2011 Nonwovens Sales: $131 million
Key Personnel: Jean-Marie Becker, executive vice president, Suominen Nonwovens; Timo Hiekkaranta, vice president, Sales; Juha Jokinen, vice president, Business Development, Mimoun Saim, vice president, Operations Europe and Sourcing; Larry Kinn, vice president, Operations Americas; Laurent Pennequin, vice president, Finance and Administration; Roberto Pedoja, vice president, Innovation, Technology & Investments
Plants: Bethune, SC; Green Bay, WI; Cressa, Italy; Mozzate, Italy; Nakkila, Finland; Windsor Locks, CT; Alicante, Spain; Paulinia, Brazil (scheduled to become part of Suominen in the third quarter of 2012)
Processes: Spunlace, thermal bonded, carded, hydroentangled
Major Markets: Wipes, medical, hygiene
In 2011, Suominen Nonwovens transformed itself from a small, one-site nonwovens manufacturer into the world’s largest maker of spunlaced nonwovens with sites spanning the globe. This transformation was achieved through the purchase of Ahlstrom’s former Home and Personal Care, or wipes, business in a €170 million deal.
With manufacturing assets in Wisconsin, Connecticut, South Carolina, Brazil, Finland, Spain and Italy, Ahlstrom’s wipes business reported sales of about €291 million per year, more than four times Suominen’s 2010 nonwovens sales which were reported at €59.1 million.
While the deal (excluding the Brazilian operation) did not close until late October, Suominen Nonwovens sales already received a nice bump in 2011, increasing from €59.1 million to €102 million ($130 million) last year. Pro forma sales for the period are estimated at €375 million ($485 million).
“The acquisition will virtually quadruple the size of the business adding significant volumes in North and South America and Asia, as well as in Europe and the Middle East,” says Alistair Brown, director of marketing and communications. “We cannot make an estimate of 2012 sales but we anticipate retaining and growing the business of both the merged companies.”
The wipes market remains highly competitive, globally, but at the same time, shows volume growth of between single and double figures in various geographies around the world, Brown adds. “By remaining flexible in our operations and providing products to our customers, wherever they are in the world, from geographically spread locations we expect to keep Suominen Nonwovens at the forefront of the global nonwovens wiping market and to extend its presence in other segments.”
As it works to integrate two businesses, Suominen has already had to take some measures to improve performance. In June, the company announced it would close two lines at the original Suominen site in Nakkila, Finland, where it would also streamline administrative and support staff, impacting about 76 employees. According to executives, these measures will impact one thermal bond and one spunlace machine and lead to a write down of about €3 million, which will result in improvement of the site’s overall profitability.
“As part of our announced Summit Program, instigated to return our business to profitability, we made a decision to streamline our Nakkila operations in order to improve this situation and, at the same time, to make our total operational platform more ideally suited to meeting our global customers’ volume demands,” Brown explains.
Meanwhile, all of the acquired plants are operating as planned. The Mozzate, Italy, plant experienced the temporary closure of one production machine as a result of a fire, but it is back to business as usual. Due to bureaucratic difficulties, the acquisition of the Brazilian site has been delayed, but executives expect to complete the phase of the purchase by the end of the third quarter.
The combination of Suominen and Ahlstrom brings together a number of brands, including Hydraspun flushable substrates and Biolace eco-friendly nonwovens. The integration of these brands has been seamless, reflecting Suominen Nonwovens’ strong presence and activity in the sustainable nonwovens market segment. The company will continue to support, grow and develop these brands throughout the world. As for technologies, the acquisition of the Home and Personal Business area from Ahlstrom has been completely complementary to Suominen Nonwovens, according to Brown, and, in no way, duplicates available technologies. “Additionally, the technical and operational expertise from both sides has melded very well to use experience in different technologies to jointly develop all our operational and new product development activities,” he adds.
This joint expertise will help Suominen Nonwovens—as the needs of its customers change—strive to create sustainable and environmentally-friendly solutions to customers’ needs and to seek increasingly effective products. In fact, Suominen’s total global growth strategy revolves around its corporate guiding principles of trust, expertise and partnership.
“In combination with flexible, global operations and the broadest range of technologies and processes available from any company in the wiping arena, we are confident that we have all the right resources in place to make our growth strategy achievable,” Brown concludes. “Suominen Nonwovens is the leading global manufacturer of nonwovens for wipes and we will continue to strive to remain so. Our expertise in nonwoven technologies will also allow us to look at other market segments where that expertise and our assets enable us to produce differentiated and value-adding new products.”