DES ISO 14001 environmental certification, 2001

Processes
Drylaid, needlepunched, spunbond/meltblown, thermal bond

Brand Names
Fibertex, Matchback, Comfortback, Flexback, Two-in-One, formtex, Superflor, Alupor

Major Markets
Industrial textiles-primary and secondary carpet backings, automotive, furniture and bedding; technical textiles-building and construction, horticulture; hygiene; protective clothing; packaging

Benefiting from the full effects of its Malaysian line, completed in late 2003, Fibertex’s sales reached $160 million in 2004 and executives are bullish they could surpass $200 million in 2005 as a second Malaysian line ramps up and the effects of a Central European acquisition are felt.
 
Currently, Fibertex’s business falls under two divisions—personal care and technical which comprise 60% and 40% of the business, respectively. In 2004, personal care sales increased 32% to reach DKK546 million, thanks largely to the completion of a new spunbond line in Malaysia. Technical division sales increased 15% to DKK418 including the company’s acquisition of Czech Republic-based Vigona. Organic growth was reported at approximately 5%.
 
“It’s a strength for us to have two strong legs,” said managing director Knud Waede Hansen. “It’s always nice to have more than one market to observe.”
 
After investing significantly in personal care since entering the segment in 1998, in July 2004, Fibertex shifted its attention toward technical by acquiring Vigona, a Czech Republic-based manufacturer of needlepunched and thermal bonded nonwovens. The acquisition not only strengthened Fibertex’s technical business, it has also opened a door to the important growth markets of Central and Eastern Europe for the company.
 
And, Fibertex is already enhancing this business, which achieved sales of $60 million per year prior to the acquisition. In June 2005, a large-scale NSC needlepunch line measuring six meters in width began operation and plans are underway to erect some specialty lines, including a laminator, to work in tandem with the loom. The new line is located in a new plant near existing facilities in Svitavy, Czech Republic. Also included in the Vigona acquisition was a site in Opatov, which will likely be closed, according to Mr. Hansen.
 
The investment in the Vigona site is part of Fibertex’s strategy to increase its foothold in some important industrial markets, most notably the automotives segment, which has seen significant activity in Central Europe. In announcing the DKK35 million purchase of the needlepunch and thermalbond nonwovens producer, Fibertex officials pledged to invest as much has DKK200 million into improving the business.
 
In addition to automotives, other key markets receiving a boost from the Vigona business are filtration, bedding and construction. “Western Europe is an expensive production platform,” Mr. Hansen said. “Eastern Europe is much more economical so it is a good place to establish an operation.”
 
Investment in technical operations does not mean that Fibertex has cooled its jets in the hygiene arena. Plans are already underway to install a large-scale Reifenhaueser spunbond line—Fibertex’s fifth—in Aalborg, where Fibertex already operates two such lines.
 
Also contributing nicely to Fibertex’s hygiene business is its Malaysian operation, established in spring 2002. While this site’s one operating spunbond line—a second one is set to come onstream this summer—contributed only $3 million to overall sales in 2003, the line’s contribution increased significantly last year. The second spunmelt line will boast a 25% higher output than the first line.
 
Whether or not expansion will continue into new areas, such as North or South America, is not clear. “We are supplying North America from Denmark and Malaysia, and we have considered a line there but have not yet made a decision,” said Mr. Hansen. “We want to be a global company but we have to be careful of our manpower, making sure there are enough competitive people to support the operations and to make sure there is a market for our output. We can’t just go into a market and be like all of the others. It is not interesting.”
 
Beyond geographical expansion, Fibertex will achieve growth through a balance of high volume commodity markets and value-added specialty areas. In hygiene, Fibertex currently markets three major products lines—Comfort (high liquid barrier and low cost), Elite (high strength and softness) and Dual (supersoft)—focusing on applications in baby diapers, feminine hygiene and adult incontinence products. In 2004, the division continued to work on a new product line, Shape, an elasticized material based on 100% nonwoven material and directed at personal care applications. Meanwhile, on the industrial side, research and development efforts have led to products for the filtration and automotive industry, new low-weight geotextile products and laminated and multilayered products for a variety of technical and industrial end uses.
 
Looking ahead, raw material prices, a key concern in 2004, are expected to keep profits flat during 2005. However, continued focus on innovation in products and services will considerably increase performance in both sales and earnings in 2006.
“You have to take advantage of what is going on in the market,” Mr. Hansen said. “Timing is extremely important, and we try our best to assess this.”
Location: Aalborg, Denmark

Sales: $190 million

Description: Key Personnel
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

Plants
Two in Aalborg; one in Malaysia, two in the Czech Republic

ISO Status
DS/EN ISO 9001 Quality management 1991:2000; DS/ISO 14001 Environmental management 2001; DS 2403 Energy management

Processes
Drylaid, carded, needlepunched, thermalbonded, spunbond/ melt­­­blown

Brand Names
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

Major Markets
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?”
Location: Aalborg, Denmark

Sales: $222 million

Description: Key Personnel
Michael Meulengracht, managing director; Mikael Staal Axelsen, general manager, Personal Care Division;  Jorgen Bech Madsen, general manager, Technical Division; Kenneth Mynster Dolmer, purchasing director; Ole Houmann, Finance Director

Plants
Two in Aalborg; one in Malaysia, two in the Czech Republic

ISO Status
DS/EN ISO 9001 Quality management 1991:2000; DS/ISO 14001 Environmental management 2001; DS 2403 Energy management

Processes
Drylaid, carded, needlepunched, thermalbonded, spunbond/ meltblown

Brand Names
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

Major Markets
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


Describing the year as challenging was Danish nonwovens producer Fibertex, who reported 16% sales growth but admitted that earnings did not follow this growth trend, due largely to external problems, namely raw material increases. According to the company, sales were $222 million compared to $195 million in 2005 while earnings declined to $5.5 million.
 
In addition to raw material price increases, Fibertex’s earnings were negatively impacted by complications associated with bringing a six-meter, state-of-the-art NSC needleloom onstream at its Czech Republic facility. While this problem has been fixed, it did lead to a delay in transferring two older lines from the Czech site, which Fibertex acquired from Vigona in 2004.
 
“We did face problems in our Czech operation with manufacturing efficiency on an existing line. That has been fixed,” said Michael Meulengracht, who replaced retired Knud Waede Hansen as Fibertex managing director in January.
 
The Czech operation, acquired from Vigona in 2004, currently includes thermal bonding, drylaid and needlepunching machines. Fibertex is reconfiguring an older drylaid line at the site to offer a new technology and will then decide if it’s wise to add news lines there as well.

Fibertex purchased the Czech operation in 2004, partly to better target Central and Eastern Europe and partly to increase its role in technical markets. Currently, a big portion of the output in the Czech Republic serves the automotives market, where there is always pressure to keep costs down. However, Fibertex is benefiting from the location of this operation as many of the Tier One automotive suppliers have operations in the Eastern Block countries. Other markets being served by Fibertex’s technical division include furniture and bedding, filtration and geotextiles.
 
In addition to the Vigona site, Fibertex runs a needlepunch operation from its Aalborg, Denmark facility to target technical markets. As a whole, Fibertex’s technical division increased its sales 9% in 2006 to reach $90 million.
 
Meanwhile, Fibertex’s hygiene business—which grew sales 20% to $135.5 million last year—continues to benefit from new investment, the latest of which, a new Reifenhauser line, began operating at Fibertex’s Aalborg headquarters in January. The new line, the facility’s third spunmelt machine, increased capacity there by 50% and is already contributing to the bottom line, according to Mr. Meulengracht.
 
“Hygiene still performs well for us,” he said. “It’s all about providing a solid package there, running at an acceptable capacity utilization.”
 
In addition to three lines in Aalborg, Fibertex operates two Reifenhauser spunmelt lines serving the hygiene market at its Malaysian facility near Kaula Lumpur. These lines serve the Asia-Pacific regions as well as Europe. “Asia-Pacific is growing significantly because the developing countries are full of people who are improving their lifestyles,” Mr. Meulengracht said. “There are 100 million people in China who have enough money for hygiene products.”
 
Also benefiting Fibertex’s Asian-Pacific business is lack of local competition. Products being made by Asian companies continue to be sub-quality compared to Western competitors.
 
During the past decade, much of Fibertex’s growth has come from new investments, including the construction of lines as well as investment of new businesses. Currently, no new capacity is planned but executives insist the company is still in growth mode. “There are a lot of ways to achieve growth,” said Mr. Meulengracht. “It can be joint ventures, capacity expansions, acquisitions, etc.”
Location: AALBORG, DENMARK

Sales: $294 million

Description: Key Personnel
Mikael Staal Axelsen, General Manager, Personal Care Division;  Jorgen Bech Madsen, General Manager, Technical Division; Ole Houmann, Finance Director; Kenneth Mynster Dolmer, Purchasing Director

Plants
Two in Aalborg; one in Malaysia, three in the Czech Republic

ISO Status
DS/EN ISO 9001 Quality management 1991:2000; DS/ISO 14001 Environmental management 2001; DS 2403 Energy management

Processes
Drylaid, carded, needlepunched, thermalbonded, spunbond/meltblown, technical air-lay

Brand Names
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, Comfort, Elite, Dual.

Major Markets
Industrial textiles—primary and secondary carpet backings, automotive, furniture and bedding, filtration; technical textiles—building and construction, composites, do-it-yourself, horticulture; hygiene—applications within baby diapers, feminine hygiene and incontinence.

Sales grew but earnings were under pressure for Fibertex, Aalborg, Denmark. The maker of nonwovens for both personal care and technical applications has responded to increased raw material pressures by streamlining processes to eliminate as many raw material costs as possible. “We have evaluated our business and where there are unacceptable profits we have added price increases,” said Jorgen Bech Madsen, general manager of Fibertex’s Technical Division. “If that didn’t work, we have been willing to lose business if we have had to. And further price increases will be added, if raw material prices continue to increase.”
 
In addition to raw material prices, Fibertex’s business was negatively impacted by the weak U.S. dollar, which has made doing business in North America prohibitive for Euro-based businesses. While Fibertex still exports to the U.S., only value-added products are targeted there, mainly in the technical business.
 
Despite these pressures, in 2007, group sales reached DKK 1.6 billion, up from 1.3 billion in 2006. Growth was felt across its two major divisions—Personal Care and Technical—as new capacity ramped up through its entire business.
 
Fibertex’s personal care division operates out of two facilities—one in Aalborg, Denmark and another near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which contain a total of five production lines all based on spunmelt technology. Currently all of these lines, even the newest, which was completed in early 2007, are operating at full capacity, but executives have no plans to expand this business, given the state of the European hygiene market. “We see exciting growth opportunities in both areas but there is an overcapacity situation in the European hygiene markets,” Mr. Madsen said. “No one is adding capacity.”

The addition of the fifth line as well as improved efficiencies in the older lines helped drive personal care sales up 33% to DKK 1.069 million ($196 million) in 2007 and further increases are expected for 2008 as all lines are now highly efficient and increasing their marketshare. Asia-Pacific sales particularly are growing at a high rate as demand in the region exceeds supply, Mr. Madsen added.
 
Instead, Fibertex is offering its customers a means by which to diversify. In April, the company announced a joint venture company, called Innowo Print, with technology making it possible to print directly on nonwoven materials for products such as diapers and femcare products.
 
The new company, located in Harz, Germany is owned by Fibertex and the two businessmen Lars Christiansen and Carsten Pedersen. Commercial production began in June. “It is definitely a part of our strategy to go after value-added nonwovens but also being competitive in large markets,” Mr. Madsen said.
 
Meanwhile, Fibertex’s technical business comprises about a third of the company’s sales and targets the construction, industrial, automotive and filtration markets, out of Fibertex’s Aalborg headquarters as well as three sites in the Czech Republic, which were acquired from Vigona in 2004 to increase exposure to Central and Eastern European countries and broaden its technical portfolio.
 
Sales in this division rose 9% to DK 583 million ($107 million) in 2007. Of the three Czech sites, one is outdated and scheduled to close in 2009; the other two have seen a number of improvements by Fibertex during the past four years. The most recent of these is a new air lay line, announced in September 2007, which will manufacture acoustic fabrics targeting the automotive industry. The new line became fully operational in August 2008.
 
“This technology allows us to reduce weights compared to most acoustic materials,” Mr. Madsen said. “Other benefits include better moldability, reduced raw material usage and increased performance.
 
The new air lay line in the Czech Republic joins thermal bonding, drylaid and needlepunching machines at the operation. Since acquiring the business, Fibertex has added a large-scale needlepunch line and upgraded an older drylaid line there.
 
Meanwhile, in Denmark, Fibertex’s Technical division operates a sizable needlepunch operation, which also received a boost last year, when plans for a new line was announced. The new line replaces older, obsolete lines and became fully operational in August 2008.
 
These measures are part of the division’s “Capturing the Future” plan, which is intended to improve earnings and ensure its sustainable development. Other tenets of this plan include the movement of labor-intensive operations to modern facilities in the Czech Republic, where wages are lower, and the development and sale of high-margin products and the expansion of Fibertex’s position in regional growth markets. The results will be an increase in earnings.
 
“Our plans are to strengthen the two divisions,” Mr. Madsen said. “We run them separately because the divisions don’t have a lot to do with each other.”
Location: AALBORG, DENMARK


Sales: $295 Million


Description: Key Personnel
Mikael Staal Axelsen, CEO, Fibertex Personal Care; Jorgen Bech Madsen, CEO, Fibertex Industrial Nonwovens; Ole Houmann, CFO; Kenneth Mynster Dolmer, purchasing director

Plants
Two in Aalborg; one in Malaysia, two in the Czech Republic

ISO Status
DS/EN ISO 9001 Quality management 1991:2000; DS/ISO 14001 Environmental management 2001; DS 2403 Energy management

Processes
Drylaid, carded, needlepunched, thermal bonded, spunbond/meltblown, technical air-lay

Brand Names
Fibertex, Fibertex Nonwovens, 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, FibertexCOMFORT, FibertexElite, FibertexDual, FibertexPRINT

Major Markets
Industrial textiles—primary and secondary carpet backings, automotive, acoustics, furniture and bedding, filtration; technical textiles—building and construction, composites, do-it-yourself, horticulture; hygiene—applications within baby diapers, femcare and adult incontinence.

The big news at Danish roll goods producer Fibertex last year was the appointment of joint CEOs to oversee the company’s two divisions— Fibertex Personal Care and Fibertex Industrial Nonwovens. The two divisions, although operating separately, had until last year, been overseen by one company CEO and led by two general managers— Jorgen Bech Madsen on the industrial side and Mikael Staal Axelsen within personal care—who are now acting at joint CEOs.

The change had little effect in the day-to-day running of the business. “Fibertex has always operated as two independent companies so we cleared up the organization and changed the corporate structure to integrate the organization into two businesses,” said Mr. Madsen. “We are now leaner and more focused and the two groups still share a number of departments such as IT and finance.”

Amidst this change, total sales were flat at $295 million (DKK 1590 million) for the company last year as gains in the company’s personal care division offset declines on the industrial side of its business. Profits, meanwhile increased from DKK13.9 million to DKK36.2 million thanks to a drop in raw material prices as well as increased efficiencies in the group’s Malaysian spunmelt operation.

The Personal Care division’s sales exceeded DKK 1 billion last year, just more than a decade after its establishment. The division operates three spunmelt lines in Fibertex as well as two at its Malaysian facility. Its share of the global nonwoven hygiene market has been reported at 7%.

According to Mr. Axelsen, this side of Fibertex’s business continues to be impacted by oversupply in the European spunmelt market, a situation that’s expected to continue for the next three to four years; however, efforts toward diversification as well as operational efficiencies have enabled Fibertex to retain a competitive edge in the market, even in the midst of the economic crisis.

“The overcapacity was already there before the crisis hit. We really saw its impact in developing regions,” Mr. Axelsen continued. “However, we have a good marketing profile in that we can offer our customers a range of materials from value added products to strait commodity items.”

One of these value adds is the production of printed nonwovens. Through a joint venture with Innowo Print, Fibertex last year established a factory to print on lightweight nonwovens in up to six colors, allowing customers to empower their brands with images and designs. Other capabilities include high barrier nonwovens and bicomponent materials.

“Specialty hygiene opens some doors but the big volumes are still in the commodity areas.”

Fibertex’s Malaysian business still predominantly sells to multinational companies that are present in that area. “The local players are supplying the local diaper market,” Mr. Axelsen said. “We find that we better match professional customers.”

Meanwhile, Fibertex’s Industrial business—with key markets ranging from automotives, geotextiles, filtration, construction and carpet backings—has been hit hard by the economic crisis; however this impact was softened somewhat by an optimization plan put in place before the crisis hit. This plan included a DKK130 million investment in new state-of-the-art equipment, lessened raw material consumption, price increases and staff reductions.

Begun in fall 2007, the plan included the start-up of two production lines, one in Aalborg, Denmark, and one in the Czech Republic— which use fewer raw materials; price increases; the shutdown of older production lines including an entire older factory in the Czech Republic; streamlined production process; innovation and product development.

“We now have two modern, state-of-the-art facilities in Denmark and the Czech Republic,” Mr. Madsen said. “We didn’t know when we did it that there was going to be an economic crisis, but we are glad we did it because it allowed us to shake out all of our fat.”

As a result of the economic crisis, Fibertex’s automotive business was down significantly during the last quarter of 2008 and first quarter of 2009. While things have started to gradually improve, the market is still behind expectations. “There is a lot of uncertainty, but we are focusing on what’s next. There have been a lot of research and development efforts and we hope to launch a number of new products out of our Czech Republic site once things turn around,” said Mr. Madsen.

Citing features like acoustical performance and lower weights, he added that nonwovens are ideal for automotives and he expects them to be offered on a much broader platform to the automotive market post recovery.

Fibertex’s operation will be better positioned once the automotive market recovers. As part of the optimization effort, converting operations were moved out of Denmark to the Czech Republic, bringing more labor-intensive operations to lower wage areas to trim production costs.

Meanwhile, construction is finally at a level where Fibertex expected it to be. While some activity is seasonal, more has to do with a push from governments to spend money on infrastructure improvements.

As things continue to improve, filtration is expected to emerge as an important growth market for Fibertex, which so far does not have a large presence there. Some of this growth will stem from Fibertex’s interest in nanofilter technology, which is currently being made on a pilot line. “It will take some time before this is truly a market focus,” Mr. Madsen explained.
Location: Aalborg, Denmark

Sales: $236 million

Description: Key Personnel
Mikael Staal Axelsen, CEO, Fibertex Personal Care;  Jorgen Bech Madsen, CEO, Fibertex Industrial Nonwovens; Ole Houmann, CFO; Kenneth Mynster Dolmer, purchasing director

Plants
Two in Aalborg; one in Malaysia, two in the Czech Republic, one in Germany, one in South Africa

Processes
Drylaid, carded, needlepunched, thermal bonded, spun­bond/meltblown, technical airlaid

Brand Names
Fibertex, Fibertex Nonwovens, Flexback, Formtex, Compoflex, Multigeo, Weedseal, Fibergreen, Fibertex Patio, Fibertex Universal, Fiberacoustic, TWO-in-ONE, Comfortback, Weedseal, Woodback, Q-Match, Making the perfect match, FibertexCOMFORT, FibertexElite, FibertexDual, FibertexPRINT

Major Markets
Industrial textiles—primary and secondary carpet backings, automotives, acoustics, furniture and bedding, filtration, nanotechnology; technical textiles—building and construction, composites, do-it-yourself, horticulture; hygiene—applications within baby diapers, femcare and adult incontinence

With a new Malaysian line planned for its hygiene business and a new South African plant in the works for its industrial division, Denmark’s Fibertex continues to invest in the future. And, so far, its investment strategy has paid off with sales volumes continuing to rise and new investments underway.
As for last year, executives described its business in 2009 as good and report that conditions have been improving during the first half of 2010. While total nonwovens sales decreased from DKK1.589 million to DKK1.350 million, this was due largely to lower raw material prices on the hygiene side and a drop in volume in the company’s industrial nonwovens division. At the same time, operating profit (EBIT) increased from DKK88 million to DKK117 million, thanks to the plunge in raw material prices as well as better-than-expected results in its Malaysian operation. Earnings within the Industrial Nonwovens segment were challenged this year due to the difficult market situations.
In recent years, Fibertex’s Personal Care division has grown significantly, with sales increasing from DKK642 million in 2005 to as high as DKK1090 in 2008 and decreasing slightly to DKK935 million. This growth has largely been attributed to ambitious investment in spunmelt technology.  Today, Fibertex operates three state-of-the art lines in Aalborg as well as two in an Asian facility near Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia, and personal care sales are expected to increase even further as a new Malaysian line comes onstream in late 2011.
“Asian growth continues to be strong,” said Mikael Staal Axelsen, CEO of Fibertex Personal Care. “Southeast Asia in particular is leading this growth.”
Announced in March 2010, Fibertex’s third Malaysian line will add approximately 22,000 tons of spunmelt capacity to the facility, representing a 65% increase, when it comes onstream in late 2011.
Fibertex opened the Malaysian facility in 2003 and added a second line to the site in 2005. In September, Fibertex announced it would invest $7.5 million in adding a new beam on one of the lines. The new beam will be operational in the second half of the year.
Also benefitting its hygiene business is its joint venture company Innowo Print, which operates a factory in Germany with Christiansen Print for direct printing onto nonwoven materials. Among the developments made through this partnership, which was formed in early 2008, are the ability to print patterns on lightweight nonwoven materials that are completely harmless, do not rub off and have every conceivable health and safety approval, to add fragrance to a color or add a print to a color that changes color. Already, the venture prints on 1000 of the roughly 75,000 tons of nonwovens that Fibertex Personal Care makes each year.
On the industrial side of Fibertex’s business, many key markets were challenged in 2009, causing sales to decrease from DKK500 million to DK415 million after the year started with a 35% first quarter drop in revenue. These difficulties were felt the hardest in the automotive and bedding industries, which executives reported, began to recover as the year progressed and government initiative programs began to take hold.
Luckily for Fibertex, these challenges were somewhat buffered by a restructuring program begun before the global economic crisis hit in 2008. This plan included a DKK130 million investment in new, state-of-the-art equipment, lessened raw material consumption, price increases and staff reductions. More specifically, the plan included the start-up of two modern needlepunch lines, one in Aalborg and the other in the Czech Republic, which use fewer raw materials, price increases, the shutdown of outdated production lines including an entire older factory in the Czech Republic, the relocation of several lines from Denmark to the Czech Republic, a more streamlined production process, innovation and product development.
“We continue to move a lot of this business into lower cost base regions like the Czech Republic facilities,” said Jorgen Bech Madsen, CEO of Fibertex Industrial Nonwovens. “We moved an upgraded needlepunch line from Denmark to the Czech Republic. Now in Denmark there is just one ultra modern needlepunch line and some fiber production. “
Amidst these efforts, Fibertex has not abandoned its quest to bring its industrial business into growing geographical markets. In early January, the company announced it has started a new operation, including a state-of-the-art needlepunch line, in South Africa. The new facility will make and market needlepunch nonwovens, primarily geotextiles for road construction as well as products for the growing South African automotives industry, which is moving toward more sophisticated, lower weight products.
“There are currently a lot of nonwovens being sold in Africa but they are heavier weights, made on older machines, and this investment will serve infrastructural programs in South Africa and neighboring countries,” Mr. Madsen said.
By creating this subsidiary, Fibertex hopes to capitalize on growth in South Africa where plans are in place to invest more than $96 billion in infrastructure improvements during the next five years. These include large road and bridge construction projects, which will require large amounts of geotextile fabrics. Even with the great potential the market holds, it took Fibertex three years to decide to invest in South Africa because it can be difficult to do business there, Mr. Madsen added.
The new, high-tech, state-of-the-art factory will initially employ just over 40 employees. Annual turnover is expected to be approximately $12-$15 million with decent profit in the coming years. From a long-term strategic perspective, the project is expected to serve as a gateway—not only to southern Africa but eventually also to other markets in the Southern Hemisphere such as Australasia, India, the Middle East and South America.
The South African company is jointly owned by Fibertex, the Danish Industrialization Fund for Developing Countries (IFU) and the South African company Safyr, which is owned partly by local industry specialists and partly by Industrial Development Corporation (IDC)—South Africa’s equivalent to the Danish State investment fund Vækstfonden. Fibertex will invest approximately $5 million in the company, acquiring a 26% ownership share. IFU has previously participated in a similar Fibertex project in Malaysia, and Fibertex has the option of acquiring IFU’s 25.8% in the future.

Aalborg, Denmark
www.fibertexpersonalcare.com
2011 Nonwovens Sales: $229 million

Key Personnel: Mikael Staal Axelsen, group CEO; Mette Due Søgaard, CTO, Denmark; Anders Søgaard, COO, Denmark; Kenneth Mynster Dolmer, CCO, Denmark; Claus Svanberg, CFO, Denmark; Peter Andersen, CEO, Malaysia; Peter Bach Sigvardt, COO, Malaysia; Ong Soo Fen, CFO, Malaysia

Plants: Three lines in Denmark, three in Malaysia

Processes: Spunbond/spunmelt

Brands: Comfort, Elite, Dual

Major Markets: Hygiene—applications within baby diapers, feminine care and adult incontinence

In 2011, Fibertex Personal Care began operating independently from Fibertex Nonwovens, which also made the Top Company ranking this year at number 35 (see page 88). With facilities in Denmark and Malaysia, Fibertex Personal Care continues to make strategic investments, priming its operations for future growth.

Recognizing great potential in the developing Asia-Pacific region, the company has been expanding capacity in Malyasia, installing a third line in November of 2011, which will add about 22,000 tons of capacity per year. Mikael Staal Axelsen, group CEO, says he expects the line will be running at full capacity by the end of 2012.

The company also announced a $55 million investment in a fourth state-of-the-art production line in Malaysia that will increase total capacity by 30%, to 70,000 tons per year, over the next two years.

The Malaysia division performed very well in 2011, according to the 2011 annual report from parent company Schow & Co. Capacity utilization was high and production efficiency was satisfactory throughout the year. The challenge moving forward will be to utilize the greater production capacity while manufacturing products of high and uniform quality on a consistent basis.

Overall, Fibertex Personal Care’s revenue increased from DKK 1.24 billion in 2010 to DKK 1.31 billion in 2011, driven by higher selling prices that were triggered by higher raw materials costs, the company says. However, earnings fell, due in part to weaker sales in Europe in the first half of the year.

Volumes declined during the year due in part to “changing buying patters of certain major customers, and certain Middle East markets were affected by political unrest in the region, causing a drop in sales,” the annual report states.

While the company sees limited growth opportunities and strong price pressures in Europe, Asia represents solid opportunities for organic expansion in the coming years.  “There is a clear overcapacity of spunmelt right now,” Axelsen says of Europe. However, the company continues to develop value-added products at its Denmark facilities.

“We are looking to make our products more attractive in the market but in principle it’s also important to cope with this overcapacity,” notes Axelsen.

In its annual report, the company says it expects to generate revenue of about DKK 1.5-1.6 billion in 2012, pending changes in raw material costs, which have since stabilized.

As for company achievements to note, Fibertex Personal Care received a Business Partner Excellence Award from Procter & Gamble in 2011, which is given to top suppliers. This was the company’s third such award. Axlesen says the recognition represents the company’s commitment to high quality and service. “This is where we see our key strengths,” he adds.

In April 2012, P&G also issued its environmental sustainability scorecard, which is designed to rate suppliers on key sustainability metrics across their supply chains. Fibertex Personal Care was among 17 companies that received the highest possible score.

This latest recognition from P&G exemplifies the company’s focus on the environment. Fibertex Personal Care has made a significant effort to reduce its energy consumption and to change its processes in order to convert its heating source from electricity to natural gas.

The company’s focus on energy consumption and cost savings has reduced carbon emissions per kilo of finished goods by about 20% over the past 10 years. The company is planning additional energy-saving projects for 2012 at factories in Denmark and Malaysia.

Additionally, as much as 95% of waste from production is reused, and the rest is incinerated for energy recovery purposes. The company intends to continue mapping its environmental footprint, applying lifecycle analysis and other tools to reduce its impact further.

In other company dealings, Fibertex Personal Care’s joint venture (15% ownership) in Germany, Innowo, recently installed a second production line. The nonwoven printing company offers highly specialized, value-added prints that can be applied directly onto nonwovens in various applications via highly advanced technologies, says Axelsen.  
Aalborg, Denmark
www.fibertex.com
2011 Nonwovens Sales: $126 million

Key Personnel: Jørgen Bech Madsen, CEO; Henrik Kjeldsen, CCO; Lars Bertelsen, COO; Henrik Eigenbrod, CFO; Keld Lauridsen, group R&D manager; Bjarne Knudsen, CEO, Czech Republic

Plants: Denmark, the Czech Republic, France and South Africa

Processes: Needlepunch, spunlace, impregnation, coating and a range of finishing technologies

Major Markets: Acoustics, automotive, bedding, composites, construction, filtration, flooring, furniture, geotextiles, home and garden, horticulture

Fibertex Nonwovens was separated from Fibertex Personal Care in 2011 so that the two businesses, which had become very different over time, could operate independently in their key markets. “The separation enabled each company to focus on and communicate its strengths and values to the market,” says Jørgen Bech Madsen, CEO, Fibertex Nonwovens. “The transition has progressed as scheduled and well.”

Today, Fibertex Nonwovens manufactures nonwovens for many different product applications. Global business segments include: automotive (insulation of engine compartments, car ceilings, door panels, trim panels and acoustic solutions); construction (geotextiles, building and composite materials, as well as do-it-yourself products); industrial (furniture, bedding, carpets and flooring and the med-tech industry); filtration (air, liquid and odor filters) and acoustics; wipes (wet wipes for the consumer market and specialist products for the industrial market).

The company has a strong position in a number of areas with significant growth perspectives, Madsen notes. “Apart from the considerable growth in global demand for products for the automotive industry, we expect to see a range of major infrastructure projects and construction works take large amounts of geotextiles in the coming years both in Europe and in the global growth markets.”

Fibertex Nonwovens generated revenue of DKK 726 million in 2011, compared to DKK 413 million in 2010. The improvement was mainly due to the acquisition of French nonwovens manufacturer Tharreau Industries, which specializes in developing products for the automotive industry and for industrial applications.

Tharreau contributed DKK 260 million to consolidated revenue from the date of takeover in May, according to the 2011 annual report for Fibertex Nonwoven’s parent company Schow & Co. Tharreau has been renamed Fibertex Nonwovens S.A.

The acquisition has not only strengthened Fibertex Nonwovens A/S but also generated substantial synergies for both companies, according to Madsen. “The objective of the acquisition of Tharreau Industries was to accelerate the strategic development of Fibertex Nonwovens to become a European market leader and create a strong platform for geographical growth. Since the acquisition we have focused on the integration of Fibertex Nonwovens S.A. in Fibertex Nonwovens A/S. Today, Fibertex Nonwovens has 98.8% of the shares in Fibertex Nonwovens S.A.”

In terms of the company’s strategic direction for the future, Fibertex Nonwovens intends to become the leading, globally positioned supplier of nonwovens with value added and cost-effective solutions to the automotive industry, industrial end uses, construction and composites industry, filtration, specialty wipes and medical end uses, says Madsen.

Other goals include increasing profitability and earning power through innovative solutions, technological leadership and, as a benchmark supplier, having strong value proposition to deliver solutions at competitive costs throughout the value chain.

Meanwhile, Madsen notes the importance of supporting his company’s customers’ geographical expansion in growth markets, and will aim to deliver sustainable and profitable global growth through a robust business platform. An example of this is the company’s recent expansion into South Africa where it will make needlepunch nonwovens for geotextile and automotive applications.

According to the 2011 annual report, Fibertex Nonwovens has focused its efforts on adapting to the current competitive market situation. “The company has supported these efforts by increasingly working the markets, winning marketshare in its core business areas while also improving the sale of products for the composite industry and of specialist high-value products.”

The company has also identified a number of new business opportunities for 2012. “In terms of R&D and innovation, the company has built a strong product portfolio supporting the long-term strategy of increasing the proportion of high-value products.” At the time of its annual report, Fibertex Nonwovens expected to generate revenue of around DKK 900 million. 
Aalborg, Denmark
www.fibertexpersonalcare.com
2012 Nonwovens Sales: $235 million
 
Key Personnel: Mikael Staal Axelsen, group CEO; Mette Due Sogaard, CTO, Denmark; Anders Sogaard, COO, Denmark; Kenneth Mynster Dolmer, CCO, Denmark; Claus Svanberg, CFO, Denmark; Peter Andersen, CEO, Malaysia; Peter Bach Sigvardt, COO, Malaysia; Ong Soo Fen, CFO, Malaysia
 
Plants: Three lines in Denmark, three in Malaysia
 
Processes: Spunbond/spunmelt
 
Brands: Comfort, Elite, Dual
 
Major Markets: Hygiene—applications within baby diapers, feminine care and adult incontinence
 
Expansion in Asia continues to be a focus for Fibertex Personal Care. Not only is the Aalborg, Denmark company increasing its Malaysian capacity by 30%, it has established sales offices in India and Japan to strengthen its presence in these markets. With production sites in Malaysia and Denmark, the company, which split from its technical business in early 2011 to become a company solely focused on hygiene, sells its products all over the world with a main emphasis on Europe and Asia.
 
A major maker of spunmelt nonwovens primarily for hygiene applications, Fibertex Personal Care operates six production lines, three in Denmark and three in Malaysia. In sync with its production footprint, Fibertex Personal Care reports that the bulk of its sales are to major international producers of diapers and other hygiene products located in Europe and Asia.
 
In spring 2012, the company announced it would add a fourth line in Malaysia, increasing that site’s capacity by 30% to 70,000 tons by the end of 2013. This $50 million investment comes not long after the completion of a third line, which added 22,000 tons of capacity to the site.
 
“We have been experiencing great growth in Asia, that is for sure,” says group CEO Mikael Staal Axelsen. “It’s not just in Malaysia. We are seeing success in Japan, Australia, India, the whole region.”
 
Fibertex Personal Care began production in Malaysia in 2003 and soon added line number two in 2005. These investments have been credited with driving the company’s sales forward in recent years. To date, the company has no plans to add a production facility elsewhere in Asia, saying it is successful enough targeting the entire region for the Malaysian site.
 
“We have no plan to build elsewhere in Asia,” Axelsen says. “Of course, there is a new line coming in India from Global Nonwovens and everyone is looking there but China is crowded with companies and that is why we are not there.”
 
Overall, Fibertex Personal Care’s sales increased 11% to reach DKK1.459 billion ($254 million) in 2012 and growth was largely attributed to the full utilization of the third Malaysian line. The company expects sales to continue this upward trajectory in 2013 and receive a significant boost once line number four in Malaysia comes onstream in late 2013, boosting that site’s capacity by 30%.
 
Fibertex Personal Care began making spunmelt nonwovens in 1997 when it was still known simply as Fibertex and also contained an industrial-centered division. In 2010, Fibertex separated its hygiene-related assets from its industrial side, creating two distinct companies, Fibertex Personal Care and Fibertex Nonwovens. Both companies continue to be owned by Schouw & Co.
 
Since entering the spunmelt market, Fibertex has attributed its impressive level of growth to maintaining strong professional relationships with its customers and this strategy has resulted in a number of awards and distinctions from key customers. The most recent of these were a Supplier of the Year award from Ontex, the Belgium private label hygiene products maker, which was awarded in June, and the Procter & Gamble External Business Partner award in September 2012.
 
Looking ahead, Fibertex will continue to focus on maintaining earnings by optimizing production lines, maintaining high operational efficiency and ensuring high capacity utilization.
 
“The focus will be on growing our sales to sell the new capacity in Malaysia,” Axelsen says. “For sure, we will continue to grow.”
Aalborg, Denmark
www.fibertex.com
2012 Nonwovens Sales: $161 million
 
Key Personnel: Jorgen Bech Madsen, CEO, Henrik Kjeldsen, CCO, Lars Bertelsen, COO, Henrik Eigenbrod, CFO, Keld Lauridsen, group R&D manager, Bjarne Knudsen, CEO, Czech Republic
 
Plants: Denmark, the Czech Republic, France and South Africa
 
Processes: Needlepunch, spunlace, impregnation, coating and a range of finishing technologies
 
Major Markets: Acoustics, automotive, bedding, composites, construction, filtration, flooring, furniture, geotextiles, home and garden, horticulture
 
Sales at Fibertex Nonwovens received a boost in 2012 due to the acquisition of French Tharreau Industries in May 2011 as well as a generally higher level of business activity across all of its business for much of the year.
 
Including the Tharreau business, which is now known as Fibertex Nonwovens S.A., Fibertex, based in Aalborg, Denmark, has operations in Denmark, the Czech Republic, France and South Africa and serves industrial markets like automotives, construction, filtration and geotextiles. The company was created in 2011 when it split from sister company, Fibertex Personal Care.
 
In the past couple of years, Fibertex Nonwovens has focused on broadening its global footprint. “We try to go where we see the right opportunities for growth,” says Jorgen Bech Madsen, CEO. “And from there we adapt to competitive market situations.”
 
The acquisition of Tharreau Industries reportedly generated substantial synergies for both companies and has helped accelerate Fibertex Nonwovens’ strategy of becoming a European market leader. The operation contains needlepunch and spunlaced nonwovens located in Chemille, France.
 
Fibertex Nonwovens has also looked to South Africa for growth. In January 2010, the company announced it had started a state-of-the-art needlepunch line in South Africa. The facility makes and markets needlepunch nonwovens, primarily geotextiles, for road construction as well as products for the growing South African automotives industry.
 
Since the site’s establishment, most of Fibertex’s efforts there have focused on building production and positioning the company in the marketplace. Demand has been ramping up, however, more recently, driven by a large number of infrastructure projects in South Africa and its neighboring countries. Also helping to boost his operation is the acquisition of the distributor Geotextil Africa in late 2012. This move is expected to boost both revenue and earnings in 2013.
 
In addition to operations in France and South America, Fibertex Nonwovens operates a sizable needlepunch center at its headquarters in Aalaborg, Denmark. In recent years, efforts have focused on modernizing these operations to increase both productivity and efficiency. The company also operates a Czech Republic operation, which was acquired from Vigona in 2008.
 
Key markets for Fibertex Nonwovens include automotives, construction, industrial, filtration and wipes. Throughout all of these markets, Fibertex has been focusing on increasing its earnings potential and improving the ratio between the price it pays for raw materials and the price it fetches for its products.
 
“We truly have improved out place in the European market,” Bech says. “We are improving our earnings and we are passing through out raw material prices. We have a strong portfolio of products and we are working on growing sales in our more value added areas.”