2013 Nonwovens Sales: $402 million
Wim Warnier, CEO
Germany, France, Belgium, Sweden, China
Air through bonded, chemical bonded, needlepunch, hydroentengled
Hygiene, medical, automotive, filtration, building and construction, cleaning wipes, bedding and furniture, apparel
Marking the first full year that TWE was integrated with Libeltex, 2013 was described as a great one for the company, according to CEO Wim Warnier. “It was an excellent move that brings use to the top of the industry,” he says. “We have a high comfort level with customers because we are truly international.”
Libeltex, a maker of air-through bonded nonwovens with plants in France, Sweden and Belgium, was formerly owned by Vita Group. TWE purchased the company in September 2012 during a move by Vita to exit the nonwovens markets in Europe and the U.S., where the operations were bought out by management.
The acquisition not only provided TWE with new technologies and capacity, it truly broadened TWE’s global reach and product portfolio. Together, the companies have nine locations, 1,000 employees and about $402 million in sales.
Included in the Libeltex acquisition was an air through bonded-based acquisition/distribution layer technology plus a core platform that has solidified the company’s footing in the hygiene market, which represents about 50% of total sales.
“We are the innovators of the acquisition and distribution layer technology and we have the technology to give customers the tools to make a next generation of thinner diapers,” says Wim, who joined TWE with the Libeltex acquisition. “The technology we have is very value added and not commoditized at all.”
Slimcore, a through-air bonded ADL material, was developed by Libeltex and introduced in 2012 and is now becoming more standard in core materials for baby diapers. It features a multilayer that can be used in any fluff versus superabsorbent polymer ratio.
“The baby diapers are becoming thinner, thinner and thinner but it’s also about comfort because that is linked to performance,” says Wim.
Beyond hygiene TWE’s second largest market is automotives, representing 15% of overall sales. Here, the company’s needlepunched products are used in acoustical products, filtration media and many other areas. Main geographical regions for TWE include Europe, the Middle East, Russia and, to a lesser extent, China.
Less significant but still growing in importance is cleaning wipes, which Wim describes as a very steady, global business. “It can be somewhat commoditized but if you approach it was very specific technology, you can be successful,” he explains.
Prior to the Libeltex acquisition, TWE’s manufacturing assets were located in Germany, where it is headquartered, and Hangzhou, China, where it expanded five years ago and is reporting 7-8% annual growth.
While the Libeltex integration added spots throughout Europe, in France, Belgium and Sweden, Wim says the company will spend the next couple of years in investment mode. In fact, plans are already underway to invest €30 million in new plants in Asia and Europe, but to date, details of this investment strategy have not been released. However, Wim would say that a new location in Asia is likely and western expansion has not been ruled out.