Byline: Michael McNamara

NEW YORK--In what looks to be the beginning of another round of price increases for polyester staple fiber, Hoechst Celanese Corp.'s textile fibers group said Friday that it is raising the price of its polyester staple--excluding products used in floor coverings--by 10 to 14 percent, effective May 29.
Grover Smith, vice president and general manager, polyester staple, said the rise in raw material costs--particularly ethylene glycol and terapthalic acid (TPA)--along with strong global demand for the fiber, were the major reasons for the increase.
The increase is the third time in less than 12 months Hoechst has raised polyester staple prices. In May, the company implemented a 7 percent hike. In late August, it raised staple prices again, up to 15 percent.
At the other two domestic polyester producers, Wellman Inc. and DuPont, a spokeswoman for Wellman said the firm was "investigating the situation," while executives in DuPont's polyester business could not be reached for comment. Historically, when one firm has raised its prices, the other two have followed.
"This is not just a North American phenomenon," Smith said. "This represents the globalization of the polyester business. Basically there is a limited amount of ingredients, and outside of North America, where the demand is even stronger for polyester staple, people are bidding up the price of the fiber.
"So, even with the price increase, polyester prices in North America are much less than in the world market," said Smith, adding that polyester prices in Europe are higher than in North America "by an average of 7 to 10 cents."
Polyester staple in North America is currently selling for about 90 cents per pound, industry executives said.
"While many see the price of polyester as being high, it's just beginning to reach the levels it did at its height, around 1989," Smith said. "It reached its lowest price, somewhere around the mid-60-cents-a-pound range at the end of 1993."

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