2013 Nonwovens Sales: $171 million
Poul Mikkelsen, chairman; Martin Mikkelsen, CEO; Stephen Landon, president and COO; Finn Schoning, group controller; Alexis Porcher, global commercial manager; Richard Knowlson, vice president product development; Ginny Casstevens, vice president, sales and new business development, Americas; Jeff Sellers, vice president, operations and procurement, USA
Asheville, NC, U.S.; Soultz, France; Old Hickory, TN, U.S.; Asturias, Spain
Lidro, Rough N Soft, TAU
Personal care, home care, hygiene, medical, packaging, specialty and technical industrial applications
The big news at Jacob Holm this year is the acquisition of the Sontara business from DuPont Protection Technologies, a deal that was announced in June and is expected to close during the third quarter. The integration of Sontara into Jacob Holm’s existing business not only increases the company’s spunlace output, but it also expands its manufacturing footprint with operations in Old Hickory, TN and Asturias, Spain.
“The combination of Jacob Holm and Sontara complements two strong players and creates a new industry innovation leader for spunlaced nonwoven fabrics. The broader range of technology know-how results in higher innovation capabilities in product development and offers promising business opportunities to the benefit of our customers and our employees. We very much look forward to working with our new colleagues and partners who will undoubtedly contribute to the successful development of our group,” says Martin Mikkelsen, CEO of the Jacob Holm Group.
DuPont developed Sontara more than 40 years ago and has marketed it in a range of medical and wipes businesses. According to DuPont’s annual report, sales last year were about $190 million or 5% of DuPont Protection Technologies’ sales in 2013.
Paul Marold, a former Ahlstrom executive, will serve as COO of the Sontara business once the sale closes.
Turning to Jacob Holm’s existing business, the company is underway with a large expansion at its Candler, NC site, which already houses one large spunlace line. The total investment for this new line will likely exceed $60 million by the time it is complete sometime in early 2015.
The site’s first line, which was added in 2006, has been operating at a sold-out status for several years and the company has relied on streamlining efficiencies as well as new product development to increase capacity and sales at the site.
For example, in the lightweight hygiene category, Jacob Holm has pushed the lowest basis weight limits that spunlace can supply. Such new development initiatives, including alternate specialty fiber processing, has allowed Jacob Holm to grow and develop without adding new assets, while targeting new market segments.
While it has diversified outside of wipes to some extent, still the majority of its overall capacity is sold into the premium wipes market while the balance is primarily sold into the hygiene market for diaper components and feminine hygiene applications. While efforts to diversify beyond wipes have been strong in recent years, Holm continues to develop new products in its core wipes business. These include 100% synthetic wipes with an aperture or smooth surface for disinfecting applications, a variety of premium lightweight wipes that range from 30-40 gsm using specialty fibers and a new range of 100% cellulosic/sustainable products.
Variety in raw materials has helped Jacob Holm in the global wipes market, which is still a growth market, albeit one with very pressurized margins, particularly in developed markets.
While premium and next generation wipes undoubtedly remain a priority, Jacob Holm has also expanded its other processing capabilities beyond lightweight hygiene applications, developing mid- to heavyweight specialty fabrics for industrial applications.