Byline: Scott Malone / James Fallon

NEW YORK — Saying that international demand for its lyocell fiber is picking up substantially, Acordis Cellulosic Fibers Inc. said that it plans to reopen its Tencel facility in Mobile, Ala.
Acordis cited a rebound in the Asian economy over the last few months as a primary driver for the pickup in demand, as well as increased demand for the fiber in the U.S.
“Things are going well in America and there also has been a recovery in Japan and other parts of the Far East, like Korea,” said Mark Lejman, chief executive officer of Tencel, based in London, in a telephone interview Tuesday.
Ellen Flynn, vice president of marketing for Tencel, based in New York, contended that the company’s Asian business “is doing amazingly well,” adding that demand had returned to pre-Asian-economic-crisis levels. She also said that South American sales have picked up.
The company is beginning the process of hiring about 50 people to run the facility, and expects to resume production by January, according to Flynn.
Acordis had suspended operations at the plant at the beginning of this year, laying off the bulk of its then-65 employees. Flynn said that initially one of the facility’s four production lines will be used, and that fiber produced will be shipped throughout North and South America.
The U.S. plant has a total capacity of about 100 million pounds a year, about the same as the company’s other facility in Grimsby, England.
The reopening of the plant comes despite recent statements by Lenzing of Austria that demand for its lyocell fiber remains “unsatisfactory” and it continues to operate at a loss. Lenzing said it will introduce new blends of the fiber — such as modal with lyocell and viscose with lyocell — in coming seasons.
Tencel’s Lejman said that his company is doing well because Acordis has been in the lyocell business longer, the Tencel brand is in a good position compared to Lenzing’s generic lyocell branding and Acordis has a broader product portfolio in lyocell than Lenzing.
Flynn confirmed that Lenzing AG and Acordis are in talks about working together in the viscose fibers business. Lenzing’s statements to that effect were reported Tuesday.
She called the viscose talks “a separate issue” but added that “joint-venture discussions have been going on. We’ve been in due diligence.”
Lenzing had announced early this week that it wanted to cooperate with Acordis to better fend off competition from Far Eastern producers of viscose fibers. Both companies said they were not contemplating working together in the lyocell area.