WILMINGTON, Del. — What a difference a year makes.
DuPont’s decision to spin off or sell its $6.3 billion intermediates and fibers business may have generated buzz at last year’s annual shareholder meeting, but chairman and chief executive officer Chad Holliday devoted scant time to DuPont Textiles & Interiors this time around.
Of DuPont’s six business platforms addressed in an hour-long speech Wednesday, DTI garnered about a minute of time by the chairman, though he praised its progress in adapting to the changing textile industry.
"DTI has been a part of this company for a very long time," said Holliday from the stage of Hotel DuPont’s theater. "It has created some of the best brands, but the industry is going under mass changes."
Holliday reiterated that the decision to part ways is ultimately right for both parties going forward and said DTI is on track to separate by the end of the year.
Following the meeting, DTI executives said the brevity was appropriate, since DTI has operated as a wholly owned subsidiary since Feb. 1, as reported.
But it raises questions on how close DuPont is to selling its textiles business to a third party. Just weeks ago, the company confirmed it was in preliminary talks with an unnamed party to sell DTI. Sources have said it is Wichita, Kan.-based Koch Industries with a bid of about $4.5 billion, but executives remained mum on the subject in an interview after the meeting. Koch has not confirmed the report.
Along with other executive changes, Steve McCracken is expected to take the role of DTI president in the coming days, as reported. However, a company spokeswoman would not confirm the changes.
Bill Ghitis, DTI’s president of Global Apparel, said he was committed to the goal of bringing 25 new products to the market over the next five years. This year, DTI will offer three new price-competitive Lycra spandex products for the warp knits, wovens and legwear markets.
"Cost is on everybody’s mind," Ghitis said. "We have [several] projects to make mills more cost competitive with overseas suppliers."
Overall, DTI first-quarter revenues increased 11 percent over the same period last year, with Asia business increasing by 20 percent, the largest gain, as reported. The U.S. and Europe were both up by 10 percent.However, Ghitis also said Asia is a region DTI is looking to tap into a consumer level.
"We’re very interested in China to produce cheaper products, but also as a consumer market," said Ghitis, adding that Chinese consumers have grown increasingly affluent, especially in cities such as Shanghai and Beijing. "Not all of what we make in China is exported."
Since the word Lycra doesn’t translate into Chinese, DTI is exploring opportunities to create a local brand for Asian consumers to better illustrate the benefits of Lycra. The concept could be launched as early as the end of the year, Ghitis said.
DTI currently distributes Anshuibao, a line of bedding products containing DuPont fibers, which translates to "a good night’s sleep" in Chinese.
In his speech, Holliday said DuPont recently received an order for 1.7 million barrier suits to be used for Chinese health-care workers to protect them from SARS. So far, the company has shipped 300,000 suits. He also extended a special thanks to the 47 DuPont employees currently on active duty in the U.S. military.
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