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Invista, Kosa primed for new era

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, December 15, 2003

The new combination of Invista and the KoSa fibers business of Koch Industries "will produce a larger, more powerful entity with improved competitiveness on the commodity side of the polyester business."

This is the view of Steve McCracken, president of Invista, formerly DuPont Textiles & Interiors (DTI), who will be president and coo of the Invista and KoSa business upon completion of the Invista acquisition by KoSa's parent Koch in the first half of 2004. KoSa will become part of Invista.

Invista has shed much of its manufacturing of polyester filament, either through an arrangement with Unifi for U.S. manufacturing, primarily in textured yarns, and a joint venture in Asia and Europe and the DAK ownership of Dacron polyester staple. The new combined business will use KoSa's polyester capabilities "as an enhanced manufacturing opportunity," McCracken explained during an exclusive interview with Home Textiles Today.

But, he noted, the European joint venture for polyester filament "doesn't come with the merger." The Invista branded polyester business globally, McCracken explained "is generally outsourced."

Emphasis will continue to be focused on branded specialty marketing. "We know where we make money," he said.

The combination of Invista and KoSa, he explained, "will give us the opportunity to be more cost competitive."

Looking ahead to the combination of the two fiber businesses, McCracken said, "we will have three full-fledged product streams — polyester, Lycra spandex and nylon. I'm intrigued by KoSa's Polyguard polyester high performance product."

Lycra spandex, an Invista specialty, will be moving more into home furnishings. There will be a co-launch of cotton/ Lycra sheets in the United States, Western Europe and Asia. "Customers told us they want cotton sheets," said Dave Trerotola, vp, home & industrial textiles.

But he added, they also want the fit benefits that Lycra's stretch and recovery provide.

New opportunities

Lycra also will be developed with leather at the high end of the furniture market and Avantige, a leather look that is washable and breathable, headed for product introduction in April '04.

Other Lycra-enhanced products will be introduced throughout home fashions.

In the polyester segment, with KoSa's polyester Avora FR, "We have potential with lots of markets affiliated with our core markets, like contract," McCracken noted.

He also sees important growth in the rug business, from area to accent, using both the Teflon and Tactel brands.

The Teflon brand will still be owned by DuPont, but will be under exclusive license to Invista for textiles uses, McCracken said.

Broadloom business is strong, McCracken remarked "but contract business is under pressure." Contributing to the pressure "is the price of raw materials which have gone up "painfully and are the major element in year to year economic challenges."

Despite this, he noted "we will continue to invest in broadloom where we have a significant advantage in the nylon ingredient."

In discussing Teflon, Lisa Pfrommer, marketing manager of that segment noted that the process is done globally "and with global specs by product" that are stringently enforced.

New in the Teflon portfolio is Advanced Teflon Fabric Protector that offers both repel and release characteristics for the first time.

Teflon soon will be used in products from mattresses to duvets, top of the bed and sheets "and offer excellent growth opportunities," said Pfrommer.

Major programs for 2004 will include American Textiles, Louisville Bedding, Pacific Coast Feather with its Dockers license, Springs, Laura Ashley and Quaker, among others.

As for claims that Teflon in cookware could present health problems, "we have worked and continue to work with the EPA certifying that our textile products using Teflon are safe and our test procedures are effective," home & industrial's Trerotola said. "The PFOA that is used in pots and pans is not used in Teflon for fabrics."

Stainmaster, the company's mainstay in the broadloom business, is being developed for curtains and napery, Trerotola related.

Mainstay role

The Stainmaster program in upholstered furniture is scheduled to expand, but without a specific timetable. Initially, Invista tested 600 fabrics and wound up with 40 that passed the criteria.

Now, there are twice that amount and the challenge is to develop more, keeping the sourcing narrow to ensure value and enable monitoring the standards.

At this point, McCracken noted, no decision has been made as to where Invista will be based, or the makeup and specific responsibilities of the senior management group.

"Cost competitiveness and culture are bigger issues, the structure should follow the strategy, not lead it," he said.

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