2016 Nonwovens Sales: $1.25 billion
Jan Åström, president and CEO; Sakari Ahdekivi, deputy CEO and executive vice president; Daniele Borlatto, executive vice president, Industrial Solutions; Fulvio Capussotti, executive vice president, filtration and performance
Belgium: Malmedy; Brazil: Louveira; China: Binzhou, Longkou; Finland: Karhula, Mikkeli, Tampere; France: Bousbecque, Brignoud, Orleans, Pont-Audemer, Saint-Severin; India: Mundra; Italy: Turin; Fabriano, Russia: Tver; South Korea: Hyon Poong; UK: Chirnside, Radcliffe; US: Bethune, SC; Madisonville, KY; Mt. Holly Springs, PA; Taylorville, IL; Windsor Locks, CT; Europe: Osnabrück, Germany; Bärenstein, Germany; and Ställdalen, Sweden; Falun Sweden
Wetlaid (Trinitex), microglass, nanotechnology (Disruptor), composites, creping/micrexing, spunmelt/spunbond, parchmentizing, coating, calendaring
Transportation filtration, diagnostic filtration, water filtration, wall coverings, building, automotive, food packaging, beverage, medical, flooring and masking tape
The big news from nonwovens producer Ahlstrom is its merger with fellow Finnish company Munksjö. Ahlstrom and Munksjö first announced plans to merge in November 2016. They had already jointly operated a site in Turin, Italy, since 2013 when Munksjö and Ahlstrom’s Label and Processing business merged.
“After the very successful integration of our acquired businesses during the past years and strong operating performance, the combination with Ahlstrom is a natural first step in the execution of our growth strategy, combining two leading businesses into one strong engine for performance and growth,” Peter Seligson, chairman of the board at Munksjö, said when announcing the merger. “The combined company will be positioned for strong long term-financial returns partly through the significant communicated cost synergies but mainly through enhanced future competitiveness and growth opportunities.”
The new company, which was officially formed in April 2017, is a global leader in sustainable and innovative fiber-based solutions with preliminary combined annual net sales of approximately €2.2 billion and EBITDA of €249 million for the 12 months ended September 30, 2016, and approximately 6200 employees. The combined company has 41 production and converting facilities in 14 countries and leading global positions in its main product areas including décor, filtration, industrial solutions and specialties.
Hans Sohlström, former chairman of Ahlstrom’s board, said that Ahlstrom has spent the last two years executing a very focused and successful business turnaround by shedding costs and by focusing on commercial excellence with new products and value added solutions for its customers. “The financial results speak for themselves. The combination now enables us to directly jump into a growth mode with a much stronger balance sheet and greater earnings potential which will benefit our shareholders and our customers as well as other stakeholders.”
In 2016, Ahlstrom’s nonwovens sales increased 2% to reach €1.085 billion thanks largely to higher sales volumes in glass fiber, wall coverings, food packaging and single-serve coffee and laboratory and life science materials.
In addition to growing sales and volumes, Ahlstrom was able to significantly increase its volumes in 2016 thanks to a strategy based on four pillars—improving its commercial excellence including price and product optimization, introducing new products and technologies to the market and creating customer satisfaction; implementing a new lean operating model to lower fixed costs: filling capacity at recent investments and seeing new growth platforms in areas such as single-serve coffee, life science and water purification businesses.
While the combination with merger means that Ahlstrom- Munksjö has interests outside of nonwovens, their materials continue to generate almost half of the total net sales, meaning they continue to be an important part of the overall growth of the combined company. And, since the two companies have very few overlapping products, it’s unlikely that there will be much streamlining in the number of sites.
Speaking of the company’s manufacturing footprint, it continues to expand under the new company structure with two expansions within its filtration business. In July, the company said it would release additional capacity in Turin, Italy, to support growing demand for filtration media.
“This capacity increase aims at improving our current service level but also, more strategically, enables us to offer to our customer an industrial platform on which they can build on to further grow their business,” says Fulvio Capussotti, executive vice president of filtration and performance. “The plan will include investments on selected assets, reorganization of planning practices and additional staffing. This capacity release will be concluded at the beginning of 2018 and will significantly increase our ability to answer the current and future needs of our filtration customers.”
This investment follows a similar investment in Madisonville, KY, valued at €23 million, which was announced in October. It is scheduled to be complete during the first half of 2018 and will help the company strengthen its focus in North and South America.
Both investments will enhance the quality and widen the range of engine and industrial filtration materials being offered by Ahlstrom-Munksjö.
Another market in growth mode is the single-serve coffee market, where Ahlstrom-Munksjö has been working with its customers to provide them with solutions that are biodegradable and compostable. In December, the company announced a deal with Caffee Vernano in Italy and Cap Mundo in France to supply the patented GreenCapsulre top lid, which is a fully compostable and biodegradable alternative to the common aluminum lid used in coffee capsules. It combines optimum extraction for a perfect espresso with a low environmental footprint.
Ahlstrom’s PLA-based material is also the choice of Canada’s Club Coffee, which uses the material in its PurPod100 product.
“Over past couple of years we have worked hard together with our customers and have been able to provide them with solutions that are biodegradable and compostable. With our solution, our customers can replace products using aluminum and plastics,” says investor and media relations manager Juho Erkheikki.
In fact, renewable fibers is a major interest to Ahlstrom-Munksjö. About 90% of the fibers the company uses as raw materials come from renewable sources and awareness of environmental concerns and resource scarcity drives much of its activities..
“The merger created a global leader in fiber-based materials with leading positions in many growing niche markets,” Erkheikki adds. “The combined company has a strong balance sheet that allows us to seek profitable growth, both organically as well as through acquisitions, should an opportunity rise. We have also confirmed annual cost synergies of €35 million, and may even exceed that amount. In addition, we foresee benefits in the capital markets through lower financing costs and improved investor appetite through better liquidity of the share.”