Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Courtaulds/Akzo JV: NEWCELL continuous filament lyocell (1995)

Akzo Nobel Fibres' sales and operating income improved in 1994 largely as a result of increased productivity. The company shed about 10% of its workforce and has rationalised its fibres activities into 5 business units of industrial fibres, textile fibres, aramid products, nonwovens and Membrana which produces speciality medical membranes. In Europe the company is withdrawing from staple polyester production and is concentrating textile filament production into Kuagtextil, a joint venture with Textilwerke Deggendorf. Akzo Nobel has also commissioned a pilot plant for Newcell solvent-spun filament based on lyocell and has a development agreement with Courtaulds for joint venture production. There are also production capacity expansions planned for Twaron aramid in the Netherlands, Colback nonwoven textiles in the US and tyre yarn facilities in the US and Brazil. 

Anon., Eur. Chem. News, vol. 63, no. 1662, 10-16 Apr. 1995, p. 18

Unique nonwoven process used by Greenwood Mills to finish Tencel (1996)

This looks a bit peripheral, but bear with me.  Courtaulds Research work on hydroentangled nonwovens was intensified in joint work with the Kendall Corporation aimed at reducing residues extracted from rayon by the high pressure "washing".  Kendall and International Paper formed Veratec and in the course of continued joint work we showed them (late 80's) how a knitted Tencel fabric could be stabilised by fibrillation in hydroentanglement.  I had no idea the process was later used on woven Tencel denim.  Were they trying to fibrillate it to create peachskin or simply create a washed look? (The Interspun trade mark was abandoned by Polymer Group in 2003)

InterSpun, a hydroentanglement technique developed by InterSpun Veratec, Sort Mill, SC, USA, changes the surface fibre arrangement of textiles to give increased bulk, greater opacity and improved handle. The method is suitable for use with various textile fabrics including wool, silk, cotton, nylon, polypropylene, polyester and rayon. Applications include garments, furnishing fabrics and industrial textiles and because the fabric's permeability can be adjusted using the treatment, it may also be used for air bags and gas or liquid filtration materials. JPS Automotive LP has patented this application in connection with production of InterLochen air bag technology, which will be incorporated into vehicles from 1997. Greenwood Mills uses InterSpun technology to produce Tencel (lyocell) denim and chambray fabrics.

 Smith W C., Tech. Text. Int., vol. 5, no. 8, Oct. 1996, p. 11

Courtaulds catches cold, but defends core business (1993)

Another memorable quote, this time from the FT of November 18th 1993.  

The UK is now the favourite location for manufacturing in Europe (presumably with the proposed EU Tencel plant in mind) because "Germany provides an outmoded socialist environment.  That country has a long way to go to reach the efficiency levels of the UK".

In the same paper "Courtaulds Catches Cold": shares fall by 9%.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Can Tencel take on Rayon? (1995)

This Wall St Journal article is hardly legible in scanned form below, but it contains some quotes worth preserving:
  • "Courtaulds makes some pretty dull stuff".
  • Tencel: "In the next 5 years its going to explode".
  • 1995 prices: Polyester 70c, cotton 80c., rayon 95c., Tencel 180c.
  • Courtaulds expects Tencel sales to reach $5bn/year.
  • Regarding the foray into fashion: "I'm not sure I understand this...I'm a chemical engineer" (Gordon Campbell)
  • Burlington/Klopman: "Fabric requires slow and costly manufacturing". "It will be a challenge for Courtaulds to meet forecasts"
  • Lenzing, who are suing Courtaulds for patent infringement in New York, thinks the fibre "will remain a high priced niche of under 100,000 tonnes".
  • Levi's: "This fabric has some definite potential"

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dethroning King Cotton? (1993)

This is from the Financial Times, Jan 5th 1993, and comments on the magnitude of the marketing task faced by Tencel and Alan Jones.  New technology, new product and new market, i.e. the luxury apparel market chosen for the launch. 
  • "The technical strengths and unusual properties of the material will sell it".
  • The Courtaulds approach stands in contrast to ICI's conservative approach with Tactel: Launch in a market you understand and when the properties of the fibre are well understood, relaunch in fashion.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Demerger of Textiles announced (1989)

Not strictly Tencel-related but this is a reminder that Courtaulds was under pressure from the shareholders in the late 80's, with rumours of possible take-over.  Kerry Packer is mentioned here.  Coming after the sale of the wood-pulp business in 88, the demerger of Textiles added to the impression that fibres in general and cellulosics in particular might not be the highest of priorities for the next decade.

It was around this time that the board was being asked to consider a major investment in a long-term project aimed at leading the next century's fibre industry with a new sustainable fibre.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tencel remains one of Courtaulds chief hopes (1992)

Sipko in the smart new office at George Street. The Dual track strategy for growth:  exploit Tencel technology and go for growth mainly in the Far East: no more diversification.  "Tencel should make every existing plant for cellulosic fibres obsolete."

(click on the photo to enlarge it)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tencel: not cotton, rayon, synthetic, silk, wool or linen (1992)

This is the Q&A handout from the information pack provided to the attendees of the Tencel plant commissioning party in June 1992.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lenzing Wins Austrian “Big Player“ ranking (2012)

Continuing the policy of publishing the latest news from Lenzing, here's today's press release.  Having "stuck to the knitting"  they now make more rayon than Courtaulds ever did and the eye-watering expansion to 1.2 million tonnes capacity suggests that given similarly patient shareholders and management, even Courtaulds could have been making money now.

For the 14th time, the business daily WirtschaftsBlatt set out to identify the most successful companies in Austria together with the credit reference agency KSV1870 and PwC. Lenzing AG once again convinced the jury and won the Austrian ranking in the category “Big Player” for the second time. A firm’s good performance over a period of years and not short-term business results is what counts for the Austrian Leading Companies Award. The current analysis took account of the company’s performance in the years 2009-2011. The issue of sustainability also plays a major role in this competition.   

Lenzing CEO Peter Untersperger is pleased with this award. “This victory again in the overall Austrian rankings impressively underlines the fact that Lenzing belongs to the premier league of Austrian companies”, he says.  For years the Lenzing Group has achieved good results and also operates extremely successfully. 

Viscose fibers are in vogue around the world, and demand is steadily rising. For this reason, the global market leader Lenzing is in the midst of a Group-wide expansion program which aims to almost double current fiber production capacity to 1.2 mn tons by 2015.  

Key Figures Lenzing Group 2011: 
Sales: EUR 2.14 bn 
Export share: 91.5% 
Fiber production: 705,100 tons 
Staff: 6,593

For more information please contact: 
Angelika Guldt 
Head of Corporate Communications 
Phone: +43 (0) 7672 701-2713 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tencel Ads: They'll buy Fashions of Tencel (1992)

This was the second page of a series of 2-page spreads in Womans Wear Daily and Daily News Record in the USA coinciding with the start of SL1.  

The first page had the heading "For the same reason people prefer..." followed by a photo of a Cadillac or gold jewellery... 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tencel: The Skunk that Smells Sweet (1992)

I'd filed the article which follows without labelling it.  It looks like a Financial Times font and is probably based on an interview given by Sipko Huismans shortly before SL1 started up in 1992. It contains several memorable quotes:

"God really is a viscose man and he'll look after his own"
Tencel uses a process that isn't secret at all: "Every chemistry student knows cellulose dissolves in amine oxide"
" Ultimately, the capital cost of [Tencel] will be less than making viscose environmentally friendly"

Origin - Began as  a skunk works in Viscose Research in the mid '70's.
Why Mobile? - Customers. Once the Japanese start using it the US will follow.
The Market - "It's for Ferrari drivers" and then at the end of the article "perhaps Britain has too few Ferrari Drivers" 
Profitability - Break even next year, then revenues of £45m pa, but one analyst said "It could be a white elephant".

Tencel: £15 million profit expected: Collaboration with Akzo, Asahi on Newcell (1996)

The high performance cellulose fibre lyocell has great potential in the textile industry with supply currently unable to keep up with demand. Most of the 43,000tpy of lyocell produced is made in the traditional staple version, Tencel, by Courtaulds in two plants in the US. This production is to increase to 55,000tpy by the end of 1997 by which time a new 42,000tpy production plant in the UK will also have come on stream. Profit from Tencel sales is expected to earn Courtaulds £15m in profits in 1996. 

In a collaborative agreement with Courtaulds, Akzo Nobel is developing Newcell, a continuous filament version of lyocell. Both companies are participating with Asahi in an evaluation of the Japanese market for Newcell. Lenzing, Austria, is planning to bring a 42,000tpy lyocell staple production plant on line in 1997. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tencel or Tinsel? Can Tencel be brought into the mass market? (1996)

The following article is from the Investors Chronicle of 16th Feb 1996 and illustrates the pressure arising from something like £0.8 to £1 of the Courtaulds share price being based on expectations of great things from Tencel.  The fact that Tencel was costing about  twice as much as "the materials it would have to supplant" to justify a 50% price premium, conveys the magnitude of the marketing effort required.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Viscose Rayon and Tencel Processes Compared (1986)

This post is out of sequence but compared with the last one it serves to indicate how much progress was made in less than 10 years.

The copy below is from the document used to justify the first major scale-up of the Genesis process from Research to the Grimsby factory.  It's interesting to note how "the use of spare acrylic fibre minimise capital costs" over 25 years ago effectively finalised the broad aspects of Tencel process design in Courtaulds.  

This use of Courtelle washing and drying technology, an old tow route developed from a viscose tow line to make fibre for stretch-breaking, defined the presentation and processability of the future Tencel .  

Mechanical crimp as used on thermoplastic fibres was needed prior to dry cutting to make a processable staple fibre from the tow. This had never been used commercially on a 100% cellulose tow and the early fibre suffered from low cohesion and crimper damage which made it difficult to process at high speed, especially on nonwoven lines.  

Early Tencel was in fact best in the tow market and made an excellent short-cut fibre which easily outperformed viscose in wet- and air-laid nonwovens and paper.

(This extract is from a document entitled "Project Genesis" 1/9/86, but no authors are mentioned)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Asian volume growth boosts Courtaulds: Record Tencel Sales (1996)

 Operating profits of £150m and £1.017m sales were reported by Courtaulds for 1995-1996. Sales rose by 10% compared with 1994-1995, assisted by an increase in volume of sales in Asia, particularly in coatings/sealants. Profits decreased by 8.5% as a consequence of fluctuations in the price of raw materials for acrylic and viscose. Record Tencel fibre sales were achieved, augmented in May by a European Patent Office ruling that Lenzing AG's patent is not valid. Courtaulds commissioned an additional Tencel manufacturing facility at Mobile, Alabama, USA, in February 1996 and is adding 42,000tpy to its plant at Grimsby, UK. Courtaulds Packaging, Shanghai, China commenced operation in May and a new South Korean coating plant is currently being constructed.

Anon., Asian Chem. News, vol. 2, no. 78, 3 Jun 1996, p. 10

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Courtaulds increases tempo of Grimsby lyocell project (1996)

High demand for Tencel cellulosic fibre has encouraged Courtaulds plc to accelerate construction of its new 42,000tpy lyocell production facility in Grimsby, UK. The plant was to be built in two stages, the first of which (30,000tpy capacity) was due to be commissioned in 1997; now it will be constructed in a single stage and this, together with the use of new technology currently being installed at the plant in Mobile, Alabama, USA, will increase the company's lyocell production capacity to just under 100,000tpy in 1998. Plans for a plant in Southeast Asia were announced in 1995, but its location was not stated.  

 Anon., Nonwovens Rep. Int., no. 303, June 1996, pp 5-6

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

David Pike (Seydell-Wooley and Co Inc) recalls the first sizing of 100% Tencel in 1993

Here's the first contribution from one of the multitude of non-Courtaulds people who contributed to the successful  development of uses for the new fibre.  

If we get more I'll start a new page of credits.

I can help as I was the first person to size 100% Tencel at the old Greenwood Mills - Lindale Plant - Lindale Ga. location in 1993 & 1995 and 65/35 tencel/cotton in 1995. Email me at and I will assist. I was working with SEYDEL-WOOLLEY & CO. INC. at the time and still have all the technical papers from the slashing of the yarns on an old West Point Foundry slasher #4 with West Point Foundry 863 Equi-Squeeze boxes/ medium pressure (5 ton) for research by Courtalds out of Axis, Alabama plant.

The people I dealt with were from the Axis, Alabama plant.  One of the engineers called me one day a few years later for some information on slashing/sizing techniques but I don't remember his name.  A I said, I have all my old notes from each warp sizing trial I conducted for 10 years while at SEYDEL-WOOLLEY & CO. INC.  I am still friendly to my my old company and the president Mr. Steve Adams and I am sure I could secure some of that other additional lab bench work info if a paper or history was ever put together.  

My best memory was the 65/35 Tencel/Cotton trial we conducted in 1995.  We were told it was basically a RAYON so we used that as a basis point but that was not the case at all.  We set the slasher up for a stretch of 4% which is standard for RAYON and low and behold it turned to rubber bands.  Our 100% Tencel trials went off without a hitch but the 65/35 was a different animal all together with a stretch more in line with cotton.  It turned out that Tencel was more like cotton and once we determined that away we went.

From: David M. Pike of DPG ENTERPRISES, INC.

Tencel Kai: Expanding Lyocell in Japanese market (1996)

Here "Lyocell" is being used as a brand name rather than generic and maybe because "Courtaulds Lyocell" was our brand for industrial products the writer assumes Lenzing's Lyocell is for industrials too.  It would be good to know more about the "Tencel Association" or Kai formed by Mr Omori to launch Tencel in Japan.  Comments on how this worked would be great!

Demand for Tencel and Lyocell fibres in Japan is rising as a result of increased wholesale and retail sales of garments containing Tencel (particularly jeans, where demand has exceeded expectations). Courtaulds Fibers Inc, USA, currently produces 43,000tpy of the fibres and Toyoshima Co Ltd imports Tencel fibres for subsequent processing by Tencel Association members. Lyocell, used for industrial products, is also being manufactured by Lenzing AG of Austria on a semicommercial scale and full scale production of 24,000tpy is expected to commence in 1997. Lenzing AG also produces Lenzing Modal, for which demand in 1996 is anticipated to remain at 1995 levels (3,000tpy). Group development projects for Modal jeans are in progress among Japanese manufacturers; Unitika Ltd is exploring applications for Lyocell.

Anon.,  JTN., no. 498, May 1996, p. 52

Monday, October 15, 2012


The Federal Trade Commission of the USA has proposed Lyocell as an alternative generic name for cellulose-based fibres. Courtaulds Fibres of the USA has been selling the lyocell fibre under the brandname Tencel since 1990 and wanted the name Lyocell added to the list of approved generic names. The solvent-spun cellulosic staple fibre is used for clothing, home furnishings and technical fabrics and has been sold in Europe under the Lyocell name. Courtaulds has expanded its facility in Axis at a cost of $134m and startup is scheduled for February 1996. 

Anon., Nonwovens Ind., vol. 27, no. 1, Jan. 1996, p. 16

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tencel beginning to pay off but Courtaulds falls from Footsie (1996)

It's goodbye to Courtaulds, the chemical group will almost certainly today be given its marching orders from the prestigious Footsie blue chip share index.
Shares are bumping along near their 12-month lows; Courtaulds' stock market valuation has fallen to around £1.6bn.  Courtaulds has looked vulnerable for some time. In the past few months Courtaulds has slumped from 487.5p to 384p, off 4.5p yesterday. 

Interim figures devastated Courtaulds. Profits fell £4m to £64m, prompting estimates for this year and next to be cut. The group's massive investment in wonder fibre, Tencel, is beginning to pay off but other parts of the business are struggling.


Gordon Campbell succeeds Sipko Huismans: First Interview (1996)

The architect of the Exodus gives an interview on taking over the Chairmanship of Courtaulds.  "I am certain we will turn the corner this year"It's a nice interview and good enough to be recorded in full:
Shortly after it was announced that Gordon Campbell was to succeed Sipko Huismans at the top of Courtaulds, he received a call from Harvard University. They were running a two-day course on how to be a chief executive - would he like to enrol? To the amusement of his colleagues - who thought two days was far too long to learn all he would need to know - Mr Campbell signed up right away.
Following in the inimitable footsteps of his larger-than-life predecessor, he was humble enough to admit he could probably do with all the tips he could pick up. The lesson he learnt was not what he expected at all, but a useful one for someone planning the future of a multinational corporation, employing 17,000 staff in 43 countries.

"What I came away with was the overwhelming realisation that my American counterparts were completely driven by the material rewards of their jobs in a way that we in Britain don't approach. We spent most of the two days talking about remuneration."

That he was surprised says a lot about Courtaulds' new chief executive, a self-confessed "lifer" with the chemicals and fibres giant and the antithesis of the flash American corporate big-shot. You do not get to be boss of a company the size of Courtaulds by just being a nice bloke, but the abiding impression given by Mr Campbell is of a chap you wouldn't mind playing 18 holes and having a couple of pints with. His new-found American friends would think him a regular kind of guy, but might question whether he was driven enough to count as one of them.

Get him out on that golf course, however, and it would not take long to understand how the junior production manager, fresh from his Cambridge chemical engineering degree in 1968, came to rise to the top of the only company he has ever worked for while still (just) in his forties. How's his golf? "Pretty good, actually. I played off six when I was at school. I don't really play now, but last week, entertaining some Japanese partners, I came back in 43. I know how to hit a golf ball." Behind the bank manager self-effacement lies someone who knows what he's good at.

His self-confidence is apparently shared in the City, where after nine years on Courtaulds main board, the last two as deputy chief executive, he is well known and respected.

There are likely to be plenty of tough decisions in the coming years to test that assessment. Well-regarded as Mr Huismans was, Mr Campbell's outgoing, confident sports-mad predecessor presided over a period of declining earnings per share and an underperforming share price. There is plenty of hard work to do if the company's undoubted technical excellence and innovation is to be converted into tangible results.

In those circumstances, it is not surprising that there are some who believe Courtaulds might have been better served by an outside appointment. "It is possible to argue it both ways but ultimately I will be judged on my performance. I don't think, however, that you should expect any dramatic change in strategy. I've been on the board since 1987 and if I didn't agree with the strategy, then we should have changed it or I should have departed," says Mr Campbell.
That strategy remains to focus on Courtaulds' three core businesses - coatings and sealants, where it leads the world in marine and yacht paints; polymer products, such as packaging and high tech polyester films; and chemicals and fibres, including Tencel, a new lightweight manmade fibre that has taken Japan and America by storm.

Tucked away in a troubled division that was clobbered last year by wildly fluctuating raw material prices and a demand roller-coaster, it is easy to forget that Tencel is a genuine success story. Based on research carried out in the UK, first commercial production in the US and the development of an initial market in Japan, the new so-called "wonder fibre" has shown that Courtaulds can still produce exciting new products and sell them around the world.

Mr Campbell admits that the biggest challenge is to increase Courtaulds' exposure to the Far East where a target of 25 per cent of group sales by the year 2000 has been set. Managing the move away from a US/Europe based business to a genuine world player, and bringing on the local management to run that global business, will be how Mr Campbell is judged.
He knows that, but also knows the limits to what one man can achieve: "What I have to do is create a style for management that allows people to make their maximum contribution. That means creating the right atmosphere and encouraging everyone I come into contact with to operate that way." If people don't agree with what we are doing they should feel confident enough to speak out."
Will it make a measurable difference? "I am certain we will turn the corner this year. I see signs of it happening but we said all along it would be September before there was a significant improvement in performance. But we do have to deliver a very sharp improvement."
He concludes: "Overall, we have to find the trick of growing the whole of the group, not just some of it, and eliminating other parts. That means everybody must perform, because there is no point holding on to businesses that don't ."It looks like the golf will have to wait.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Demerger was not a winning formula at Courtaulds but Cellulosics might be (1996)

Support for our view that cellulosics should have a great long-term future if they survive the medium-term, but more confusion: this article seems to put SL3 in Asia.

Cutting away its currently troubled textiles arm in 1990 has not saved the chemicals rump of the business from a vicious business cycle. 

But the real story at Courtaulds remains a long-term one. The Far East consistently notches up profits growth of 15 per cent as the group continues its drive into the region, with businesses like marine and powder coatings and toothpaste tubes all building new facilities there. Next year they will be joined by the third production plant for Courtaulds' Tencel "wonder fibre", now showing its first profits after a decade of development costing around £300m.

The £150m plant will keep capital spending up at around £200m a year for some time, but Tencel will be making at least £60m by the beginning of the new millennium, which is roughly the profits on viscose Courtaulds has lost since the early 1990s, according to analysts' estimates. If viscose is back by then too, 10 per cent margins may become a reality again.

Volatile prices cause cash evaporation at Courtaulds (1996)

The early announcement of SL4 looked premature even then. Presumably the marketing campaign being planned was in addition to the one that had taken Tencel into profit.

In order to reduce the price volatility that resulted in a 13% fall in 1995 profits, Courtaulds, the chemicals group, is negotiating long term contracts with leading suppliers. The acrylic and viscose fibre business had an extremely bad year because of the volatility of raw material prices as the chemical industry emerged from recession. The company already has two agreements linking purchase prices to selling prices, and more are being discussed. Tencel, the group's new fibre which handles like silk but has the durability of denim, moved into profit for the first time. Demand continues to exceed the ability to supply, despite the addition of extra manufacturing capacity. A fourth plant will be added in the Far East, and Courtaulds is planning a marketing campaign to stimulate consumer interest in Tencel, which is available in clothes ranging from jeans to cocktail dresses.

Cowe R., The Guardian., 23 May 1996, p. 21 (P)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Courtaulds promises Tencel profits (1996)

Winter 95-96 was certainly the season for mixed messages about Tencel if the last few post are any indication!

Shares in Courtaulds rose 15p to 418p after the chemicals company promised shareholders a move into profits for the group's new silk-like fibre Tencel in the year to March. Good news from the Tencel operation outweighed continuing gloomy news from the acrylics and viscose businesses where, despite raw materials returning to more normal price levels, demand remains weak. Thanks to rapid growth in demand for Tencel, Courtaulds has decided to accelerate investment plans for a third plant at Grimsby. That site comes on-stream in mid 1997 and is expected to be fully operational early in 1998.

The Independent, Feb 26th 1996


More on the sell-offs to finance Tencel.  The sums now add up to £104 million:  similar to the cost of the Grimsby SL3 plant?

Amtico, the vinyl flooring manufacturer, was sold by Courtaulds for £49m in accordance with the company's strategy of focusing on its coatings and fibres businesses. Courtaulds will continue to hold a 10% share of Amtico, from which it may receive an additional £3.8m if performance objectives are achieved. The revenue from the sale will reduce Courtaulds' debt (£376m in September 1995) in order to finance future development of Tencel lyocell fibre. A further £40m income is expected from a joint venture with Hoechst involving oriented polypropylene film.

Anon., Text. Mon., Feb. 1996, p. 3

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Optimism again in this release to the FT...

The latest trading statement from Courtaulds of the UK indicated strong demand and accelerated expansion plans for Tencel, including an earlier startup date for its third Tencel plant in Grimsby, which will take annual Tencel output to 100,000tpy by mid 1997. The company's investment programme includes a doubling of capacity in 1996 and all of this will be used immediately to take the new fibre into profit. Sales are expected to account for 3% of turnover in 1996. Other divisions experienced difficult trading conditions in the second half and the market for acrylics and viscose (over 20% of sales) was disrupted by raw material price swings. Analysts are forecasting £140m profits for the year ending March 1996, down from £151m.

Luesby J., Financ. Times, no. 32,915, 21 Feb. 1996, p. 23


£15m doesn't seem a lot for the massive Cellophane viscose plant at Bridgwater.  Clearly the Tencel debt at this time was in need of attention! 

Courtaulds has sold its cellulose film business Cellophane to UCB for £15m. Cellophane transparent film has been used since the 1930s to wrap chocolates and cigarette packets. After intense competition from other films, production is now 20,000tpy, one third of its 1940s peak. Courtaulds sold Amtico for £49m in December 1995. Both sales were non core businesses and proceeds will be used to cut debts incurred in establishing Tencel, its new fibres brand. 

Green D., Financ. Times., no. 32,877, 9 Jan. 1996, p. 17

Monday, October 8, 2012


Compared with the upbeat last post (Sept 95) this one suggests all may not be well in the accounts dept.

A management buy-out team has purchased Courtaulds' Amtico luxury vinyl flooring unit for £49m cash. Courtaulds will keep a 10% stake in the business and may receive a further £3.8m if certain performance targets are met. This sell-off coincides with Courtaulds' strategy of focusing on fibres and coatings. The company has received shareholders' approval for its oriented polypropylene film joint venture with Hoechst. Proceeds from the sale and the joint venture are to be used to reduce debt, which would reduce gearing from 53% to 40% and give the group room to finance the capital investment needed to develop Tencel, its new fibre. 

Harverson P., Financ. Times, no. 32,865, 22 Dec. 1995, p. 20

Maybe the Tencel development was straining Group finances at this time.  Amtico seemed to be just the sort of high quality, high value brand Courtaulds needed to grow, and PP film in 96 looked better in the medium term than Cellophane.


Courtaulds has revealed improved technology which will increase output but reduce costs at Tencel plants producing the lyocell fibre. The technology will be used at the second Tencel line currently under construction at Courtauld's Mobile plant in Alabama, USA, and will be retro-incorporated into the first line. It will increase capacity by 30% to 55,000t. The technology will also be used at the company's site in Grimsby, UK, the first European full scale production plant for the fibre. The advantages of the lyocell fibre are discussed, together with its applications and production process. Its most outstanding properties are said to result from its ability to fibrillate when required during processing.

Anon., Nonwovens Rep. Int., no. 290, May 1995, pp 11-12

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Courtaulds Fibres have already successfully introduced their solvent spun cellulosic fibre lyocell into the apparel markets in the US, Japan and Europe under the brand name Tencel. The company has now improved lyocell technology to enable substantially increased spinning rates which will increase output from its plants. Courtaulds are now to market the fibre in the technical textiles sector. Lyocell fibres are stronger than other man made cellulosics and retain 85% of dry tenacity when wet. The fibre's non-thermoplastic behaviour at high temperature also makes it suitable for coated fabrics. The fibrillated nature of the fibre adds strength, integrity, opacity and absorbency to yarns, fabrics and papers. Applications include protective clothing, substrate fabrics for coatings and cigarette filters. 

Anon., Chem. Fibres Int., vol. 45, no. 3, June 1995, p. 159


Tencel is the hope for Courtaulds long term future...

The short history of Lyocell has been littered by patent disputes, postured takeovers and enthusiasm over its potential. Courtaulds sees it as representing the brightest development and hope for its long term future in fibres and that is why they are investing so heavily in it. The company has a declared strategy to concentrate on Lyocell expansion rather than viscose and to this end has marketed the branded clothing fibre Tencel since 1992, and is promoting Lyocell for nonwoven applications. Courtaulds is estimated to be five years ahead of Lenzing with commercial plants for the fibre, but the firm's potential in the markets of the Asia-Pacific may be jeopardised by a possible bid by an east Asian consortium for Lenzing. Neither Courtaulds nor Lenzing have plans to license the technology and Lenzing has no plans to sell the technology until its patents run out early next century.

Williams G., Eur. Chem. News, vol. 64, no. 1682, 4-10 Sept. 1995, p. 22

Friday, October 5, 2012


 The major disadvantage of cellulose-based fibre production systems has been the pollution associated with the process. Solvent-spun lyocell fibre production based on the solvent N-methyl morpholine-n-oxide (NMMO) which is recovered and recycled during the process is said to be environmentally friendly. The spinning solution comprises crushed wood pulp added to an aqueous NMMO solution. Akzo Nobel Fibres who developed the NewCell process is currently researching ways of producing lyocell filament yarns, while Lenzing and Courtaulds who both have a license from Akzo Nobel are continuing lyocell staple fibre production. Tencel, Courtaulds' version of lyocell staple is, according to the company, stronger than other cellulosic fibres, easy to blend and to process into yarns and fabrics, easy to dye, dimensionally stable in washing and drying and comfortable to wear. 

Lennox-Kerr P., Tech. Text. Int., vol. 3, no. 10, Dec. 94-Jan. 1995, pp 18-23

Thursday, October 4, 2012


The German Thuringian Textile and Plastic Research Institute has developed a lyocell item known as Alceru which can be produced as a round cross-section, bright staple fibre or filament. A pilot-plant is to be commissioned during 1995 and large scale production is expected in 2 years time. Courtaulds is to build its first European lyocell staple fibre plant in the UK. When this plant comes onstream in 1997 Courtaulds will have a total global production capacity of 75,000tpy of lyocell fibre. The fibre is brandnamed Tencel in the fashion sector and Courtaulds Lyocell for nonwovens and industrial uses. The potential nonwoven applications for lyocell fibre include wipes, feminine hygiene products, medical dressings, coverstock, filters and battery separators. Lenzing are also to build a lyocell staple fibre facility to produce Lenzing Lyocell.

Anon, Nonwovens Rep. Int., no. 287, Feb. 1995, p. 2

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


In October 1994, Courtaulds has announced that its brand name Tencel will now refer only to yarns and fabrics approved for use in fashion clothing. Courtaulds Lyocell will be used to refer to new varieties of solvent-spun cellulosic for applications in nonwoven products for industry. At this time, Courtaulds only operates one full-scale lyocell production plant in Alabama (USA), although there are plans to construct another plant in Europe.

Anon., Nonwovens Rep. no. 283, Oct. 1994, p. 3.

This was the start of an attempt to allow nonwoven and technical textiles markets to develop with access to a lyocell fibre at a lower price (about 25% above viscose price) without destroying the Tencel premium.  "Courtaulds Lyocell" would be a matt fibre which would be easier to fibrillate but harder to use in yarn spinning than the bright Tencel.  

Tencel Jeans from Cerruti, Next, Versace (1995)

The newest innovation in jeans is the use of Tencel which is the only new fibre to be invented in the last 30 years. Tencel is a revolutionary fibre which enables the jeans to look authentic but makes them extraordinarily soft. Cerruti 1881 has 100 per cent Tencel jeans (and other denim garments) in their current collection, from £95 from Cerruti, 106 New Bond Street, London W1, (call 0171 491 1881 for a stockist near you). Next will have jeans in selected stores from the end of this month made from 65 per cent Tencel/35 per cent cotton which cost £34.99. Or you may wish to buy a pair of jeans from Versace Jeans Couture, surely the king of jeans. Prices start at £70 and there are velvet jeans, stretch ones, and hipsters in the range, available near you from Vikki Max, 14/16 Queen Street, Maidenhead, tel: 01628 781378.

The Independent SUNDAY 15 OCTOBER 1995

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Courtaulds expects £250m Tencel sales, hopes to announce a fourth plant in China (1994)

Mr Huismans said no decision had been reached on the location of a new European plant to produce the group's revolutionary Tencel fibre. The choice for the new 25,000-tonne facility, expected to cost £90m and generate 130 jobs, was between two sites in the UK, one in Spain and another in Germany. US production of Tencel is being increased from 18,000 to 43,000 tonnes with the addition of a second £134m plant. Courtaulds hopes to announce a fourth plant in China next summer and expects Tencel fibre sales to top £250m worldwide.

A maiden contribution from Tencel failed to stem a downturn in Courtaulds' fibres and chemicals operations, where operating profits fell from £108m to £93m. A sharp decline in Chinese demand led to a flood of imports elsewhere and lower prices for acrylics, acetate tow and rayon.

Lower raw material prices, on the other hand, boosted acetate yarns while European viscose benefited from the growing cotton shortage, ensuring a good start for Courtaulds' £130m acrylics and viscose joint venture with Hoechst.


Three recently-suggested non-derivatising solvent systems for the spinning of quality rayon fibres are reviewed and compared. They comprise amine oxide, liquid ammonia/ammonium salt, and lithium chloride/DMAc systems. It is concluded that both amine oxide and LiCI/DMAc systems produce good quality rayon fibres, and appear to be competitive with a new viscose plant from the initial investment and operating economic viewpoints. Areas in which future research efforts should be concentrated are identified.

Turbak A F., Presented at TAPPI '1983 International Dissolving and Speciality Pulps Conf.', held 5-8 April 1983 in Boston, M.A., pp 105-110 

Sipko Shimmering in Tencel Suit (1994)

Pity there wasn't a photograph with this article. It's hard to imagine Sipko shimmering!

SIPKO Huismans, the Courtaulds chief executive, was yesterday shimmering resplendently in a suit and shirt made of Tencel, the company's wonder fibre. Production of the versatile stuff - it can even be used in water-absorbent industrial fabrics - is to be stepped up to meet increased demand.

Courtaulds is planning a third plant somewhere in Europe and is pondering between Grimsby, Derby, Spain and Germany. Mr Huismans says his pounds 200 blue Tencel suit is a Spanish designer number. This does not bode well for Grimsby.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Tencel capacity doubles in Mobile (1993)

Here's another Exodus story from The Independent of 18th November 1993 which also mentions the Mobile Tencel expansion and "another 4 plants in the Far East" (?!)

COURTAULDS, the chemicals and fibres group, yesterday surprised the City with a plan to shut down six manufacturing plants with a loss of 650 jobs in Europe.

The cuts were announced as Courtaulds reported taxable profits of pounds 96m, up from pounds 88m, for the half year to 30 September. Earnings rose from 18.1p to 19.5p and the dividend has been improved from 3.8p to 4p.
However, the results were below expectations and news of the closures and a dismal trading outlook led analysts to downgrade full-year profit estimates. Martin Evans of Hoare Govett slashed his taxable forecast by pounds 30m to pounds 150m before exceptional items. The shares dived 44p to 432p.

Courtaulds said the closures would cost about pounds 52m this year and were prompted by difficult trading conditions and falling exports to the Far East, which was becoming increasingly self-sufficient.

As a result it was accelerating its plant closures in Europe and would also integrate the aerospace sealants business with its coatings arm. The changes will reduce the number of coatings factories by a third to 12. Most of the job losses will be in Continental Europe although about 100 could be lost in Britain.

The group is expanding in other sectors. It is building a second factory to produce Tencel, a synthetic fibre, at a cost of pounds 90m, to meet growing demand in the US and Japan. The plant will more than double production capacity. Separately, it is also setting up four plants in the Far East.