Solutia Exiting Acrylics

Jeff Linville, Carole Sloan, January 31, 2005

Decorative fabrics and throw suppliers will be the groups most affected by Solutia's announcement last week that it will exit the acrylic fiber business in April.

Solutia, spun off from chemical giant Monsanto, has been operating under Chapter 11 protection since December 2003. Low-cost competition from offshore acrylic fiber producers was cited as the major cause of the move by Jeffrey Quinn, Solutia's president and CEO.

In a formal statement, Steve Ellington, president and chief operating officer, Glen Raven Custom Fabrics (producers of the proprietary Sunbrella products) noted that “the global nature of Glen Raven's business has resulted in the development of significant relationships with several major acrylic fiber suppliers. Those suppliers will obviously have an opportunity for those relationships to become more meaningful. Solutia has assured Glen Raven that a smooth transition will occur in order to avoid market disruptions.”

Added Harry Gobble, vice president, marketing, Glen Raven, “We have been aware that the world-wide acrylic market has been very difficult especially in the commodity business. The Solutia situation has been difficult since the '97 spin-off from Monsanto and has been affected by the higher petroleum prices last year and other material costs.

“We're going to have to scramble. With our broad color range, there are some unique colors and intimate blends that will have to be redeveloped. We will take everything in solution-dyed product from them that we can get,” he added.

Rocco Simone, senior vice president, Sunbury, said, “Glen Raven has known for almost a year of the problems at Solutia. They have been shifting their purchases to their other suppliers who have been with them for many years. We do not foresee any disruptions in our ability to continue to service our customers.”

Larry Liebenow, president and CEO of Quaker, remarked, “We have been working to develop supply sources for some time. There is no substitute supplier in the United States, but there are potential suppliers in Latin America, Europe and Asia. We expect no supply problems until the shutdown.”

Culp, with approximately one-third of its overall sales using acrylic fibers, “has already contacted several international suppliers as alternative sources for procuring this particular fiber,” said Robert Culp III, chairman and CEO. The company's recent offshore sourcing activities are expected to enhance its ability to find suitable sources but “until we make alternative arrangements, we anticipate an immediate increase in raw material costs for the fiber and related unit production costs.”

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