Nonwovens Industry
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Nan Liu Enterprise

Kaoshing, Taiwan
2011 Nonwovens Sales: $118 million

Key Personnel: C.S. Huang, chairman; H.S Huang, president; M.Yang, vice-president; Sam Chang vice-president; Paul Cheng, general manager; Bernard Kerstens, commercial director (overseas business)

Plants: Kaoshing, Taiwan; Pinghu, China

Processes: Spunlace, thermal bond, air-through bond, needlepunch

Major Markets: Hygiene, medical, wipes

Since 1978, Nan Liu Enterprise, Kaoshing, Taiwan, has been serving a number of hygiene markets. As it debuts on Nonwovens Industry’s top company report at number 38, Nan Liu recently announced plans to become a publicly traded company by early next year.

Nan Liu’s core businesses are hygiene and medical nonwovens and cosmetics. To continue its growth in these segments, Nan Liu has recently begun construction on a 6.2-meter wide spunlace line that it says will be the widest in the world. “This jumbo line will meet the rapidly increasing demand for wet wipes in China and other areas of Asia but also strengthens the company’s position on the worldwide market,” says Bernard Kerstens, commercial director (overseas business). The company expects production from this line to begin the third quarter of 2013. It will be located in Pinghu, China—near Shanghai—where the company already operates a 4.5-meter wide spunlace line.

Kerstens says this investment responds to strong growth in East Asia, particularly China, where wet wipes have seen an annual growth rate of approximately 20% in the last five years. “We expect that the rapid growth rate in China would continue for the next five years in view of the continued increase in personal income,” he says. “Moreover, increasingly people realize the convenience of using wet wipes. This is also true for many other spunlace applications.”

The new line will bring Nan Liu’s spunlace capacity to 28,000 tons. Present chairman C.S. Huang established Nan Liu at Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan in 1978. The company originally sold standard household goods but soon began making coverstock materials for diapers and sanitary napkins. After adding its first two nonwoven lines, the company’s operation accelerated. In 1985 the company passed the requirements of the Japanese Food Sanitation law, opening a door for exports to Japan, Southeast Asia and gradually the rest of the world.

Other nonwoven lines followed (thermal bond and needlepunch); in 2000 Nan Liu bought its first spunlace line, as well as wet wipe converting equipment. A second location housing nonwovens production was opened near Kaoshiung and a large cleanroom workshop was installed for the development and manufacture of cosmetic facial masks, cream and liquids. Combining its spunlace know-how with biotechnology, Nan Liu began making cosmetic facial masks and cosmetic remover wipes. The company registered the brand name SilkSoft used for its cosmetic and nonwoven fabrics.

“In the domestic Taiwan and mainland China markets, Na Liu now holds an important position in baby wipes and cosmetic facial masks products. Both in these markets and internationally it has become a major converter of finished wet wipes as well as one of the largest Asian producers of spunlace roll stock.

In 2005, Nan Liu embarked on its first foreign investment in Pinghu, China. With a total investment of nearly $40 million including new thermal bond/air-through bonding and spunlace lines as well as wet wipe converting equipment and a 4,500 square meter biotechnology workshop.

“The existing spunlace line at Pinghu is the widest one in Asia with 4.5 meter width,” says Kerstens. “Built primarily to produce low-linting woodpulp/polyester spunlace, it is geared to the needs of producers of surgical gowns and drapes as well as producers of low-lint industrial wipes.”

Nan Liu claims to be the first Asian producer to offer spunlace fabric that allows producers of surgical garments to meet European and U.S. standards simultaneously (EN 13795, AAMI-2), adhering to manufacturing practices and cleanliness needed in the hygiene, medical and cosmetic fields.

Looking forward, Nan Liu hopes to expand its reach into India and Russia as a publicly traded company in Taiwan. The company announced last month it expects to go public next year, a move that will help it improve its global profile.

“By becoming a publicly traded company in Taiwan, we will feel that we have a higher duty, more responsibility and more pressure to perform better,” Kerstens says. “It should make it even more attractive for excellent people to join us. Secondly, financially, we feel we could attract more investors, get more support and get access to cheaper investment means from the financial world—higher profits and new major investments being the main objectives.”
Kaoshiung City, Taiwan
2012 Nonwovens Sales: $128 million
Key Personnel: C.S. Huang, chairman; H.S Huang, president; M.Yang, vice-president; Sam Chang vice president; Paul Cheng, general manager; Bernard Kerstens, commercial director, overseas business
Plants: Kaoshing, Taiwan; Pinghu, China
Processes: Spunlace, thermal bond, air-through bond, needlepunch
Major Markets: Hygiene, medical, wipes
Nan Liu Enterprise has been serving a number of hygiene markets since 1978. Its core businesses are hygiene and medical nonwovens and cosmetics. The company’s growth from $118 million in revenue a year ago to $128 million turnover in 2012 can be attributed to an increase in sales volume of spunlace wood pulp/PET fabrics for surgical gowns from in last year’s fourth quarter.
According to Bernard Kerstens, commercial director, overseas business, Nan Lui was not entirely satisfied with these results because he says the company faced a limitation of capacity, which forced it to cancel some orders.
In addition, the company faced other challenges in 2012 and into 2013. “The drop in selling prices for spunlace fabrics and at the same time an increase in costs, labor and raw materials has created a challenging operating environment,” says Kerstens.
Amid these challenges, Nan Liu Enterprise made the decision to join the Taiwan Stock Exchange. “Nan Liu Enterprise has gone public as of May 7, 2013,” says Kerstens. “We would like to use this opportunity to run the business more efficiently and also to attract more professional people to join our operation. Through this procedure, we made some long-term company development strategies to meet the public’s expectations.”
To continue growth in its core hygiene and medical segments Nan Liu began construction last year on a 6.2-meter- wide spunlace line that it says will be the widest in the world and is in the final test stage now. “We expect it will be in commission around the end of August or the first half of September this year,” says Kerstens. “This line will produce first-class spunlace fabrics for wipes and other applications. It has many unique functions, which will help us to meet clients’ special needs.”
Discussing the wet wipes business, which in China has experienced growth in the 20% per year range, Kerstens says because family income continues to increase in China and an easing of the country’s one-child policy is very likely in the near future, the baby wipes business in China will continue to enjoy a double digits growth for next five years.
In terms of competition in the Asian spunlace market, he characterizes the market as “tough, and very tough” because there are so many locally made machines and a huge range of quality levels, which will confuse clients and also easily upset end users that buy poor quality products.
Another evolution the Asian wipes market is the growth of branded products. “People trust brand name products and as a result we saw the business growth of branded products,” says Kerstens. “This trend will narrow down private labels’ existing opportunity. Special function wipes, for example, flushable wipes, baby wipes for mouth and hands only and cosmetic removal wipes, will grow faster than traditional wipes.”
With its thermal bonded and thru-air lines, Nan Liu sees sales continuing to grow as they primarily serve the baby diaper market. “The market for baby diapers in China has enjoyed a rapid growth during past several years,” says Kerstens. “Customers are looking for high-end products today, which benefits our fabric’s needs.”
Aside from wipes, the medical market is next in line in terms of importance for Nan Liu, spending much of its efforts and costs to develop wood pulp/PET spunlace fabrics for surgical gowns and drapes over the last five years.
“We are the only producer who makes this fabric and along with the final finishing treatment at the same facility compound allowing us to control the quality from the beginning to the end,” says Kerstens. “Our capacity for medical fabrics will double after our new line is in commission.”
Moving forward, Nan Liu will continue to expand its bases as its clients continue to move around the globe, according to Kerstens. “Nan Liu Enterprise was founded in Taiwan 35 years ago and we have made a strong alliance with our clients since then,” he says.
“The reason we came to China was to supply fabrics to our clients and we will continue to do so to follow our clients steps who are also operating in Southeast Asian countries, India, Middle East and Russia. Nan Liu will also set up supply bases there soon.”