A leading producer of pool and spa cartridge filter media is to be acquired, highlighting the popularity of a growing market segment.
Shareholders of Fiberweb, the London-based manufacturer of Reemay cartridge filtration media approved an offer from Polymer Group Inc. on Oct. 24. The buyout gives shareholders $1.65 USD per share. The total sale price is estimated at $291 million USD.
“We are delighted that our proposal, which provides Fiberweb’s shareholders with a healthy premium, [was approved],” said Mike Zafirovski, chairman of PGI, which is owned by private equity group Blackstone. “We are now looking forward to completing the acquisition.”
The purchase should be completed within four weeks, once the required legal proceedings are finished.
Cartridge filters are gaining popularity in the industry, according to a survey of nearly 500 pool professionals conducted by Pool & Spa News in 2013. Though there are regional differences, approximately half of all service technicians surveyed reported a gain in market share for cartridge filters and a commensurate decrease in sand and DE.
Officials at Unicel and Filbur, both cartridge manufacturers, agree on the filters’ popularity, estimating that they account for about half of the filter market, followed by DE at 30 percent and sand at 20 percent.
While Reemay Filtration Fabric is not used on all cartridge filters, it has the “lion’s share” of the market, according to Bruce Stump, vice president/general manager of Buena Park, Calif.-based Filbur. “Reemay probably has 60- to 80 percent,” he said.
Others agree. “Reemay’s been [used on pool filters] a good 30 years now,” said Scott Gleason, national sales manager of Los Angeles-based Unicel. “Before Reemay, there was cellulose fiber paper, which was thin and not long lasting.”
Fiberweb was first approached with an offer in August by PGI of Charlotte, N.C. The amount was increased in mid-September, and Fiberweb’s Board of Directors recommended shareholder approval last month.
Fiberweb global marketing manager John Neely said it’s too early to comment on how the acquisition would affect the company’s products. “But presumably, the strength of the Fiberweb product range is one of the drivers for this acquisition and will continue to be a part of the future growth of the business,” he said.
Once the deal is finalized, the intention is to close the current Fiberweb office and begin the integration process. “The benefits of this acquisition for our companies and end customers will be derived by combining the facilities and skill sets of both organizations,” PGI officials stated.
This is not the first time PGI has dipped its toe in the pool and spa industry. “About 20 years ago, they had a filter product, but there were foaming issues in spas,” Gleason said. “On a couple of different occasions, they have had a product or two in the pool and spa industry. … Most recently, it was Aquapex, a nice filter media, but Reemay had an even stronger hold on the industry then.”
With this acquisition, Stump said, “PGI now has a presence in the pool and spa market. It will be bringing different technologies, maybe making enhancements to Reemay. ... PGI with Blackstone tend to invest in the companies they acquire. They bring a lot of resources and management power.” He added, “[The acquisition] looks to be a good thing.”
PGI is a global engineered materials company, focused mainly on production of nonwovens for the hygiene, wipes, medical and industrial markets. It has more than 3,000 employees across four continents. In 2012, its sales were $1.15 billion.
Fiberweb manufactures technical fabric products such as water filtration fabric, geotextiles, breathable membranes for home building, and home-care products. With more than 1,200 employees, it had sales of approximately $460 million in 2012.