By  on December 6, 2011

Italian fiber and fabric firms Aquafil and Carvico have formed a joint venture called XLAnce Fibre Italia and have purchased Dow Chemical Co.’s dormant XLA stretch fiber business.

The acquisition includes the trademarks associated with XLA, a polyolefin-based stretch fiber, an exclusive license under the related intellectual property for crosslinked polyolefin stretch fiber for woven and knitted fabric articles, and Dow’s XLA fiber production lines, machinery and equipment based at Dow’s Tarragona, Spain, site. In the coming weeks, XLAnce Fibre Italia will transfer to Italy the production lines acquired from Dow. The beginning of production is scheduled for the third quarter of 2012. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Aquafil, based in Arco, Italy, has 2,000 employees working in 13 factories in Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, the U.S., China and Thailand. It has three business units: Carpet Yarns, Textile Yarns and Plastics Engineering/Polymers. Carvico is a manufacturer of warp-knitted stretch fabrics with 300 employees headquartered in Bergamo, Italy.

Giulio Bonazzi, Aquafil Group chairman, said in a phone interview that the new joint venture, 50-50 owned by each company, is strategic for both Carvico and Aquafil as it will allow the relaunch of XLA, a particularly innovative fiber with an important growth potential. He said Aquafil’s strong know-how within the polyamide fibers segment, together with Carvico’s experience within the elastic fabrics field, present good synergies to relaunch and grow XLAnce. Within the polyamide fibers segment, Aquafil produces Econyl recycled yarn, and within the microfiber and polypropylene segment Dryarn high-tech fiber.

Laura Colnaghi Calissoni, chairman of Carvico, said, “As a leading stretch fabric company, our interest into the possibility to resume XLA production was natural, since XLA has been one of the very few significant new fibers in our business in recent years, and our partnership with Aquafil, whose fiber technology knowledge is a key requirement, made this project possible.”

Dow XLA was introduced to the market in 2002. The fiber was initially targeted at the denim industry, and was marketed as being able to withstand harsh chemical treatments and temperatures of up to 428 degrees Fahrenheit. Dow exited the business in May 2010, saying it was streamlining and refocusing its portfolio of businesses and didn’t want to invest in the fiber business any longer.

Dow made considerable investments behind XLA. In 2006, Dow Fiber Solutions spent $1.5 million to open a 2,500-square-foot XLA showroom designed by architect Thierry Peltrault at 1411 Broadway in Manhattan.

“The textile dynamics are much different than in the petrochemical industry,” Bonazzi said. “It’s an exercise that takes a long time and maybe for a company like Dow to be successful in the textile fiber business, especially during the times we experienced in 2008 and 2009, it was difficult, but I can’t speak for them. All I can say is we think the product has tremendous potential to be used with other man-made fibers and with cotton. We don’t have specific marketing plans yet, but we will market XLAnce globally because that’s what the textile industry is today, a global market.”

Bonazzi noted that here are other stretch fiber companies in the market but he feels XLAnce had special qualities that offer strong sales potential. Bonazzi key target markets are in swimwear and underwear, as well as shirts and denim.

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